Furmint, blaufränkisch, rkatsiteli, mtsvane. You mightn’t be familiar with these grape varieties – and fair enough, you won’t find them on many Australian wine lists or bottle-shop shelves – but you’re about to be. At Honour Ave Cellars, a tiny four-seat wine bar that opened in October in Graceville, Chris Siktars wants to shine a light on these lesser-known Eastern European wines.

“Many people don’t know about them,” he tells Broadsheet. “They might have drunk them in blends, but not many people would have had them in a single-varietal wine.”

Siktars is well-positioned to teach punters about native Eastern European varieties – his great-uncle and cousin both own vineyards in Hungary. At Honour Ave Cellars he's stocking Hungarian producers Steigler Pince and Oremus and Austrian label Necken Markt, to name a few.

Eventually he wants to stock more wines from that part of the world, but importing them has proven difficult. “We were hoping for a slightly larger offering [of Eastern European wines], especially from the family vineyards,” he says. “When they give you a quote of $1000 per half dozen for shipping, it’s not viable.”

Despite the shipping costs, there’s still a whopping 2500 bottles of mostly international wines. As well as drops from Hungary and Austria, Siktars is sourcing bottles from Mount Etna in Sicily, Chile, Spain and even Queensland (Ballandean’s Golden Grove is available). Almost 90 per cent of the wines are available by-the-glass, and everything can be decanted into a half-bottle carafe. There are also some older wines available by the bottle, and poured by-the-glass using Coravin.

Siktars – whose background includes cooking at high-end Melbourne spots Cumulus Inc and Yering Station as well as Newstead wine bar and bistro Carl’s – has decided to keep the food menu straightforward. There are smaller dishes such as aged beef tartare and ceviche; freshly sliced cured meats (including Hungarian csabai sausage and salami); and a variety of cheeses.

The tiny 28-square-metre space is lined with shelves stacked with wine bottles, and at the centre is a long mahogany table with communal seating. It’s dark and moody, making the venue feel like someone’s private cellar. Originally, Siktars wanted to fit eight seats into the venue, but with Covid restrictions, he’s limited to four – so bookings are essential. But if you don’t score a seat, you can pop in and buy something to take home (takeaway bottles are sold at retail prices).

Honour Ave Cellars
6/335 Honour Avenue, Graceville
Wed & Thu 10.30am–9.30pm
Fri & Sat 10.30am–late
Sun 10.30am–5.30pm