Melbourne loves a wine bar. (We also love a wine bar with funky arty glassware). And while there are classics like President Obama-approved Embla, wine-lovers haven Carlton Wine Room and city-dwellers hangout Kirk’s, it’s always exciting when new places worth adding to the rotation open up.
From Coburg to Highett and Canterbury via the divisive – Is it north side? Is it south side? – Richmond. Here are four new joints to try.
The neighbourhood wine bar Coburg has been waiting for finally opened in September. Gemini – run by partners in business and life Tresna Lee and Shane Farrell (who are both Geminis) – is on Sydney Road next to Lebanese bakery Al Nada Sweets.
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Sandblasted walls at the front of the building showcase the venue’s original bluestone, and the chef’s table hidden at the back of the venue faces the open kitchen.
The wine list is not one thing or the other, but it is mostly Victorian. The menu focuses on European-leaning snacks including double-anchovy gildas, vegan croquettes and smoked barramundi dip.
There’s also a lunch-only continental platter, and the Gemini bar sandwich, which will be ever-changing but has taken the form of a prawn omelette and sorrel version with Six-Eyed Scorpion chili oil.
A Bridge Road intersection squeaking with braking trams and traffic is not a typically relaxing place. But at Fraek Vin, a new natural wine bar-bottle shop hybrid, you won’t notice you’re just off the corner off Bridge and Burnley roads. Instead, it feels more like peeling off down a European laneway into a relaxed wine den.
Fraek is completely committed to natural wine. It has a globetrotting selection of minimal-intervention drops from everywhere from the Adelaide Hills to California and Denmark. Everything is served chilled, and the menu strives to be as “zero-zero as possible”, meaning minimal intervention from the winemaker with zero added (or removed) sulphates and commercial yeast.
The space is simple and stylish, with rough exposed bricks, wine-lined shelves, and dim lighting from Noguchi-style ceiling lamps. There’s a custom U-shaped table designed to keep tastings engaging and communal and a courtyard out back for sunnier days.
Railway Wine Bar
Two seasoned hospo pros have brought inner-city energy to Highett at Railway Wine Bar. Co-owners Matt Vero and Matt Ward opened the 60-seat venue, which was an aquarium shop, right next door to their pizza joint Teo’s.
The bar’s burgundy facade is warm and inviting, which continues inside thanks to richly painted interiors and soft amber lighting. Guests can also relax at tables on the footpath and in the soon-to-open 20-seat courtyard.
The wine list focuses on minimal-intervention drops and showcases Australian vineyards. There are 24 wines by the glass and around 60 whites and 60 reds available by the bottle. They’re mainly local drops, but there’s a tight selection of bottles from France, Italy, Spain and New Zealand.
Four beer taps pour the likes of Cheltenham brewery Bad Shepherd and 3 Ravens in Thornbury. There are also non-boozy botanical spritzes and a zero-alc chilled red.
Graze on a cheese board served with quinces, smoked almonds, olives, dried figs and crackers, or order anything off the Teo’s menu. You might go for a classic caprese salad; crispy oven-baked gnocchi; or one of its many woodfired pizza options, including the popular Matteo’s Special, with stracciatella, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto di San Daniele, parmesan and rocket.
Lennox has made a home for itself on Maling Road, a charming shopping strip with a village feel in Canterbury. The bar adds some edge to the quaint street, which is known for its Edwardian architecture, and owners Gosia and James Gibson have quickly attracted a community of regulars.
Find the couple behind the bar preparing snacks, chatting to customers, pouring glasses from a list of exclusively Australian wines or mixing classic cocktails.
There's a petite menu made up of small plates, including whipped ricotta with bresaola crumble and pesto served with a fresh baguette, as well as a rotating selection of jaffles that come with pickles and potato chips. Prefer something sweet? Try a delicate chocolate mousse or a duo of cannoli.
Check out our guide to the city’s best wine bars for more ideas on where to sit and sip.