Few things in life can top a glass of fine wine. Complex, unique, indulgent, and simply delicious – a good wine truly is a taste sensation. And we Canberrans are lucky enough to be in one of the world’s best wine-producing countries, amongst some of the best wineries in the south east region of Australia.
One of the best ways to sample a range of these delicious wines is by visiting a wine bar. These bars specialise in fine wine, offering up a diverse, ever-changing collection of both local and international wine. Some serve up starters and meals alongside their drinks so that you can explore wine pairings. When you discover an incredible wine bar, you’ll find yourself coming back again and again.
But wine can be intimidating to explore, and particular to each individual’s tastes – so how do you find a wine bar that is perfect for you? In this article, we’ll give you a list of what to look for in a great wine bar, as well as a guide to some of Canberra’s favourites.
What makes a great wine bar?
So much goes into making a fantastic wine bar. On your hunt, we suggest keeping a sharp eye out for the following traits:
- An exciting range of wines. You head to a wine bar to sample the finest wines on the market, right? So, the very first thing to keep a lookout for is the wine menu. It should be diverse and exciting, containing a mix of local, national, and international labels, and give you opportunities to branch out from what you might normally try.
- Knowledgeable staff. You don’t need a fully-qualified sommelier, but visiting a wine bar to taste and learn about wines does require a bartender who knows their stuff. A great wine bar will not just provide you with excellent food and wine, but they’ll be able to guide you through the evening effortlessly and smoothly.
- Lively atmosphere. As with any bar that you visit, an upbeat and energetic atmosphere is a must. Not only does it help with overall enjoyment of the evening, but it’s also an indication of the venue’s popularity.
- Food pairings. One of the best ways to taste wine and decide what your tastes are is to pair it with food. A good pairing will not only elevate your enjoyment of the wine, but also enrich the whole experience at the wine bar. And it helps if the food itself is delicious!
The best wine bars in Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
Without further ado, here are the top wine bars in Canberra according to the region’s local residents.
Tucked away in the iconic Melbourne Building, Bar Rochford is a local hotspot known for its stellar food, exciting wines, and smooth atmosphere. Both the food and wine menu change regularly by a dedicated team who are passionate about using in-season produce to develop unique culinary creations.
As Joshua Huxtable wrote on Google, "Always fantastic! I've been going to Rockford for a couple years now and [their] wine list is ever-changing and has some truly unique wines by the glass. The food is also of exceptional quality with some funky combinations, always well balanced and nicely presented."
What’s better than a glass of wine? A glass of wine and a fresh, wood-fired pizza. Bacaro is an authentically Italian pizza and wine bar accessed through an unsuspecting laneway. Grab a seat at the chic marble bar and devour a freshly made pizza or generous bowl of fragrant pastas.
As Mark Solomons wrote on Google, "Oh yes this is pizza. Beautiful proofed fluffy crust. We attended the 5-6pm pizza in the back room and decided to have several glasses of nice Italian red wine. The waiter was amazing too and helped us choose wine we'd like. We will be back."
Nestled in the heart of Canberra (or rather, Braddon) is a boutique whiskey, wine, and cocktail bar that serves up some of the finest drinks in the region. That is, Hippo Co. The atmosphere is both classy and cosy, with exposed brick walls and warm, dim lighting. Sit back, enjoy a glass of top-quality vino, and indulge in a little banter.
Emma A wrote a glowing review on Google, saying "I love everything about this place. The intimate vibe, incredible and vast range of drinks and the relaxed tunes as you look out over the square."
Rizla, found in the popular Lonsdale Street hub, is all about providing good times and even better wines. With the focus on Canberra’s best new vintage and cellared Rieslings and matching share-plates designed to pair specifically with each wine, this intimate enclosed garden setting is the ideal spot for your wine bar exploration. They also offer top of the range red and white varietals.
As Jordan Cassidy writes in their Google review, “Really great menu and wine list, excellent ambience and very friendly team. Andrew was a delight!”
This deli, wine and cocktail bar located in the heart of the CBD is a gorgeous spot, serving up cheese, cured meats, hand-stretched pizzas all alongside a fantastic array of delicious wines.
See what Facebook user Beth Penman wrote about their experience at Amici, “Could not recommend highly enough! Great food, extensive wine list and love the fun relax vibe! (…) My husband and I will be back soon!”
Are you looking for more ideas on how to spend a night out in Canberra? Check out our articles, the best cocktail bars in Canberra and the best Kingston Foreshore bars and restaurants for some handy guides to the best spots in town! You might also like to read through our list of Canberra’s best bistros, best gastropubs, best steakhouses, and best pubs.
Your experience with wine bars in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback, if you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you visited any of the wine bars listed above? How was your experience? Share your thoughts and feedback in the comments area below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What wines are local to the Canberra region?
Canberra’s wine region is home to 140 vineyards and more than 30 cellar doors, and the regions of Murrumbateman, Lake George and Collector are all considered "local." Some local names that you might might recognise are Collector Wines, Lark Hill, Lerida Estate, Surveyor's Hill, Long Rail Gully, and the award-winning Clonakilla.
How do I pair wine with food?
Wine pairing may feel daunting, but there are some very simple rules of thumb that you can keep in mind when pairing wines if you want to do it right. The most simple would be that red wines pair well with bold, rich foods, especially red meats. White wines do better alongside lighter dishes, such as seafood and salads. Note that there can be exceptions to these rules, so talk to whoever's selling you the wine and get their professional opinion!
What is the most popular wine in Australia?
The most popular wine varietal in Australia is sauvignon blanc, followed closely by shiraz. However, the most popular winery in Australia (according to The Real Review) is Cullen Wines in Margaret River. Canberra District's own Clonakilla Wines comes in at number four!
If a wine is expensive, does that mean it's better?
Not necessarily! While higher quality wines may cost more because of special production processes, but whether or not a wine is good is completely objective. Don't feel compelled to break the bank on a bottle of wine.
Do wineries offer tastings?
Yes! Wineries regularly offer tastings, which is a great way to learn about a wine you particularly enjoy. You can also join a winery tour across a wine-producing region and sample all the great wines of that area.