Your BYO bottle for Chinatown dumplings is about to get astronomically better. Embla's Christian McCabe and winemaker Patrick Sullivan are taking over Russell Street's long-serving music shop from January 15 and will run a pop-up bottle shop, Punchin' Bottles, until it is demolished later in 2020 to make way for a new hotel.
It's great news for wine buffs, whose options are usually restricted to the City Wine Shop and Vintage Cellars in the CBD, but sad news too. The former Lewis' Music Store had a commendation from the mayor for being one of the CBD's longest surviving retail stores. At least it will be home to some very sympathetically made wines.
Sullivan and McCabe, who work together to make wines and have an importing business called Puncheon Bottles, are known for their championing of wines that speak of places rather than what people have done to them. "We like things that leave as little imprint on them as possible – like Japanese chefs who work to make ingredients shine," says McCabe.
The shop will stock examples of these wines, largely shining on domestic makers like Gentle Folk and Xavier Goodridge, with stars from France (the Loire, specifically, plus some grower champagnes) and Italy.
It's a retail-only operation (not a wine bar, and no food), but Sullivan and McCabe's connections to winemakers and the restaurant world mean they will have bottles to offer that never usually reach retailers, so small is the amount produced. Having their expertise on tap is also a perk and there will be a winemaker featured weekly, offering in-house tastings with Victorian vignerons and international industry friends, kicking off with Gareth Belton showing new releases from Gentle Folk Wines on Wednesday, 22 January from 5pm-9pm, followed by Campbell Burton of the eponymous distributor on Friday, 24 January and Saturday, 25 January from 5pm-9pm.
A few choice beers and craft spirits will round out the offering ("In summer, you'll need frothies for the park," says McCabe) but won't be a focus.
Details of the regularly changing program and other wine wisdom will be shared via the Punchin' Bottles newsletter; those keen to stay tuned are encouraged to sign up.
Open Wednesday - Sunday, 12pm-10pm
Punchin' Bottles,124 Russell Street, Melbourne.