The best wine bars in Canberra

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Bar Rochford

Bar Rochford, one of Canberra’s most recommended wine bars. Photo: File.

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.

Bar Rochford

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.”

Amici Wine Bar & Deli

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!”

Bacaro

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.”

 

Rizla

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!”

Hippo Co.

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.”

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!

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.

What's Your Opinion?


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142 Responses to The best wine bars in Canberra
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ant ant 10:10 am 02 Jan 09

Some old names there, I didn’t much like most of them, have to say. I went to the Wig and Pen when it was Peppers! I was such a regular, I once paid for a shout with a cheque…

Terminus andThe Shanty always seemed similar, for some reason.

The old Canberra Inn was a nice place to go. And who remember the bar at Natex, in Building B? We’d play indoor hockey out there in B and F, and then rehydrate at Ron’s bar.

I never went to The Hungry Horse but the name still makes me giggle, as a drinking buddy, after a nigth out in Belco with us, decided she needed food before heading home and so went there. We heard the next day that she got a tad rowdy, cops came, and she dealt with four of them before being persuaded to accompany them to the station.

farnarkler farnarkler 10:09 am 02 Jan 09

As we’re going through the archives, does anyone remember the name of what was a quite classy nightclub next to Antigo’s around from Baileys arcade? It’s still a club now but back in the early 90’s it was lovely and airconditioned and had a nice crowd. Damned if I can remember the name though!!

BerraBoy68 BerraBoy68 9:56 am 02 Jan 09

poptop said :

BerraBoy68 said :

There was a also a basement type pub near the Plaza that we used to go (i’m talking ’84-’85 but its name escapes me…

That would be The Shanty at the base of what was then the MLC Tower [now Lovatt Tower]; renowned for it’s chips and gravy and the sight of vampire like drinkers, emerging from the subterranean gloom and cowering at unexpected daylight.

One of the low rise lifts in the tower went to the basement allowing covert pub access to the office workers . . . Good times.

The Shanty!!! Thanks Poptop, that was really bugging me.

poptop poptop 9:45 am 02 Jan 09

BerraBoy68 said :

There was a also a basement type pub near the Plaza that we used to go (i’m talking ’84-’85 but its name escapes me…

That would be The Shanty at the base of what was then the MLC Tower [now Lovatt Tower]; renowned for it’s chips and gravy and the sight of vampire like drinkers, emerging from the subterranean gloom and cowering at unexpected daylight.

One of the low rise lifts in the tower went to the basement allowing covert pub access to the office workers . . . Good times.

BerraBoy68 BerraBoy68 9:18 am 02 Jan 09

Thumper said :

I remember gigging at Kambah tavern.

man that was scary…

Sorry for teh double post but… I live 200 meters up the road from the Kambah Tavern (the Boddington side, not Marconi) and have never been in there, but would like to, just to say I have. Can anybody tell me what to expect?

Scariest job I ever had in Pubs was as the DJ/security for a group of female strippers. Top pay but unhealthy. We used to work at Fyshwick Tavern, Mitchell Tavern and Jamison Inn. Working at Jamo was by far the scariest experience I’ve ever had. Telling bikers to keep the hands of the girls, return clothing that gets tossed around etc. does not make for healthy living. I worked behind the bar in a couple of pubs in the East End of London in the late 80’s and that was infinitely safer and more fun with great characters and a few famous faces regularly turning up.

BerraBoy68 BerraBoy68 9:09 am 02 Jan 09

Thumper said :

The Hungry Horse. Now you’re speaking pure uadulterated boganese 😉

How true Thumper! I used to duck in here for a slice of pizza on the way home after a big night out (I used to describe it as a milk bar with a pub out the back). Stopped going in there when a girl I know and her boyfriend got the crap beaten out of them by the local ferels. They did nothing wrong other than walk into the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Boardroom at the Churches Ctr in Belco used to be a good lunchtime haunt as did the Terminus at Civic which used to have the best chicken Schnitzel in town at one point and the drinks were cheap. Only drawback was no natural light. And if we’re playing Dr Who, what about The Troubadour and Elbow Room in Phillip (is the latter one still open?). There was a also a basement type pub near the Plaza that we used to go (i’m talking ’84-’85 but its name escapes me…

As an older and wiser family man now I rarely go out to bars, and stick mainly to Clubs with kids play areas.

farnarkler farnarkler 8:46 am 02 Jan 09

Hehehehhe classy establishment. There’d be blokes belting each other while the little old lady was making pizza.

Thumper Thumper 8:19 am 02 Jan 09

The Hungry Horse. Now you’re speaking pure uadulterated boganese 😉

farnarkler farnarkler 6:53 am 02 Jan 09

Ant and Thumper you forgot the Hungry Horse in that group of hideous Belco post Labor club boozers.

All Bar Nun really is a waste of space. As for Mooseheads, it must be a condition of entry that one has a double digit IQ. King O’Malleys is a laugh. I visit Canberra annually and I know that I’ll always bump into an old Bobby McGees/Labor Club drinking colleague who is within a year of two of hitting 40 and still hasn’t grown up.

Wig and Pen is great for beer however THE regular drinker caused some trouble which left a bad taste so I give the place a miss.

realityskin realityskin 11:12 am 10 Oct 08

Ok, What about a place, fairly nice, to drink on a Saturday afternoon, preferably with some live music. Or am i kidding myself ?

Pandy Pandy 5:09 pm 30 Apr 08

RuffandReady, I am. But he now runs another place in Woden part-time.

ndnl ndnl 3:14 pm 30 Apr 08

CanberraResident said :

Genie said :

I’m a cocktail girl – So if anyone wants to mention where the best VALUE for money cocktails are – i’d like to know.

julep lounge manuka, best cocktails in canberra. they have happy hour til 8pm where all cocktails are $10!! regular prices are around $13/$14, same prices as most other cocktails around canberra but I reckon their quality’s awesome. so in terms of value, they’re probably the best guys for quality and price. awesome vibe in their too friday and saturdays, really funky music. great crowd – no “kiddies” up there 🙂

too many other bars to mention around the berra for beers and wine, filthy’s great for a beer, debacle too.

grunge_hippy grunge_hippy 4:03 pm 22 Apr 08

woo! First post!

has motherhood and old age been that unkind that I don’t know many of these places??

back in the day, when it was cool to binge drink, pandoras and knights were the bar/s du jour. As I got older, I prefered filthy’s… hasnt changed a bit! never was one for mooseheads, and its sounds like it hasnt changed.

on the odd occasion that I get a leave pass, I dont mind king o’malleys in civic… i’ve never been one to go to wannabe yuppie places. had enough of that living in melbourne!

RuffnReady RuffnReady 1:07 pm 19 Apr 08

Pandy – are you serious? I thought Dennis moved up to Gosford to run a car yard or something? If you are serious, I’ll drop by there and say hi, because we always got along really well.

Kieran – thanks for the lowdown on the cheap eats.

Kieran Bennett Kieran Bennett 12:03 pm 19 Apr 08

God I miss SouthPac. And Toast. I’m a bit lost without them.

Pheonix, Muddle, Moose if you wanna get stabbed. The Grill at Uni Pub, $5 snittys on a Tuesday, $5 steaks on a monday, $5 pizzas on a wednesday. $7 steaks every other day of the week. Can’t go wrong. The pool room is like a classy version of civic pub.

necrocelia necrocelia 11:30 am 19 Apr 08

the Rugby Union Club (RUC) in Barton!! 7 dollar jugs from 3-5pm, $2.50 spirits from 9-10pm and the best one- FREE schooners of Coopers Pale Ale in any Brumbies game from when the ref blows the whistle til the first point is scored… good tapas too.

Timberwolf65 Timberwolf65 7:50 am 19 Apr 08

Bludger said :

Timberwolf are you talking about the old Clancy’s in Watson at the old Heritage Village? Gee I loved that place…

Indeed I am talking of The old Clancy’s, remember Canberry Fair?

justbands said :

Matildas! Now there’s a bast from the past. I spent many an underaged night drinking there.

I had my 18th birthday at Matilda’s…sigh!!!

Why do they have to close all the good places, those were the days when you had the occasional puff on a joint with a beer, you could smoke inside, the fights were with fists not with knives, They had Def Leppard on the duke box……oh how I reminisce:)

mirage3 mirage3 11:21 pm 18 Apr 08

……and the wello

mirage3 mirage3 11:17 pm 18 Apr 08

Captain Greggs, Boot and Flogger, Blind Beggars…..

Keerist, I’ve been perusin’ this here site for a while, but I didn’t think this was the place for old buggers to bore the yunguns with our reminiss’n. What about the Trav, Captain Cook (Pythagoras’ Disco), Lakeside (Settlers & Bavarian), Jack Stones and the Down Under. Goodnight all

Pandy Pandy 5:46 pm 18 Apr 08

Dennis and Nick now run Coffferes at Treasury.

Lots of underage drinking there too

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