There are many places to drink wine in South Africa. But there are few wine bars and even fewer that hit the spot like Cape Town’s Publik.
It’s a sad state of affairs when rather than visit a wine bar, I prefer to tap into my own cellar at home.
But first, let’s look at what we want from a wine bar.
In my previous home city of Melbourne, a wine bar would focus on boutique producers of wine (sometimes available on tap and with many available by the glass), decent food (often cheese and salumi) and would have a buzzing atmosphere.
Here in South Africa, especially In Johannesburg but also in Cape Town, it is rare to find all three.
I’ve found venues with a buzz but supplying the kind of mass market wine available in almost any bottle shop. When they have nailed the wine list of interesting and sometimes hard to find wines, there was the atmosphere of a void. And the food, or at least cheese, came from a supermarket.
Oh, did I mention, most wine bars here have no atmosphere or were almost empty when I visited?
It’s sad that in a nation that produces so many wonderful wines there are few venues to enjoy them.
But Publik Wine Bar in Cape Town nails everything.
First, it has a buzz. You will be squeezed into the space and elbow-to-elbow with other customers selecting a terrific variety of wines by the glass or bottle.
The chefs are busy carving slices of ham, salumi and other small goods, which hang from the ceiling.
The bar staff are slinging wine by the glass and craft beer in addition to some decent vermouth, including the local Caperitif.
And most importantly the staff are passionate for wine and actually drink wine.
It’s compact and warm to the heart. And that’s why I look forward to my next visit to Publik Wine Bar.
Johannesburg wine bars please take note and replicate.
New to South Africa, I’m exploring the diversity of wine in the country at one bottle a week. English by birth, I’ve spent the last 20 years in Australia writing about food and drink for daily newspapers, glossy magazines and my blog, founded in 2005.
I now live in Johannesburg and am educating myself on all the amazing, new, interesting and avant-garde wines available in this country.
Note: I endeavour to pay for all wines myself and I practice ethical blogging.
Also published on Medium.