Melbourne’s Best Wine Bars

Carlisle Wine Bar  – 137 Carlisle Street, Balaclava

Carlisle Wine Bar in Balaclava has seen an ownership change in the last six months, and the dynamic new team has really raised the (wine) bar. The offering is set on representing a wide range of both local and international regions, grapes and vintages, and a Sommeliers Board selects a rotation of unique and usually ‘bottle only’ wines to try by the

Manager Bernard Bungaleea is largely responsible for curating the vibrant wine offering, with an emphasis on representing the passion and story behind each drop. His criteria for a vino to make the cut? It has to ‘blow your mind’, says Bungaleea.

It’s not all about tradition either, on offer you’ll find both a Spanish and Australian Tempranillo, and with Head Chef James Turno (ex-Grossi Florentino), you can rest assured you’ll have a scrumptiously matched meal to go with. Look out for a brief renovation mid June, which will see the kitchen offering some high-quality fresh pasta and a selection of steaks. Also keep your eyes peeled for some Heston-esque flawless and bubble free ice spheres…

Carlisle Wine Bar offers experience and class, in a comfortably cosy and totally unpretentious environment. Bungaleea puts it quite simply, ‘We have food and wine, that makes you enjoy yourself.’

The Newmarket Hotel – 34 Inkerman Street, St Kilda

Newmarket Hotel on Inkerman Street in St Kilda ambitiously offers the services of a bar, a restaurant, and a pub all in one. The space is huge, and that’s an understatement. With a Californian and South American inspired menu, the Cellar Bar wine list has a very strong focus on European wines, particularly on Spanish and French, with some South American options also.

Spinning things around though, nearly all the wines offered by the glass (and also by half and full litre) are Victorian, with only a Spanish Cava and a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand bucking the trend.

The contemporary and spacious interior is open, and it serves as a great all year rounder with the outdoor courtyard for the warmer months. But for the brisk winter weather we’re seeing at the moment, they offer a real atmosphere game changer—a charming open fireplace, perfect for sitting in front of while you sip on some sweet Spanish sherry.

Tokyo Tina – 66a Chapel Street, Windsor

A recent addition to Chapel Street in Windsor, Tokyo Tina has no problem reeling in the regulars to their modern Japanese restaurant and bar. With a contemporary wine offering that focuses on flavour rather than prestige or
history, this is a great option for a laid back and fun filled tipple.

The team behind the bar are set on creating an exciting experience and hitting the nail on the head when it comes to taste, sussing out what you may like before supplying some ripper flavours—whether that be a Muscat Blanc from
the Barossa Valley, a ‘Tinto Rosso’ Grenache from Rioja, Spain, or even for those with a sweet tooth, a Pedro Ximenez from Jerez, Spain.

And of course, the other point of difference is their range of Japanese sake. Coming from a nonsake drinker to a real appreciator in one night, try the Kikusui Funaguchi, which is a Nama Genshu sake (meaning unpasteurised and undiluted).

As Beverage Manager Michael Forbes says, ‘Sake is designed to go with food.’ And with Tokyo Tina coming from the same gun team behind Saigon Sally and Hanoi Hannah, a menu designed by Adrian Li offers up delicious treats
such as the Wagyu Beef Tataki or the Karaage Chicken Ribs. These go down a treat regardless of what you’re drinking—because let’s face it, yes the wine is great, but you’ll probably want to try one of their Cucumber and Yuzu Sour cocktails too, why not make a night of it!

The National Hotel – 344 Victoria Street, Richmond

When people read ‘hotel’, the word ‘pub’ springs to mind, and you’d be right in thinking The National Hotel in Richmond is a great place to pop in for a cheeky crafty. What you will also find however, is a stunning contemporary
interior made from recycled and sustainable materials, intimate yet open dining spaces, and a warm, down to earth reception.

You’d also find a dedicated service team, keen to supply educated recommendations and offer thoughtful wine matching for some mighty-fine Pan-Asian cuisine. Bar Manager, Dan Weal tells us that when it comes to the wine, it’s all about personal choice, and getting to know your customer.

The wine list covers a wide range, for those that want a good quality reliable Australian Shiraz, to those who want to try a unique and new international offering. Weal has curated a select list of 80 bottles, with 20 by the glass, aiming to give diners a broad range to choose from.

With a focus on celebrating suppliers that have a great story to tell, keep an eye out for some cracking Aussie drops, such as the Shiraz from O’Leary Walker Winemakers, from Clare Valley and McLaren Vale. This full bodied yet
surprisingly refreshing red goes perfectly with the showstopper meal at The National Hotel, the phenomenal Slow Braised Lamb Shoulder served San Choi Bao style with lettuce cups and slaw—possibly taking out the trophy for some of the best lamb in Melbourne. You’ll be so busy licking your fingers after this tasty treat, you’ll need that extra refinement of sipping a delicious drop (at least, that’s the excuse we’ll use).

City Wine Shop – 159 Spring Street, Melbourne

Established over ten years ago, The City Wine Shop is a well-known and celebrated Melbourne wine bar. Inspired by the hybrid bottle shop/bars you find in Italy, this formula means guests can enjoy an extensive list of wines offered in
the shop, in a bar environment with simple, quality food.

The City Wine Shop is focussed on offering benchmark wines from both established and new producers around the world, and with over 25 frequently changing wines by the glass, and a cellar collection of over 800 bottles, there is a
lot of variety to choose from.

Staff are educated and open in their advice and service, so guests will not only be welcomed, but be able to relax and rest assured they’re in experienced hands.

General Manager Bengt Baumgartner tells us what to expect for the month of June: ‘There is a lot of great Victorian Shiraz on the wall at the moment, and the weather is perfect for wine with a bit more weight about it. There’s been an
influx of late of good quality, accessible Côtes du Rhône (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre blends) and some pretty interesting Spanish reds from less well known regions.’ Yep, you’re craving some quality red now, aren’t you?

Harry & Frankie – 317 Bay Street, Port Melbourne

Harry & Frankie on Bay Street in Port Melbourne has to have one of the most unique interiors going around. Custom made stained glass features alongside a cork lined ceiling with a wine themed motif, making this part wine shop,
part 70 seat wine bar a beautiful environment to enjoy.

Family and relationships run central through all aspects of the business, from the industry friendships built up with the team, to the stories and passion behind the producers’ wines. It’s in the regulars who appear without fail on Friday nights, and even in the name – with Harry and Frankie being the son and daughter of Co-Owners John Tennent and Tom Hogan respectively.

But the best bit about Harry & Frankie’s passion for family, is that they’re open to new members. Guests are made to feel comfortable and welcome to enjoy their visit how they please – whether it’s popping in to grab a bottle of reliable red, or sitting down and exploring some exciting new flavours by the glass, some charcuterie and cheese, or a dinner from Head Chef Tom Capell (ex Longrain and Wye River General Store).

With over 700 thoughtfully curated wines on offer, bespoke red and white on tap, and a weekly changing menu of wines by the glass, Harry & Frankie strike the perfect balance between welcoming comfort, and high quality produce.

Clever Polly’s – 313 Victoria Street, West Melbourne

Victoria Street in West Melbourne can get a bit quiet at times, which is why you may not have noticed the tucked away and unassuming wine bar, Clever Polly’s.

Part owner Lou Chalmer comes from over ten years in hospitality. Combined with an environmental science degree, this gives Clever Polly’s a passion for the support of small producers, with a focus on minimal intervention in the winemaking process. The wine on offer is both international and Australian, and carefully selected to reflect the ethos of environmental sustainability.

Clever Polly’s is also currently in a collaboration process of making their own wines. One, a Sparkling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with Gareth Belton from Gentle Folk in the Adelaide Hills, the other a Rosé with Moscato Giallo and
Nero d’Avola with Jarad Curwood from Chapter Wine and Boomtown Winemakers.

Foodies are welcome too. There’s an open kitchen behind the bar, serving up contemporary à la carte meals, as well as the occasional wine matching dinner.

With thirteen wines by the glass that change weekly, you can buy from their bottle shop if you don’t have time to stay for a drink – but lets be honest, there must be something pretty exciting going on to drag you away from the warm and welcoming interior of this intimate wine bar.

Punch Lane – 43 Little Bourke St, Melbourne

Punch Lane in Melbourne’s CBD has quite the legacy. Established in 1995, it’s maintained it’s unassuming success for 20 years. Following the personal vision of owner Martin Pirc, Punch Lane created an ethos of nostalgic creativity, offering a balance of wine bar and restaurant that didn’t really exist in Melbourne at the time.

When asked what has made Punch Lane a Melbourne institution, Pict explains that it’s a delicate balance of great culture, high quality service and produce, and ongoing customer rapport and relationships.

Although Punch Lane offers some of the finer things in life, they also thrive on human engagement, and work with customers to offer a unique and enjoyable experience—whether they come for a wine matched degustation, or simply
a drink after work.

The wine is 60% local, 40% international, and is constantly changing. The team at Punch Lane offer experience and talent, with John Evans as Sommelier, and Daniel Schelbert as Head Chef (prev Cecconi’s and Bottega).

Fans of this long-time Melbourne favourite, keep your eyes peeled for a new venture in Richmond—Sainturban wine bar is set to open on Swan Street mid June.

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