Canberra has plenty of fantastic restaurants, but not many bars suited to quick after-work drinks or pre-dinner stops. Especially since, in recent years, acclaimed bars such as Bar Rochford have intensified their focus on food.
Paranormal Wines, Canberra’s newest wine bar and bottle shop, fills that casual-drinking gap in style. It’s easy to find. Just head over to Provan Street, off Anzac Parade, and look for the big sign with the words “wine shop” in all-caps.
Don’t be fooled by the self-effacing signage and the plain brick shopfront, though – Paranormal Wines is one of Canberra’s most exciting new openings. Owner Max Walker was previously the general manager at LP’s Quality Meats in Sydney and bar manager at Melbourne’s Movida Aqui, and now he’s bringing that deep hospitality experience to his biggest love: wine. And he hopes Paranormal will help demystify the drink.
“I think people find the world of wine very scary and intimidating because there’s a lot of assumed knowledge,” says Walker. “I’ve tried to take the intimidation away from it. That’s why our setting is as casual as possible. It’s not dimly lit and there’s no wine pouring out of decanters.”
In keeping with that thinking, Paranormal’s decor is laid-back and approachable. It’s a friendly and light space with high ceilings and windows along the entire front facade. Outside, a collection of tables overlooks Hassett Park. Back indoors, there are shelves and wine fridges on one side and a blond timber bar on the other separated by a long share table in the centre. Some small tables are also dotted around. Just a few paintings hang on the walls, which focuses your attention on the eclectic, kaleidoscopic range of wine bottles in the fridges and on the shelves.
At Paranormal, the majority of the wines “have a minimal-intervention focus, with an emphasis on organic wines,” says Walker. It’s a broad remit, and local, interstate and international drops all get an equal share of the spotlight.
You might find anything from skin-contact riesling blends from Germany, to easy-drinking Barossa rosés, to small-batch nebbiolos from Lombardy.
If you’re drinking in-store, corkage is $15 for bottles and $20 for magnums. But grabbing some snacks from Paranormal and nipping straight across the road to drink it in the park is also a solid option.
Not up for buying a bottle? There’s always a small line-up of wines by-the-glass. Plus a menu of share plates to enjoy. The menu will change often, but Ortiz anchovies, Cuca mussels, La Luna Holy Goat Cheeses and charcuterie courtesy of LP’s Quality Meats always feature in some capacity.
For Walker, community is front of mind. “I wanted to do a venue in Canberra because it’s a very supportive environment – there’s great scope for new, exciting things,” he says. “And everyone knows each other’s name.“
Which is how Paranormal’s been able to launch its first collaboration, Paranormal Rosé, so quickly. It’s made in partnership with local winemaker Sam Leyshon from Mallaluka. It’s cloudy, off-dry and a little bit fizzy. It’s also extremely drinkable.
Paranormal is a bit choose-your-own-adventure. If you’re thirsty now, settle in for a glass or two. If you’re counting on being thirsty later, a bottle or a case might be more your speed.
“We fit in as a venue that is malleable,” says Walker. People can treat it the way they want to.”
G27/6 Provan Street, Campbell, 2612
Wed to Sun 11am–8pm