Either wine-in, or take a bottle home at these excellent local watering holes

You would be forgiven for thinking it was almost impossible to find a cosy wine bar South of the river - it seems all hospitality folk open their happening bars and breweries in the North. Not so! A delicious drop and convivial surrounds can be found at several neighbourly establishments, if you know where to look. What’s better, is that all venues double as a bottle shop, so you have the option to drink-in, or take home.

We discovered:

Toorak Cellars 15 Beatty Avenue, Armadale

Milton Wine Shop 1427 Malvern Road, Malvern

The Alps 64 Commercial Road, Prahran

Neptune 212 High Street, Windsor

Otter’s Promise 1219 High Street, Armadale

Local wine expert Lyndon Kubis (who co-owns Milton Wine Shop, Toorak Cellars and The Alps, among others) explains this casual Parisian concept, known as caves à manger: places you can visit everyday for a sip and a snack. ‘Warm, welcoming and generous…it’s the French version of a community centre.’ Amen to that. Now, where to find these caves?

Toorak Cellars - A homey wine bar just opposite Toorak Station, the Cellars offers an always-changing list of 20 wines by the glass up on the blackboard, and shelves stacked with everything from a cheap and cheerful Prosecco, to a buxom Grand Cru Burgundy. If you’re overwhelmed by choice on a frosty afternoon, go the 2017 BK Wines ‘Mother Moon’ Syrah. From a biodynamically farmed vineyard in the Adelaide Hills, Kubis calls this ‘a liquid warm blanket. Juicy plump fruit offset by those “Rhone-like” characters of graphite, iodine and game.’ Drink it next to the open fire. 15 Beatty Avenue, Armadale

Milton Wine Shop - An unlikely spot for a very decent little wine bar, the Milton does not disappoint. Situated in an unassuming little terrace near the corner of Malvern and Tooronga Roads, this residential gem is perfect for a comforting glass of pinot noir round the communal table, or a refreshing bottle of something pink or fizzy in the outdoor courtyard. There are also a number of natural wines to peruse, and the bar menu lends itself to simple cheesy and meaty morsels- though you’re also welcome to order delivery from the nearby (and delectable) Pizza Gallery. 1427 Malvern Road, Malvern

The Alps - Another excellent haven of abundant offerings united by an appreciation of terroir, and unpretentious service, The Alps in Prahran is the slightly more hip version of its sister venues. They stock the zine ‘Terre,’ a lively publication dedicated to wines that speak of place, and sell seasonal “Juice Boxes” - a mixed half-dozen of delicious selections that won’t break the bank. The décor feels quite après-ski, and everyone in in the bar seems to be called ‘legend’ - what’s not to like? 64 Commercial Road, Prahran

Neptune - A tad closer to Chapel Street and perhaps more ‘sceney’ than the others, Neptune in Windsor is a bodega, bottle shop and cocktail bar. Started by the team who gave us Hanoi Hannah, Tokyo Tina, Saigon Sally, San Telmo and Pastuso, the ambience is duly humming with attractive diners enjoying the Mediterranean share plates and mood lighting. Again, the wine list flexes to accommodate cork dorks and novices alike. If you decide instead to purchase a bottle of spirits, the staff are happy to store it for you in a whiskey locker until your next visit. 212 High Street, Windsor

Otter’s Promise - Beer emporium Otter’s Promise would not be out of place in say Brooklyn or Portland, known for their craft beer culture. But Armadale? Owner Dan Taranto recalls the days when High Street had an after hours heartbeat, ‘the area used to have the Armadale Hotel, and there was even a jazz bar.’ He realised the area was presently under serviced for casual drinking spots, especially one with a beer tap: and so, Otter’s Promise was born.

‘Our goal is to be somewhere local, providing great, knowledgeable service, a place you can come in for a casual drink, grab a cheeseboard or order some food in from a local restaurant. We support local producers and stay away from a lot of the big names. There are around 500 breweries in Australia and most people only know two.’ High time to become acquainted with a few more. 1219 High Street, Armadale

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