Drinking Victoria: Simon Denman

Published on 5 December 2019

Photo: Simon Denman of Neighbourhood Wine and Old Palm Liquor

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

Simon Denman has worked in and around the wine industry for close to 20 years, in bars and restaurants both here and abroad. If you’ve marvelled at the luxurious décor and even more luxe cellars of Neighbourhood Wine in Fitzroy North, you’ve felt the Denman touch. Opened by Denman and wife Almay Jordaan in 2013, the Euro-style wine bar was followed by Old Palm Liquor earlier this year, where the brief is low-intervention wines and South African-inflected dishes delivered in a casual pub atmosphere. And the best part is, you can get the goods from noon until late at night.

The last truly delicious thing I drank was probably an older bottle of well-cellared Prieuré Roch or maybe the recent release of Sébastien Riffault Sancerres that are looking pretty skinsy, oxy and great. From Victoria, it’d have to be one of the 2017 single vineyard Gippsland chardonnays from Pat Sullivan. I had one the other day that was all golden and looking slightly oxy and pretty spot on.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Melbourne/Victoria is… I couldn’t choose just one. It depends on the mood, the weather and the time of year. But the variety on offer means I can choose something that suits perfectly. It’s what makes Melbourne’s scene so great.

If I were to choose a Victorian drink purely on the strength of its label, I’d go for Latta Vino. Owen [Latta] took inspiration from an old packet of coffee from the 1980s that he found in the pantry. Awesome.

The Victorian spirit I’m digging the most right now is Four Pillars Gin. They are going from strength to strength.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I look through it from front to back, irritating Almay the whole time, then I cherry pick.

There’s no better value on a Victorian wine list/in a bottle-shop in this state than Jeffrey Wines’ Wimble Blanc. It’s interesting and legit booze for a great price.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is anyone from the next generation of wine-centric people running our bars and restaurants bringing good natty booze to the masses. It builds and strengthens the local wine industry as a whole and raises the bar for everyone.

Old Palm Liquor, 133 Lygon St, East Brunswick, (03) 9380 2132, oldpalmliquor.com. Open Tues-Sun, noon-midnight.