Italian makeover: Brisbane bottle shops evolve into wine bars | Australian lifestyle

Written by Javed Iqbal

Iit’s late friday afternoon in the suburbs Brisbane – about the hour when “day drinking” ticks over to the more respectable “knock off” drinks. We sit at a communal table and enjoy a glass of wine with strangers, while an upbeat playlist meanders through decades and genres. We are not in a bar, a pub or even a restaurant. Rather, we are in a shop. Specifically, a wine shop.

Queensland bottle-os used to be a place you popped in briefly on your way somewhere else. And while the old school chains may still be the place for a weekend “smash and grab”, a growing number of independents in Brisbane have ventured into wine shop/bar hybrids more along the lines of the Italian wine shop.

Sommelier and winemaker Danilo Duseli took over Ashgrove’s Arcade Wine in a retro arcade four months ago. He comes from northern Italy, where welcome drink hour sees locals gather at wine bars populating even the smallest towns for a neighborhood pick-up, pre-dinner drink and, always, food of some kind.

“It’s very unusual to drink wine in Italy without eating,” he says, putting down rounds of bread topped with anchovies and homemade salsa verde.

As we sip our wine, many customers engage Duseli, eager for recommendations or to report back on previous purchases. Some stay a while, grabbing a stool at the table or sitting on the couch to enjoy a glass. Next to us, a couple reminisces about their recent trip to the vineyards of Tuscany.

“My goal is to get to know my customers and to educate them about wine,” says Duseli, and he is not alone.

A similar ethos exists at Wineism in Albion, Grape Therapy in the CBD, Barbossa in South Brisbane, Baedeker in Fortitude Valley and Honor Avenue Cellars in Graceville.

“Although the possibility of having a combination wine shop/wine bar has existed since the Wine Industry Act was passed in 1994, it is probably the interest in all the craftsmanship that has developed over the last few years that has made people look at what is possible. ,” says Matthew Jones, a liquor licensing specialist in Queensland.

Arcade Wines Danilo Duseli helps a customer.
Duseli takes pride in educating customers about wine. Photo: Rhett Hammerton/The Guardian

The shops use a “wine dealer’s licence”, which allows both to sell wine to take home and by the glass. The license was created specifically to support the wine industry in Queensland, its award depends on the venue actively contributing, whether by selling and promoting Queensland wines or in some cases producing it themselves. Currently there are about two dozen Queensland businesses using the licence.

“It’s definitely the cheapest and one of the only ways someone can participate in the take-away spirits market [in Queensland]”, says Jones. “The alternative is a hotel license, which of course requires you to have a real hotel.”

Michael Nolan, owner of the Wine Experience, added a bar 18 months ago after 16 years of operating a retail wine shop in Rosalie.

“I fell in love with the small bars in Spain and the rest of Europe – the really intimate environment – and always wanted to do something like that, but I never wanted a full-time bar,” he says.

Wine Experience’s small, bespoke 12-seater bar is run from Wednesday to Sunday at 15.00, with a few extra tables for drinks or dinners on the footpath.

“For us, the bar was about building a community,” says Nolan. “People come in and we get to know them and build loyalty. It has definitely created a following – people pop in on their way home from shopping, or they stop for an afternoon drink before going to a restaurant or a movie.”

There are regular wine masterclasses and up to 50 glasses available at any one time, always with a few Queensland wines and some that “are a bit more esoteric or harder to come by”, says Nolan.

“And of course, you can take any wine off the shelf and, with a $30 service charge, drink it here. That’s a huge savings compared to the margin you’d pay for the same bottle in a restaurant.”

At Albion’s Wineism, owner Ian Trinkle is a former sommelier, as are his entire shop staff. Trinkle opened last December. A long tiled communal table dominates the shop, which is used for tastings, but also the evening crowd that comes to eat and drink.

It’s the one-on-one engagement he values ​​most.

“I’m amazed at how adventurous people are now,” Trinkle says. “People really want to have the experience and to talk about the wines. I can talk about tannic structures forever, but it’s nice to be able to uncork a bottle and say, ‘Hey, let’s taste this and sit down and have a little chat’.

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Javed Iqbal

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