Drinks News

Coming soon: A Melbourne bottle shop by the wine minds behind Embla and Patrick Sullivan

This is juice news worth jumping for.

By Yvonne C Lam
Patrick Sullivan and Christian McCabe.
So many good restaurants, so few good wine shops. That's Christian McCabe's observation of Melbourne's CBD which, as a quick "bottle shops near me" Google Maps search confirms, is dotted with big-name alcohol retailers and not much else.
So who better to quench the thirsts of BYO-lovers than the proprietor of one of Melbourne's best wine bars, and a celebrated wine producer? Right now, McCabe (Embla) and Patrick Sullivan (Patrick Sullivan wines) are frantically unpacking boxes as they prepare to open their bottle shop Punchin' Bottles on Wednesday 15 January on Russell Street.
The focus is on European drops from their wine-importing business Puncheon Bottles, as well as fellow importer friends Cellarhand, Andrew Guard and Giorgio de Maria Fun Wines. But they're also keen to shine a light on small-batch Victorian pours, with McCabe having a particular fondness for what's coming out of Central Victoria. There, producers from Bendigo and the Macedon Ranges are producing interesting, experimental drops, at odds with the region's "daggy" reputation.
"There's no great wine that James Halliday loves from Central Victoria, but that doesn't stand in the way of people making a really great fiano, a skin-contact sauvignon blanc or even a nice shiraz," says McCabe. "There are a lot of experimental people doing interesting things, and at an affordable price."
Embla co-owners Christian McCabe and Dave Verheul. Photo: Greg Elms
Staff will be well-versed on the provenance and wine-making practices of the shop's selection, though McCabe says his and Sullivan's wine preferences can be stranger than most. "The idea is if you like the wines we import, if you like our wine bar, maybe this is a good place to buy a bottle of wine," he says.
The shop is next to Embla, and resides in the former storied site of the long-running Lewis' Music Store. It's earmarked for a hotel development next year, which means Punchin' Bottles has a tentative December expiry date.
But when it opens it's likely to be a beacon for curious Melbourne wine-lovers. Take a bottle home. Take one to the many BYO restaurants in nearby Chinatown. Or take it outside, as McCabe suggests. "Do the illegal but enjoyable summer session in the park," he says. "And drink something really fancy out of a plastic cup."
Punchin' Bottles, 124 Russell St, Melbourne, Vic, 0421 427 587
Opens Wednesday 15 January.
Open Wed-Sat noon-10pm.