Your guide to what’s in the glass from the people in the trade.

Alice Diffey began her hospitality her career under the tutelage of her father, Gerald Diffey, at North Carlton stalwart Gerald’s Bar, and has gone on to work for some of the most forward thinkers in the trade in Melbourne, at Bar Lourinhã, Amarillo and Kirk’s Wine Bar among other venues of note. In 2021 she came full circle, joining the team at Gerald’s Bar, where she now curates a Victorian-focused wine program that aims to highlight home-grown heroes who opt for minimal intervention in the winery and sustainable farming techniques in the vineyard. When she’s not rocking the floor at Gerald’s, Alice spends her time honing plans for her upcoming project, Bar Daisy – watch this space.

The last three delicious Victorian things I drank were… My partner and I recently discovered Stomping Ground Brewing Co. Nitro Stout on tap at The Lincoln in Carlton. It was a cold evening, absolutely pissing down, and this creamy, chocolatey delight was everything we could have wanted.

2021 Timo Mayer Pinot Noir: quality Victorian wine, force and finesse. Not only is Timo hilarious but he leads the pack in sustainable farming with a focus on whole-bunch fermentation.

2020 Rouleur Strawberry Fields Pinot Meunier. The vines are literally planted amongst strawberry fields in the Yarra Valley, so you get an amazing sense of terroir drinking this wine. I like to drink it chilled, and preferably be lounging at a 45-degree angle in the sun.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is… It’s impossible to just choose one, Victoria is a goldmine of soulful bars and restaurants ever prepared to slake your thirst. Strong contenders for me are City Wine Shop, Old Palm Liquor, Napier Quarter, France-Soir; tenacious establishments that effortlessly tie together a wide and well-crafted offering of products, while never sacrificing on style and vision. I call them ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ venues: they can be a quiet afternoon pot of beer for some and to others a five-course, wine-slinging circus. To me, that is very Victorian, a place for all.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I order an apéritif. My hand and mouth need a companion to join me while I search for a bottle of wine suited to the occasion. Whether that be a glass of fino sherry, a Martini or pastis, something small to refresh and sate my palate in the meantime. We’re so lucky here in Victoria to have so much accessibility and variety on wine lists that it can be overwhelming at times; I find a starting drink can take the pressure off.

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is Hurdle Creek Still Pastis from Milawa. It makes my tastebuds dance. Hurdle Creek mainly makes gin, but they have branched out and hit the nail on the head with this pastis, incorporating native aniseed myrtle and round-leaf mintbush with traditional French flavours and botanicals. I drink it over ice with a splash of water. Delicious.

There’s no better value on wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than Jamsheed 2021 Roussanne from Beechworth. Beautifully balanced wine, terrific mouthfeel, and you can get it for $42 in store.

My favourite place to buy booze is Rathdowne Cellars in Carlton North. Cam Kidd and his team have exceptional taste, and I know that no matter my price range, I’ll be leaving there with something that makes me happy, whether it be educational, smashable or special. Also, the Blackhearts & Sparrows near Edinburgh Gardens gets a good thumping in the summertime.

I’d love to see us planting more indigenous Sicilian varieties. As temperatures increase year by year, we’re seeing more Italian and warm climate-suited varieties being planted across Victoria. Chalmers and Vinea Marson are two producers that do this really well already. It would be cool to see some Victorian-grown lesser-known Sicilian varieties like frappato or catarratto hitting the shelves.

My guilty pleasure in the fridge is piquette. I love that I’m seeing more and more of it at the moment. I’ve been burrowing cans wherever I can fit them into my fridge. Piquette is wine’s fun-loving, sparkling, low-alcohol cousin, made from adding water to grape pomace. Severely gluggable and perfect for park hangs. We stock Pique Season 1 Piquette by Manon Houg at Gerald’s Bar.

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been our openness to try new things. To broaden our horizons when it comes to producing/stocking/drinking varieties out of our comfort zones. After two years of feeling like there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel through COVID lockdowns, Victorians emerged with a hunger for range. And the demand is met with vast supply, there are so many interesting and brilliant producers ready to quench your thirst.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is Gerald Diffey. It would be remiss of me not to say my very own dad. I like to joke that in hospitality he’s taught me not what to do by example. But in all seriousness, he has had a remarkable career in Melbourne food and wine; the passion and excitement that runs through him when talking about what and how we drink inspires me to bring joy to others through different drops. He has a book out, Beggars Belief, so you can hear this from the horse’s mouth, but we drink when we’re happy and we drink when times are tough, and Dad always takes care to create safe and inviting spaces to make this possible.

Gerald’s Bar, 386 Rathdowne St, Carlton North,