There’s something so romantic about a cosy wine bar, with rows of glassware stacked up the walls and low leather booths. Whether it’s pinot and people watching or grenache and gastronomic treats, these Adelaide wine bars impart an intimate, sophisticated experience.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, online natural wine retailer LOC launched a dedicated bricks-and-mortar bar in Hindmarsh Square. Expect a selection of difficult-to-find, lo-fi wines alongside charcuterie and cheese plates.
Leigh Street Wine Room
The long-narrow space at Leigh Street Wine Room is all about the vino, as the liquid wallpaper of 400 eclectic bottles lining the dark-wood shelves testifies. Co-owner Nathan Sasi’s reverence for natural and minimal intervention drops is evident, but the venue also takes its food seriously.
The bar, designed by Studio Gram, evokes Europe: the long arched ceiling echoes Barcelona; the mustard-coloured banquettes, Paris; and the terrazzo bar, Italy. A mix of old and new tableware and decor adds to the charm, though it feels less curated than at some other local small bars, and the overall effect is surprisingly relaxed for an establishment with such lofty ambitions.
It’s taken a while for the staff to gel, but now there are enough seasoned hospo professionals on the floor who can explain the wines on the list and match them to dishes like raw scallops with almond cream, blood orange and green oil or blue swimmer crab risotto. The kitchen is compact, but churns out a satisfying menu that has been pared back during the lockdown, with only 12 dishes available.
The service could be better, however, with more knowledge of the wine and a less frantic approach. It’s an odd place to sit and eat, but there is no doubting that it adds something to Adelaide dining. It’s worth a visit, especially if you’re keen to discover wines from lesser-known regions.
Paloma Bar & Pantry
In the heart of Adelaide’s small bar precinct, Paloma Bar & Pantry oozes European charm. The light, bright space combines a cosy bar with a curated pantry and menu that ties in perfectly with their wine list. The drinks menu features all your favourite aperitivo snacks such as charcuterie and cheese boards, while the wines focus on Southern European varietals. Whether you’re soaking up the sun in the al fresco seating or sipping on a glass of white at the bar, this is one spot you will love.
This former dry cleaner’s space has quickly become an Adelaide institution. Their terrazzo bar and sweeping archway set the scene for an intimate wine sanctuary that has something to offer everyone. They’re famous for their ‘wall of wine’ with around 400 bottles of minimal-intervention drops that range from international favourites like Maison Pierre Overnoy to local heroes including The Leigh Street Project chardonnay.
The food menu is a mix of large and small plates, with an emphasis on local and Mediterranean ingredients. Their cured meats, pickled vegetables and breads are deliciously fresh and perfectly complement the wines. The menu also features a short list of cocktails that are perfect for a pre-dinner drink. So sit back, relax and let the magic happen. This is a place you will want to visit again and again.
A mother vine is a prized grape plant, twisted and gnarled with age but cherished for the propagation opportunities it offers wine grape breeders. It is also revered for its enduring spirit and is often used in ghost stories of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, where it is believed to have grown the sweet Scuppernong grape that gave rise to America’s first wines.
Adelaide’s own relic of history is celebrated at Mothervine, a cosy wine bar that opened in 2016. Owners Mark Reginato and Louis Schofield are passionate about the area’s vinous heritage, but they’re not wine snobs, and their menu offers 20 wines by the glass, starting at A$8 and ranging up to A$2,200.
The bar’s enviable position opposite East End Cellars – arguably the city’s best retail wine shop – means it can plug into that vast resource and offer rare vintages, including cult classics such as the Jacques Puffeney 2014 Arbois and Valentini. Its simple and rustic food menu carries a strong local accent from house charcuterie to cubed raw tuna in creme fraiche, which matches beautifully with the likes of a Pinot Noir from Gareth Belton of Gentle Folk.
Its exposed-brick walls, fresh flowers and old-school paraphernalia create a warm and romantic vibe that attracts couples and friends. A perfect spot for a classy date, a different business lunch or after-work drinks. Mothervine is open seven days a week.
A refined rooftop bar with postcard views over Adelaide’s leafy northern parks, Government House and Adelaide Oval, this is one of the city’s most enviable spots. The wine list, curated by the team behind Seppeltsfield Fino in the Barossa, is similarly stellar with a wide range of local and international varieties. Enjoy the view and a glass of fizz while you graze on oysters, charcuterie and fresh seasonal produce.
Sibling to the East End Cellars laneway wine shop, Mother Vine has its own unique charm for Adelaide’s drinking scene. With a narrow, faux alpine hut vibe it’s the kind of place that evokes more wanderlust than any discounted airfare ever could. Enjoy a glass of wine alongside a plate of pintxos and get lost in their list which is sorted into Classics (think Chablis, Burgundy and Rhone), Progressives (including skin-contact whites and pet-nats) and ‘Small Production’ wines from the state of South Australia.
This slick little bar has quickly become a favourite for Prospect locals. A mashup of boutique bottle-o and bar, they champion small local producers from Deviation Road to Ashton Hills along with a well-considered international selection which skews slightly towards Italy. It’s the perfect spot for a pre-theatre cocktail, cheese and wine pairing or a date night dinner with friends. Sip a prohibition inspired cocktail or bottle of Riffault Sancerre while chatting with the friendly staff.
In the heart of Leigh Street this Japanese architectural-style bar is an inner-city oasis with seasonal cocktails, high end tins and a curated wine list. The crowd pleasers are the Aperol Spritz and Paloma, and the wine naturally hones in on Southern European varieties.
From the owners of East End Cellars across the road, Mothervine is a cosy, cleverly designed natural wine bar. They’ve got a massive list of low-intervention wines, with lots to choose from and helpful staff on hand to help you pick out the right bottle for your taste.
Blink and you might miss this hidden gem tucked in a corner of the quaint Adelaide CBD. A former dry cleaner is now a cosy space with a terrazzo bar and arresting natural stone wall. Their list is constantly evolving with drop unique wines from both SA and interstate.
This refined rooftop is a favourite amongst the locals, and it’s not hard to see why. The food is simple and delicious, with chef Josh Lansley flexing his creativity using local produce. Every part of the animal and vegetable is used, with next to nothing being wasted. Pair with a glass of the signature Fino at Seppeltsfield, or sample one of the other acclaimed offerings on the wine list. The space is home to an eclectic menagerie of bohemian writers, politicians and ratbag winemakers, so expect loud chatter with a drink or two.
A former dry cleaner is now a warm, cleverly designed wine den where the bottle list takes inspiration from Paris, Rome and New York. This little gem in the Leigh Street laneway is as intimate for two as it is for larger groups and features a glass wall that runs the length of the space displaying over 400 bottles from all corners of the globe.
The bar focuses on natural wines from France and Australia and have even gone so far as to hire an expert in rare and low-intervention drops (Liina Berry, formerly of 2KW). Their menu is similarly influenced with a strong focus on the European style of drinking, ranging from punchy bar snacks such as Blue Swimmer crab spaghetti to more substantial plates including coconut braised meats and cubed raw tuna served with creme fraiche.
Located across from the gorgeous heritage Capri Theatre, Good Gilbert is a breezy neighbourhood bar geared around convenience and inclusivity. The exterior is a smart mix of bifold doors and timber panelling, while the interior rocks a fresh green palette, banquette seating and a tile-clad bar with pressed metal detailing.
They’re not shy about putting their stamp on the local food scene either, with a smart selection of cheese from a young but pleasant cheddar to a smashing blue similar in texture to Stilton as well as house-made condiments and cured meats. Don’t skip the cocktails or the ice cold beer on tap either, it’s very well done.