One of the city's more singular dining experiences comes with a wine list focused, like the food, on small producers and quality over quantity. That approach extends from an ample by-the-glass section with a lighter, fresher lean, to a bottle section listing classics and curiosities among landmark releases from local pioneers. Can't decide? The pairing, for $125, covers all bases.
83 Percival Road, Stanmore, 02 9572 6666, sixpenny.com.au
Not only does this "barstaurant" have one of the strongest snack games in the city, it' wine list is one of its widest-ranging and most forward-thinking. Names like Gut Oggau, Lucy Margaux, Partida Creus and Frank Cornilissen punctuate a selection organised by weight and texture with a tight by-the-glass offer all $20 or under, plus another page of sake. Snack, drink, repeat.
74-76 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, 02 8860 0808, polysurryhills.com.au
One of the smartest moves Bennelong has made with its list is embracing its status as a flagbearer for Australia. Not only does it align the drink with the food, it presents a survey of the local scene, providing scope with youth, age, variety and price, as well as some of our leading lights at their best. Diverse, contemporary and classic all at once, just like the food. (And don't sweat it, they make an exception for Champagne.)
Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney, 02 9240 8000, bennelong.com.au
This bar-bottleshop went up a weight class in 2020 when ex-Sixpenny sommelier Bridget Raffal joined as buyer and manager. She's built on firm foundations to champion a diverse selection with an emphasis on provenance over trend-chasing. The by-the-glass offer is wide, the prices fairer than most, and there's plenty of chances to try biodynamic Mosel riesling or Lebanese pet-nat among new releases from local avant-garde producers.
236 Marrickville Road, Marrickville, wheresnick.com.au
Nick Hildebrandt's list at Bentley might steal the limelight, but the sommelier's work down at Barangaroo can't be discounted. Perfectly pitched to match Brent Savage's seafood menu, it spotlights whites (chardonnay, sauvignon, sémillon, chenin blanc), explores Chablis and Champagne, then throws in the odd unicorn that only someone like Hildebrandt has access to.
23 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo, 02 9220 0111, cirrusdining.com.au
P&V launched as the bottleshop selling all the lo-fi wines you had in restaurants but could never find, so what if there was a restaurant where you could pop the top on all your P&V loot? Porcine, which occupies the floor above Mike Bennie's new Paddington shop, is the place. Of course they have their own list, stacked strongly toward Europe, but with $25 corkage from downstairs, the possibilities are endless.
268 Oxford Street, Paddington, 0423 015 032, porcine.com.au
Porcine in Paddington. Photo: Edwina Pickles
The people behind Love, Tilly Devine and Dear Sainte Eloise have always known their way around a drop. At Ragazzi, they delve into Italy with an achingly on-trend selection of low-intervention bottles that let grapes and place speak for themselves. Emojis add extra info to a tome that moves from north to south – from Alto Adige to Sicily – sprinkling in chilled reds and oranges with the odd French or local showing.
Shop 3, 2-12 Angel Place, Sydney, 02 8964 3062, ragazziwineandpasta.com
Ragazzi in Angel Place. Photo: Edwina Pickles
Any list Franck Moreau touches tends to turn to gold, and the sharp selection at Merivale's tapas bar is no exception. Sure, you can slide into Mimi's next door and find incredible, exceptional, expensive bottles, but the 30 or so wines here – most by the glass, all well-priced – hit the spot for fresh, vibrant drinking. Think chilled reds only at the back, lo-fi fizz up front, and plenty of fun in the middle.
130a Beach Street, Coogee, 02 9114 7383, merivale.com/venues/una-mas/
Pilu at Freshwater
The list at Pilu is so stacked with notes and knowledge that it's a pleasure to leaf through, let alone drink from. Italy's regions and subregions are given their due, with maps, facts and tidbits punctuating an offer that – like the food – makes Sardinia its focus. Said "Sardegna" section moves from vermentino and nasco to cannonau and carignano, then the list wanders through Italy, bringing in locals for support.
Moore Road, Freshwater, 02 9938 3331, pilu.com.au
Pilu at Freshwater. Photo: James Brickwood
Andy Tyson's offer at this old-is-new Potts Point bistro leans into the French theme with gusto. Pair duck frites with Beaujolais, an oxidative white with snail pasta, or – heck – something from Ballarat with boudin noir spring rolls. Grower Champagne, Chablis and Burgundy round it out, with Jurassic wines and some Aussies thrown in for good measure. The world is your bistrot.
22 Challis Avenue, Potts Point, 02 9167 6667, bistrot916.com
Bistrot 916 at Potts Point. Photo: Edwina Pickles