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BEST PLACES TO DRINK WINE: NSW

EXP., POKOLBIN, HUNTER VALLEY

Supernatural Byron Bay

9 Bay Lne, Byron Bay
supernaturalbyronbay.com

Go for: rare natural wines and the sand between your toes

Looking like the lovechild of a Parisian jazz club and a Melbourne laneway back bar, this dimly lit bijou space invites the weary beach-goer with open arms — and promises to keep you well into the night as cheery sun-kissed servers attend to your every natural wine craving. Without an iota of pretension, you’ll uncover an offering based on select and ever-changing biodynamic and organic wines deftly curated by bar manager Scott McGarry. He’s a self-confessed natural wine aficionado, and maker himself, who rouses with his knowledge and abundant insights of the craft should you give him a chance. If not, let psychedelic funk paired with delicious ethically sourced modern share plates be the reason you order that one more glass.  ALEX MITCHESON

WHERE'S NICK

236 Marrickville Rd, Marrickville, Sydney
wheresnick.com.au

Go for: a deep dive into Spanish whites
and the anchovy toast

The mismatched nanna and pa chairs, curios and collectibles scattered about the back bar, a slew of beaming faces to greet you, the staff’s famous one-liners on the wall, the smell of freshly baked focaccia, a chalkboard full of delicious wines by the glass. Julian and Dom Abouzeid’s Marrickville wine bar is a must visit from me. Where’s Nick though? You’ll just have to ask. Overseeing the show is the inimitable Bridget Raffal, whose warmth and fastidiousness allow for the most persnickety of wine drinkers. Ask the staff if you’re unsure, they all know their stuff, in and out. The food will put a little song in your heart. If it’s ever there, get a lobster bap, otherwise try nourishing pasta. Sit in the window and people-watch, a four top in the broody corner for a good catch-up or grab a seat at the bar for a first date as the bar staff banter will be there in a heartbeat to rescue you, if you accidentally reveal you have a tail far too quick off the bat.  ELLA STENING

10 WILLIAM ST

10 William St, Paddington, Sydney
10williamst.com.au

Go for: cosy, convivial vibe and the pretzel & whipped bottarga

It’s hard to recall a time when 10 William St wasn’t around, despite only opening in 2011, such is the notoriety of Paddington’s best-loved, hole-in-the-wall wine bar. Run by the boys from Fratelli Paradiso, the tiny downstairs room is vibrant and loud, populated by patrons as engaging and fun as the wines on pour. There’s a changing by-the-glass blackboard selection or take a joyride through the main list devoted to natural wines from Italy, France and Australia – with a smattering from Germany, Spain and Austria. The staff will do a fine job of nailing the right wine for you, serving it up in the stemware it deserves. The food’s good, too, a seasonal moving feast of shared plates that might include quail and pickled peppers or spaghetti chitarra all’amatriciana from chef Frank Guest, formerly from London hotspot Lyle’s.  JUDY SARRIS

BIBO

7 Bay St, Double Bay, Sydney
bibowinebar.com.au

Go for: the award-winning wine list, of course

What sets Bibo apart is its service culture – the seasoned front-of-house team have a knack for matching wines to people while keeping the vibe warm and inviting. Head sommelier Louella Mathews has spent the past couple of years evolving a seriously extensive and well-considered wine list. It’s got everything from vintage Champagne and Old-World classics perfect for a Double Bay fat-cats lunch, to well-selected skin-contact and experimental wines suited for a younger crowd. Sit in the window for great people-watching and enjoy a glass of vinho verde and the bacalhau (salted cod) croquettes. IMOGEN HAYES

Shelter Lennox

41 Pacific Pde, Lennox Head
shelterlennox.com.au

Go for: whale-watching while sampling the punchy, local wines

Shelter sits on the Lennox Head beach front, halfway between Ballina and Byron. Local, seasonal and sustainable is the menu focus; with the incredible fertile region of the Northern Rivers as a backyard, there’s no shortage of epic flavours from land and sea. The wine list here is casual but on point, with a smart selection of orange wine, rosé and chilled reds from small, independent producers focusing on organic and sustainable farming practices. The relaxed beachside spot is the perfect place to enjoy a boozy brunch with a bottle of pét-nat, or drop in after a surf for some live acoustic music at the Sundowner Sessions, and a glass of textural orange wine paired with some deep-fried school prawns and spicy aioli, and a pink sunset over the hinterland.  MATT BARNETT

EXP.

2188 Broke Rd, Pokolbin
exprestaurant.com.au

Go for: the ambient sounds, elegant wine list and exceptional menu

EXP. is a Hunter Valley drinks and dining experience you really must expose yourself to; to explore and expel any doubts that this is one of the best expressions of casual fine dining in Australia. Explicitly delicious and experimental in equal measure, right in the heart of Pokolbin. Ambient light emits from the kitchen, just beyond the diners seated at the bar, almost illuminating the entire small dining room in warm, welcoming glow. Kanye’s Love Lockdown and other classic urban hymns sound out from a simpler time, at low levels above your heads. It’s a definite mood here. The wine list is elegant in its brevity: anchored to the Hunter but focused on finesse and flavour, which complements chef Frank Fawkner’s expert exposition of food nuance, detail and distinction.  DANIEL HONAN

Taverna

22 Marine Pde, Kingscliff
taverna.net.au

Go for: the window seat, a long lunch and incredibly
well-priced wines

This Kingscliff gem, near the state border, is a favourite for travellers from Queensland and New South Wales, serving some of the finest Greek cuisine to be found in either state. Inside, a simple setting of timber chairs and white tablecloths creates an elegant Greek taverna feel that invites you to settle in for hours. While outside, the cool kids can sit at white wooden tables, sip on Greek-inspired cocktails, snack on small plates and watch the world go by. Entrée dishes of saganaki with honey and rosemary, or calamari with seaweed continue to delight with their unpretentious simplicity. The wine offer focuses on quality, including a five-glass Greek wine flight and daily wines ‘off-the-list’ to try.  JOSH MARTIN

Charred Kitchen & Bar

1-5 New St, Orange
charred.com

Go for: country town hospitality and the Charred Alaska dessert

Chatting to any local or anyone who has ever travelled to Orange, this is one place that’s always top of the list to visit and it’s easy to see why. Owner and sommelier David Collins is an advocate for Orange, with his wine list a great introduction to the region’s history. Be sure to tell him where you’re visiting during your travels and he’ll give you a taste of anything you might be missing. His passion for wine is evident in the drinks menu, with a mesmerising selection of wines by the glass and bottle – check out the ‘Other Unusual and Interesting Whites’ section. But don’t get too distracted by the wine and forget to indulge in something from the spirits and beer list, too.  AMY NORTHCOTT

Harvest Newrybar

18-22 Old Pacific Hwy, Newrybar
harvest.com.au

Go for: the luxurious hinterland atmosphere and delicious, inventive local flavours

Situated in a renovated weatherboard cottage in the hills behind Byron, Harvest – with its incredible 100-year-old wood fired oven – is a gourmet hive destination, and a celebration of local suppliers and growers renowned for supporting the land. Similarly, the solid wine list focuses on environmentally conscious Australian producers, and are all available by the glass under Coravin. It’s playfully split into ‘Before food’, with a selection of wonderful Australian aperitifs including Beechworth’s Pennyweight Fino, and ‘After food’ with sweet wines, amaros and delicious aromatised wine like Maidenii’s La Tonique Quinquina, made with Heathcote viognier-infused with native botanicals and citrus. There is also the ‘Party section’, offering magnum-sized bottles for groups, as well a range of ‘no-booze’ wine and cocktails.  MATT BARNETT

RESTAURANT HUBERT

15 Bligh St, Sydney
restauranthubert.com

Go for: a perfectly made martini and steak frites at the bar, finished off with a cheeky pastis

Take a step beneath its unassuming doorway and down the wood-panelled staircase, and emerge transported to another time. Hubert’s lavish French charm will have you feeling more like you’re in 1950s Paris than the Sydney CBD. Bentwood chairs, lush red velvet and warm candlelight, add a live jazz quintet and you’ll be reaching for a martini before you’ve even sat down. Perfectly executed classic French fare complements a wine list with a similar focus, a comprehensive leather-bound tome covering all the usual suspects, with some comparable Aussie takes. An excellent by-the glass and half bottle list makes splashing out a little more accessible but don’t leave your wallet at home for a memorable occasion.  CSILLA SWAIN

Bert’s Bar & Brasserie

2 Kalinya St, Newport
merivale.com/berts

Go for: a window seat with a dozen oysters and a glass of Grower Champagne

Bert’s Bar & Brasserie, in Newport in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, evokes the easy decadence of the 1930s with its rattan furniture, olive-green decor and expansive bow window overlooking tangled greenery and glimpses of Pittwater. It’s an ideal spot to while away the hours. Perhaps an old-school cocktail to start and then a deep dive into the list artfully pieced together by Franck Moreau MS, Merivale’s group sommelier. Eye-watering collections of Burgundy, Champagne and Australian icons sit happily alongside low-intervention gems and easy-drinking whites and reds from just about everywhere of note. Cruise through the by-the-glass list – it will keep you busy for hours – sustained by a plate of Sydney rock oysters or something more substantial from chef Jordan Toft’s excellent kitchen and charcoal grill.
JUDY SARRIS

Wyno x Bodega

50 Holt Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
bodegatapas.com

Go For: The massive by-the-glass list and bottle shop

Wyno X Bodega, once separate venues now one, has been a favourite of Surry Hills locals for many years – and with good reason. Team Porteño, who are behind this vibrantly decorated, pint-sized delight, never fail to deliver stupendous Spanish/Latin flavours, interesting wines and heaps of fun. The communal table seats up to 27 at a time, with well-versed staff delivering tapas dishes and wines from a list that traverses the globe. Guarantee there will be bottles you’ve never come across before. A Brothers Marami Rkatsiteli from the Czech Republic, anyone? The adjoining bottle shop runs the length of the room and, amazingly, every wine on its shelves is available by the glass. Or buy a full bottle to drink there – or to take home. What more could you ask?  JUDY SARRIS

She Loves You

530 King St, Newtown, Sydney
she-loves-you.business.site

Go for: the booths and the swing-era jazz

SLY is an intimate and inclusive gem, tucked away down the south end of King St, Newtown. Like many great bars, it is known to patrons mostly through word of mouth. The menu, interesting and celebratory, is entirely verbal. Owner Sophie Otton is generous with her time and knowledge, pairing wines to match one’s budget, occasion and wine-nerd level. The cellar boasts local and imports, traditional and not so much (Otton loves complex and nuanced Italian wines), including top end options – sometimes by the glass under Coravin if you’re lucky. Co-owner Stephen Smooker mixes excellent drinks, marrying traditional cocktails with local ingredients.  IMOGEN HAYES


photography By Jodi Plumbley, Jess Kearney, Hollie Adams, Nikki To, And Courtesy of Where’s Nick, Bibo, Shelter Lennox, Charred Kitchen and Bar, Bert’s Bar & Brasserie, Exp., and she loves you.