The 2023 Wineslinger Trophy Winners

12 December 2023. Words by YGOW.

The 2023 Wineslinger Awards – the sixth annual edition of the wine guru’s guide to the best haunts in Australia right now – have just been announced, with the winners crowned at a trophy presentation in Melbourne at the much-loved wine and hospitality institution, Gerald’s Bar.

As voted on by around 150 of the country’s leading sommeliers, winemakers, hospitality tastemakers and journalists, the four trophies presented were the top spot ‘Wineslinger’; ‘Best New Haunt’, for the best newcomer; the ‘Maverick’, recognising a venue pushing the boundaries of possibility; and the publicly voted ‘People’s Choice’.

The trophy winners for 2023 are:


“Each of these four venues bring their own unique concept to experiencing and discovering wine,” said Wineslinger founder Rory Kent.

With 19 venues from around the country new to the Top 50 in 2023, it just shows how much industry depth there is, and how many exciting things are happening across both city and regional locations all around Australia.

“These places bring joy and thrill, and a sense of discovery and adventure to wine,” continued Kent. “They’re places where we all go to discover something new. And while we’re recognising these four outstanding trophy winners right now, all these venues around Australia deserve to be celebrated equally. These are the bars, restaurants, enotecas and pubs that make our wine-drinking scene world class, and just so much fun.”

Above and opposite: Marion, Fitzroy (Melbourne). “A hard working, dedicated team of hospitality guns, serving some of the best guests in the city,” is the magic behind Marion, says Penny Vine, who directs the wine list.

The Wineslinger – Marion

Marion can lay reasonable claim to capturing the essence of what are, somewhat inelegantly, known as ‘barstaurants’. Perhaps this pitching of wine and food in equal measure was not necessarily the intent, but having one of Melbourne’s best-loved culinary sons orchestrating the food message was always going to draw crowds. Having said all that, with the shared resource of the flagship Cutler & Co., the wine offer has always been formidable, and deserving of just as much attention.

Penny Vine, who directs the list that runs to about 600 bins (an ever-changing 100-bottle working list sharpens the focus), with the nature of the small-batch and generally scarce bottlings that populate the list necessitating frequent dynamic change. This attitude informs the glass offer of 20-odd selections, too.

On being voted the top Wineslinger in Australia, Vine said, “It’s really incredible to find ourselves among such an amazing group of venues to be honoured with this award. To be recognised by our peers in this way means the world to us.”

“We work hard to make Marion a place where anyone can feel at home, no matter where you are on your wine journey. It’s a special place – I’ve been here since we opened and feel lucky to have watched it become this Melbourne icon. It’s incredible.”

Above: Silver Sands Beach Club, Aldinga (South Australia). Opposite: trophy winners at the Awards presentation, held at Gerald’s Bar.

The Maverick – Silver Sands Beach Club

Aldinga’s Silver Sands Beach Club, on the shores of the McLaren Vale wine region, has taken out the Maverick. It’s a wine bar/restaurant in a surf club, where you can find chicken nuggets on the menu next to $1,000 bottles of wine. Not that expensive wines are what defines the experience – but that juxtaposition of elements connects to the spirit of the Maverick award.

Silver Sands Beach Club has been created by wine writer Nick Stock and Mark Kamleh as the type of wine clubhouse that will ideally serve the neighbouring McLaren Vale region and the Fleurieu Peninsula beach community, plus a steady stream of wine nerds making the pilgrimage south from Adelaide. Their combined talents set the tone, with Mark responsible for music, Nick overseeing the wine with sommelier Lachlan George, and food from head chef Stefano Longhi, who was born in Lombardy and has settled in the region with his family.

“Great wines can be researched, sourced and bought by anyone, just about anywhere. But we saw the opportunity to do something unique around the enjoyment of great wines,” said Stock. “We’ve always loved this idea of a kind of rough luxury moment and serving so many of the best bottles from near and afar in such a casual and beautiful setting is where we love to play. It’s that moment where people are like,‘What is happening? How am I drinking this right now, right on the beach, with sandy toes?’”

“Our mantra is board shorts, bikinis and Burgundy, and people seem to just love that idea. It’s a lot of fun!”

Stock noted how a maverick approach is central to the thinking behind Silver Sands Beach Club. “We try to flip things on their head and create fun moments around food and wine. People get such a buzz from the contrast between a fun, casual approach and laid-back beach vibes with the greatest bottles, deep wine knowledge and food that is more akin to a modern city bistro than a traditional Aussie surf club. We love to play with this contrast, and that’s where we share a lot of the fun.”

“Silver Sands Beach Club is really a reflection of our philosophy of a great lifestyle. We love this region, the epic golden sandy beaches, the great food and wine that surrounds us and the fresh new wave of kind and talented people on this coastline. We celebrate all this every day and people love that we are all about sharing the best possible wines in such a wondrously beautiful setting.”

Adina Weinstein Melder and Daniel Docherty at Commis in Collingwood (Victoria).

The Best New Haunt – Commis

Working together previously in one famed Melbourne wine bar, Geralds, gave the three owners of Commis a clear idea of what they wanted in their own ideal venue. Hence, they’ve deconstructed the feel and purpose of Commis so that it’s equal parts wine den, cocktail lounge, shared-plate bistro, chic art gallery and chilled neighbourhood hangout. A sense of community is big at Commis, embracing the vibe of Johnston St, Collingwood, to provide a spirited neighbourhood bar built around a shared love of wine, food, art and warm hospitality.

Opened in July 2023, one industry stalwart described the Commis offering as, “A wine list full of inspiration and delight, definitely a left-fielder, and really interesting, but in a way that’s inviting rather than exclusive. Very impressive straight out of the gate.”

Upon receiving the Best New Haunt trophy, Adina Weinstein Melder – who runs the business, marketing, events and art exhibitions in the gallery space – said, “This award it is extra special to us, as it is voted by peers and they are a much tougher crowd then the public! For us it’s a celebration of our space but also the community that brings it to life. We set out to create a venue that added to the community and also honoured the environment. We want to be seen as a third space, a community space, where you come for a wine, stay for dinner, or not, enjoy the rotating art exhibitions, listen to music, read a book or share stories with a crowd but most importantly always feel like home. Whatever that means to you.”

Above: The Corner Dairy in Doubleview, Western Australia. Opposite: The four Wineslinger trophies.

The People’s Choice – The Corner Dairy

Owners Sam and Tom Hart had lived in the north-western Perth suburb of Doubleview for several years before opening The Corner Dairy in 2021. “We’d been wanting a place like this to go to,” said Sam. “We refitted an old tax office into what we thought would be an ideal casual, laidback spot where people could hang out and try some interesting beers and wines, and eat some delicious food without having to leave the neighbourhood.”

The Corner Dairy isn’t afraid to step outside the box and offer something completely different, having seen that its customers are open to trying new things – and being inquisitive pays dividends. “Our list isn’t the largest, but there’s always a few cheeky wines that aren’t on the list,” admitted wine buyer and bar manager Ben Wood.

“We’re pretty stoked to have won the People’s Choice award for 2023,” said Wood. “The whole team has been working hard over the last 12 months and it’s great to know that punters appreciate what we have to offer. The approach we take is totally dependent on our punters, the last couple of years I’ve noticed that everyone just wants to try new things so they walk in with an open mind, it doesn’t matter how funky the juice is, people love something new and exciting!”

To see all the winners and finalists from the 2023 Wineslinger Awards, head to this page for in-depth profiles.

The 2023 Wineslinger Awards are brought together with thanks to Henschke, Liebherr, Ocean Eight and Swinney.

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