A Shop, With Wine, In the City
The City Wine Shop is more than a shop with wine, in the city.
It is the essence of what is special, comforting and energetic about Melbourne. Not only that, but it is where I met my wife. I never thought I’d meet my future wife at a bar. That just seemed too obvious, and a little uncouth. But the City Wine Shop is different, and a scenario I couldn’t have written.
One Saturday, late in the afternoon, I pulled up a seat behind the espresso machine, which just so happened to be alongside two lovely ladies having a grand ol time. Nursing a hangover from the previous night, I was content with my copy of Wine Spectator and a glass of Yves Cuilleron Crozes-Hermitage. The City Wine Shop had other plans for me that night, as a pretty face turned to me and offered me a glass from a bottle she was sharing with her sister. I’m told I was a little nonchalant with the offer, and apparently mumbled “umm, what is it?” It turned out to be a tasty 2006 Cotes du Rhone – the perfect conduit to conversation, some mild flirting and a heart-warming icebreaker.Having dropped a card and left the warm glow of the City Wine Shop to attend another engagement, I stopped mid-stride in the middle of Collins street with the sudden realization that I had just met someone very special, and that it just didn’t make sense that it would all end right here. So I called the bar, hoping that Mon, the wonderful barman who had looked after us that evening and had witnessed the whole romance, would answer the phone. He did. I then asked him if he would kindly speak to that lovely lady sitting at the bar with whom I’d just been sharing time, “the one with the dark hair, not the blonde”, and request that she text me her number. Several hours later, I received a text from “Jacqueline” with her precious digits. A series of dates followed, and the narrative unfolded.It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Jacqueline, along with her three sisters, and of course the ringleader – her mother, have over the years almost paid the lease on 159 Spring Street; and maybe even some of the absurdly good wine stock. We all just love the place. Amongst our extended wine-loving family, the venue is affectionately known as “the winey”. To this day, it remains the go-to. It’s always good. Every time.
My memories of the City Wine Shop go back to some pretty hazy late nights at the Supper Club upstairs – no doubt a familiar and almost tangible retrospection for many. Since then, and to this day, it is a place we go to somehow feel a part of Melbourne’s heartbeat, yet strangely, to indulge in the spirit of the European ideal at the same time. These days it almost feels a bit like home – warmly familiar and comfortable, yet always with the potential for randomness and surprise.
One late afternoon, two years after our chance meeting, Jacqueline and I went to the Winey having spent the day in the botanical gardens – sunburnt and with one too many sparkles under the belt. It was our engagement. The waiter at the time, Cam Burton, took great care of us – I recall a complementary half-bottle of Billecart Salmon Rose, and more importantly, a lot of shared exuberance from the entire team.
I’ve heard that this story has become some sort of folklore at the City Wine Shop. The Winey is special. The place, the wine, the delicious and unpretentious food, and….the people. The people make the place, and create the memories.