Bellota has arrived to save the south with wild wines, charcuterie and French-African blues. And it’s drawing hitherto deprived locals like moths to a flame
If you've ever tried and failed to wet your whistle in South Melbourne (or if you've ever enjoyed the excellent vinous journey that is shopping at the Prince Wine Store) you'll be just as pumped as we are that said store's owners Alex Wilcox, Michael McNamara and Philip Rich have opened a wine bar. Sophisticated, fun - it’s everything the South has been missing.
A sturdy wooden bar carves an arc through the main room which is where you want to plonk yourself for a wine date with ex-Vue De Monde sommelier Sylvain Taupenas, and a plate of steak frites.
This is a bar designed with a clear idea of how people like to drink – which should come as no surprise since Gerald Diffey and Mario di Ienno of legendary wine bar Gerald’s had a hand in consulting.
There’s a short sharp by-the-glass list that runs from Burgundy to Abruzzo to Margaret River, and they’re all available by the 50ml taster ($4 fun!), glass or carafe. Every night a couple of bigger options are on pour like a Vincent Dancer Meursault Les Corbins – a white Burgundy which delivers a mineral punch to the schnozz and another to the wallet at $30 a pop. Still not satisfied? You can raid the 3,500 bottles from next door. Corkage is $15 – bugger all when you consider bottle mark-ups are usually 100 percent minimum in bars – and if the bottle you swipe is over $80, corkage is free. Sluicing your team with Champagne has never been less extravagant.
All hail the straight-shooting European menu too, designed by Brigitte Hafner of Gertrude Street Enoteca. There’s a French cheese and Italian sausage party going on in the cabinet behind the bar and counter-side, you’ll find ice buckets of briny little Moonlight Flat oysters which get shucked on demand. Cellophane thin sheets of salami peel off the hand-cranked red slicer and are piled up with soft slabs of cherry-studded pork and duck terrine with bundles of pickles and grilled bread. Crisp-shelled croquettes are filled with jamón-flecked béchamel and there’s even a big old bowl of well oiled-up eggplant and tuna spaghetti.
They’re catering to wine buffs, but by no means exclusively. For every silvertail wearing slacks and talking Baume, you’ll find a rowdy gaggle of punters content with the tasty snacks and $9 glasses of whatever-you’ve-got-I-don’t-care.
Service is friendly, the price is right – hell, even the temperature’s balmy. The drought has broken, South Melbourne. Go now and go nuts.