Mention Melbourne to Australians outside the Victorian capital, and they’re bound to bring up the city’s rich sporting culture or its “European-ness.” The city is often seen as a cultural hub that delivers killer coffee to a discerning clientele and sees occasionally dreary weather. But locals say that Australia’s second-largest city, which consistently ranks as one of the most livable in the world, provides something for everyone. For wine and food lovers, Melbourne has top-notch offerings on par with the world’s best gastronomic cities. In addition, two of Australia’s best cool-climate wine regions sit right at its doorstep. Get packing. —Christina Pickard
Where To Dine
Whether it’s innovative Vietnamese fusion at Coda or seriously good Italian fare at Osteria Ilaria, Melbourne’s food and drink offerings are diverse, thrilling and seemingly endless. Pilgrimages should be made to City Wine Shop and Embla, while Gertrude Street Enoteca, Cumulus Inc., Minamishima and Sosta Cucina shouldn’t be missed for their outstanding wine lists complemented by impressive food.
Where to Stay
The Middle Park Hotel is just outside the city center, but it offers incredible service at affordable prices. Luxury merges with industrial chic at the centrally located QT Melbourne (pictured left). Give urban glamping a go in a tent on a skyscraper rooftop in Melbourne’s central business district at St. Jerome’s, where a complimentary esky, or cooler, is stocked with beer and cider. If spending a night in wine country, the new, achingly cool Jackalope Hotel in Mornington Peninsula is the place to be.
Immerse yourself in the city’s sports culture and catch a game of Australian-rules football at the beloved Melbourne Cricket Ground, or listen to live music at the Corner Hotel. If you visit in April, tickle your funny bone at the world-renowned Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Bring your own refreshment to save big bucks. One area that embraces BYOB is the city’s Chinatown district, reported to be the oldest in the world. There is also a Vietnamese district on Victoria Street in the suburb of Richmond; Lebanese and Turkish fare on Sydney Road in Brunswick; and a Koreatown by the universities, all also quite BYOB friendly.
Where To Taste
For a taste of superb Pinot Noir, the variety that earned Mornington its stripes, visit Moorooduc Estate, Kooyong and Eldridge Estate. Ramp up the quirkiness with Quealy, or make reservations to visit tiny biodynamic producer Avani, where the Syrah will blow your mind. In the Yarra Valley, shatter any preconceptions about overblown Aussie Shiraz. Taste at historic wineries like Yeringberg (reservations required) and Yarra Yering, or visit artisans like Mac Forbes, Luke Lambert, Jamsheed and Timo Mayer, most by appointment only. If you’re short on time, check out one of Melbourne’s urban wineries, like Noisy Ritual.
When to Go
An autumn (April–May) visit will coincide with the wine harvest; a spring trip (October–November) will highlight blossoming trees and sporting events.
The state of Victoria is chock-full of mostly small regions that craft elegant, cool-climate wines. While Mornington Peninsula is best known for Pinot Noir, varieties that also excel include Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. In the Yarra Valley, Shiraz is sometimes labeled as Syrah to signal that it’s closer in style to the Northern Rhône—spicy, medium-bodied and often with a fair whack of whole-bunch stalkiness—than to South Australia. The Yarra doesn’t hang its hat on one variety, though. In addition to Shiraz/Syrah, you’ll also find wonderful Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and plenty of alternative varieties like Nebbiolo and Chenin Blanc.
Local In The Know
Melbourne native James Scarcebrook has worked on all sides of the Victoria wine industry. He’s currently the host of the popular podcast The Vincast and blogs on his website, The Intrepid Wino. “On your way to or from the Yarra Valley, stop in the leafy suburb of Eltham and pay a visit to A Little Drop of Poison,” he says. “It’s worth the trip for the coffee alone, but also has great food and interesting small-production wines from Australia and beyond. Also, be sure to take the famous Melbourne Tram. It’s a great way to see the city, is easy to get on and off, and it goes down mostly main streets, so it’s perfect for eating, drinking and shopping.”