Top Wine Bars Etc

Winespeake Cellar + Deli is Daylesford’s brand-spanking new wine and cheese mecca. Well, that’s true and untrue at the same time. Winespeake is the evolution of Jen and Owen Latta’s Wine & The Country, Daylesford’s previous wine and food mecca. Thankfully, closing the doors on their much-loved seven-year-old wine-store-wine-bar-deli in the middle of a global pandemic had none of the ominous tones of many shuttered hospitality venues.

Indeed, for the Lattas this was just the fulfilment of a long-held desire to move to larger premises and get some more airspace to properly stretch out their substantial wingspan. The old site was on Daylesford’s main drag, Vincent Street, as is the new one. It’s somewhat harder to miss, though, housed in a historic building that occupies one of the corners of the roundabout that ushers locals and tourists in and out of town.

The Lattas are pivotal to a new wave in the region, from making to selling. Owen Latta is a second-generation winemaker who jumped in deep at his family’s Coghill’s Creek winery, Eastern Peake, at the age of 15. That was to be the hands for his dad, with an accident taking him out of action mid-harvest. The younger Latta hasn’t looked back since, now making both the family wines and his own expressions. His own label, Latta Vino, extends very much down a lo-fi, natural line and this is much the groove that the Winespeake needle plays its tune from.

Taking the lead first with Wine & The Country and now Winespeake, Jen Latta runs operations, stocking a dizzying array of minimal-intervention wines. That offer leaves no stones unturned in the surrounding regions, featuring lo-fi and natural producers from the Macedon Ranges, Ballarat and Central and Western Victoria, but its scope is significantly more ambitious than that.

Winespeake is a place where unicorn bottles frolic, with rare imports matching the local offerings. It helps that star sommelier Jez Shiell is on the job, with his other day job (he’s somewhat busy) representing the master of niche wine importing, Andrew Guard, across rural Victoria. The dynamic winemaking community in the region and an increasingly educated local populace ensure those wines don’t gather much dust, but bottles that may be tussled over in Fitzroy get a little extra shelf time in spa country.

“There’s always a thirst for local producers from visitors to our region, and there’s a bunch of winemakers who live here these days who don’t want to drink only their own stuff!” says Shiell. “For sure, minimal intervention is a keystone … the most important elements are no glyphosate or synthetics, no inoculated yeast, and no fining or filtering. We like the funk; we don’t like the mouse. We also support winegrowers, farmers and winemakers, not corporations.”

A very reasonable $10 corkage fee will get any one of those 700+ bottles opened and poured into excellent glasses at one of the 15 bespoke stools (made from local timber by Daylesford’s Hugh Makin) lining the counter that spans the front window. You can also choose from near-to 20 wines by the glass, and snacks come courtesy of the ridiculously well-stocked deli, featuring local and imported cheese, charcuterie, pickles, bakery goods and the like.

COVID-19 conditions: Winespeake is operating about as normally as any business could hope for during the crisis. With an already well-entrenched business selling wine and deli goods online (for delivery and pick up), the only limiting factor is a patron count of 20 for the time being. Their hours are normal, and the wine store and deli are fully stocked.