Drinking Victoria: Martin Pirc

Published on 23 September 2021

Photo: Waygood owner Martin Pirc (photo: Kristoffer Paulsen)

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

It was 26 years ago that Martin Pirc opened one of Melbourne’s first laneway bars, Punch Lane. Since then, his portfolio has grown to encompass Juliet Melbourne and, more recently, Waygood in Richmond. This hospitality veteran is no stranger to good wine and is someone who lives his values At Juliet, for instance, 80 per cent of the drinks list comes from female winemakers and distillers, while at Waygood he brings small or family-owned Victorian labels to the fore, and leaning towards biodynamic or low-intervention wines. Pirc has helped to shape Melbourne’s drinking landscape and he remains constantly inspired by it; here are a few things that have lately turned his head.

The last three delicious things I drank were Four Pillars Rare Gin and Strange Love tonic with a wedge of orange; a Daiquiri made with new-season strawberries — the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and a celebration of Victorian produce; and a Curly Flat pinot noir.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is City Wine Shop. They were the pioneers in introducing the cave à manger concept (part-wine shop, part-restaurant) to Australia, making premium wines affordable to enjoy in a bar environment.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I turn to the white varieties page or pinot noir and look for something interesting by a small producer or something with some age that’s not easily found elsewhere.

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is Four Pillars Gins - gins plural because I’m loving all of them.

There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than riesling - such a misunderstood variety. I particularly love Crawford River from the Portland region for its lovely floral notes. Rieslings can differ so much. Many still think of it as the sweet grape, however the riesling that is grown in Australia is not sweet at all. It has high acidity with underlying citrus, mineral and floral notes.

My favourite place to buy booze is Blackhearts & Sparrows on Swan Street. It always has a great selection of wines, craft beers and spirits.

I’d love to see us planting/brewing/distilling more Italian varieties, such as sangiovese, nebbiolo, vermentino and fiano. Victoria’s terrain is very similar to many of the Italian wine regions. Unlike the classic plantings of pinot noir and chardonnay which can be temperamental in our climate, many of the Italian grapes are used to being grown under harsher climates and produce an amazing product with fairly low intervention.

My guilty pleasure in the fridge/drinks cabinet/at the baris Chablis or Champagne.

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been the rise of the non-alcoholic drinks movement, providing sophisticated options for non-drinkers that still like to indulge among friends.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is Patrick Walsh. He transitioned from working as a sommelier to running his own wine distribution business, representing an incredible list of highly respected vignerons. He’s had several challenges in his business over the years but has always found a way to soldier on.

Waygood, 213 Swan St, Richmond, waygood.com.au

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