There’s something very appealing about a wall of wine. Especially when that wall is like the one at Essie Wine Bar: a huge American oak cabinet filled with minimal-intervention wines and drops from small, independent producers.

First-time venue owner Angus Brettingham-Moore – who’s spent time at Hobart’s acclaimed Franklin, and wine-centric venues closer to home including The Alps, Toorak Cellars, Milton Wine Shop and The Hills – says he has no personal connection to the name Essie.

“I had to think of a name with a day or two to lodge it,” he says. “I was driving along and heard the name. I think the name is a representation of the place; a character people want to come and hang out with.”

Essie owes a lot of its charm to the bones of the Victorian heritage building it’s in, which used to house a medical business downstairs and the Josh Cohen School of Music upstairs. Brettingham-Moore completely overhauled the interior himself. One hundred-year-old Baltic pine floorboards come from a house being demolished in Kew. Old fireplaces, set into distressed brick walls, have been repurposed for gas but retain their old-world charm. The result is a cosy, low-lit space with lots of little nooks, so you can have your own little corner, hidden from other groups, but feel still part of the mix.

A weeping cherry tree is the central feature of the sun-drenched open-air courtyard, which has timber tables and long bench seating flanked by lines of lilly pillies.

Essie stocks old- and new-world wines with an emphasis on independent producers. “[Winemakers] who care about what they’re making, are hard-working and have a focus on what they’re doing,” says Brettingham-Moore. “The wines speak highly about where they’re from, and are full of life and [are] expressive.”

Yuri Zinenko’s small-batch winery Calyx, which is essentially a shed surrounded by an acre of vines in Keilor, is a good example. Brettingham-Moore is pouring his Neb Noir, which is made from nebbiolo and pinot noir grapes from Victoria’s Pyrenees region. The grapes are left on skins for three months, resulting in a fruit-forward wine with a little tannic flare.

Another favourite is a shiraz from Jonjo McEvoy and Oliver Johns of Cré Wines in the Yarra Valley. Served chilled, it’s light and juicy – perfect for a sunny afternoon in the courtyard.

The focus is on the wine, but there are a couple of beers on tap – WA Colonial Draught Ale and Wolf of the Willows XPA – and tins from local craft brewers.

For snacks, Brettingham-Moore will whip up a cheese or charcuterie board, or open a tin of Oritz sardines and slice up some baguette. Other deli treats come from the Prahran Market. A jaffle menu includes fillings such as mac’n’cheese; bolognaise and mozzarella; chilli jam and gouda; and pastrami, mustard and pickle.

Essie Wine Bar
35 Station Street, Malvern
(03) 9500 0218

Hours:
Mon to Wed 3pm–10pm
Thu to Sat 12pm–11pm
Sun 12pm–10pm

instagram.com/essie_wine

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on (October 31, 2019). Menu items may have changed since publication.