Outwardly, Lamaro's shows all the signs of a solid local pub. But one look at the wine list tells you you're not in Kansas anymore. Dom Perignon's 2010 vintage, a Coravin list featuring Vieux Telegraphe Chateneuf-du-Pape, and bottles from leading Australian wine families like the Farrs add up to tough choices. But would you expect anything less from hospitality veterans Paul Dimattina and Geoff Lindsay?
279 Cecil Street, South Melbourne lamaroshotel.com.au
It's easy to get waylaid by all the good juice for sale downstairs but the real fun starts when you snag a booth on the second level. Wines on tap and in carafes keep things affordable but there are premium choices too. Don't like what's pouring? Select a bottle from the shelves downstairs. Bar snacks are basic but you're in Footscray: order in and enjoy the neighbourhood's riches.
106 Nicholson Street, Footscray mrwest.com.au
Mr West in Footscray. Photo: Paul Jeffers
Whether you want to dip a toe with a half-glass of 2017 Giaconda chardonnay poured by Coravin or drop several hundred dollars in the Chablis bar, at Kisume you've got options. Chablis and sushi are a match made in heaven, but the rest of the menu will be just as sympatico with a Yarra Valley pinot noir, a Mosel riesling or your favourite Champagne. It's a big wine list with big price tags, but when on Flinders Lane...
175 Flinders Lane, Melbourne kisume.com.au
The name nods to the benchmark wine regions that stretch from France to Slovenia, but this wine bar and shop casts the net even further in its quest for deliciousness. Showcasing 400 bottles from Australia and Chile, alongside Europe, the team prioritises fruit over winery intervention, and the tasting notes for the 20 by-the-glass options reflect this. Educational and delicious.
64 Commercial Road, Prahran thealpsprahran.com.au
The Alps Wine Shop & Bar in Prahran. Photo: Darrian Traynor
Carlton Wine Room
It's tempting (and fun) to navigate this list without assistance, thanks to cute symbols marking biodynamic or organic producers. But when there's a stellar team with an infectious passion for the Italian, French, Victorian and South Australian bottles they're serving, why wouldn't you ask for help? You'll also get to hear what the staff pour of the day is. Burgundy nerd? Lose yourself in seven pages of heavy-hitters on the Reserve list.
172-174 Faraday Street, Carlton thecarltonwineroom.com.au
Pub genes meet bistro-quality touches on this unassuming corner in North Fitzroy. Pair one of a dozen rieslings (Old World or New?) with barbecued prawns, or ponder over Bordeaux, Nebbiolo or Rhone Valley syrah for the porterhouse with horseradish and bone marrow. In true pub fashion there's a bottle shop attached, except this one is dangerously good.
162-170 Queens Parade, Fitzroy North the-recreation.com
The bottle shop at the Recreation in Fitzroy North. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Once you're settled among the bric-a-brac and bentwoods, the biggest dilemma is whether to go by the glass or bottle. Order a glass at a time and you're in for a lucky dip of benchmark Old World varieties and Victorian labels you know well. When one of the current bottles runs out, it could be your turn to pick what limber staff open next. Even more reason to stick around.
386 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North geraldsbar.com.au
Gerald's Bar in Carlton North. Photo: Eamon Gallagher
French wine can now be had in venues of all stripes around town. But drinking white Burgundy by Bonneau du Martray in a room as rich in history as it is in glamour is a singular experience. The wine list extends to 37 pages, organised down to village and cru – and much of it can be bought for home. But then you'd miss out on the staff: dripping with French indifference, they complete the illusion of travel via tables.
11 Toorak Road, South Yarra france-soir.com.au
France-Soir French restaurant in South Yarra. Photo: Eddie Jim
Wine guy Simon Denman has a fondness for the boundary-pushing, the organic and the skinsy but he always shows off the best of the best. Spot Jerome Prevost, Frederic Cossard and Patrick Sullivan on the 400-bottle list, then order a glass of something (there's 20 choices) while you ponder your pick. Denman's online bottle shop, Bahama Gold, is a Covid silver lining.
1 Reid Street, Fitzroy North neighbourhoodwine.com
Neighbourhood Wine pushes the boundaries with a 400-strong list specialising in organic wines.
Aside from the treasures embedded in every line, the best part of Embla's wine list is feeling like your unpretentious (yet very informed) friend is guiding you through it. "Orange, Oxidised or Otherwise Weird, on Purpose" lets you know that you're heading to funky town. "Idiosyncratic" covers lesser-known red varieties or unusual blends while "Crisp or Salty Whites" says it all. Hurrah for democratic drinking – and a price range to match.
122 Russell Street, Melbourne embla.com.au
Embla Wine Bar in Melbourne's CBD. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen