Poodle Bar & Bistro’s Zoe Rubino and Emilio Scalzo Riff Wine Lists and What Makes The Cut.

When it comes to the wine list at Gertrude Street’s popular bar Poodle Bar and Bistro, the precision comes down to the artful curation of finding a balance between the lesser known and approachable.

“We like to dance the line between the exciting and lesser known,” says Emilio Scalzo.

“It’s important to have bottles that we’re passionate about but also have a broad scope of wines, which we believe inspires guests to explore wines that they wouldn’t normally associate their personal tastes with.” he says.

Beverage Director Alex Pineo has eloquently grown the list at both their iconic venues Poodle Bar and Bistro and Rocco’s Bologna Discoteca [also on Gertrude Street] from its humble beginnings. It’s evolved from a small but mighty list to an eclectic and broad one that caters for a wide range of palates.

Their collective vision is to straddle the line between classic and low-intervention bottles, with a focus on France and Australia. The list highlights local producers from home, and smaller ‘hands-off’ wines from overseas with a priority on quality and value.

“By choice, we like to foster strong relationships with a smaller number of winemakers and distributors and work with them more intimately than working with a larger number of suppliers,” says Scalzo.

“We also love challenging what we’re comfortable with and enjoy most things left-of-centre, so we enjoy exploring lesser-known grape varieties and guiding our guests through exploring them.”


“The Amrit Moscato Rosé from Avani in Mornington Peninsula is an incredibly well-made wine that punches above its weight for price,” says Scalzo. “We have built a relationship with Shashi and Rohit (the dynamic mother and son winemaking duo) from Avani since we opened three years ago. Their chardonnay was available at Poodle by the glass on our very first list. Three years on and we’re still excited for their new releases and jump on them whenever we get the chance.”


 “I am such a sucker for grower Champagne,” says Zoe Rubino.

“At the moment, I’m loving the Bonnet-Ponson Champagnes imported by Ryan Larkin, a supplier at Poodle and now friend. Emilio and I took a bottle of Bonnet-Ponson, 2016 AOC Champagne ‘Seconde Nature’ to the hospital when our daughter Gloria was born last November. Knowing my penchant for grower champagne and small production wines, Ryan delivered the bottle as soon as it landed in Melbourne and it went straight on my hospital bag checklist.”

Emilio Scalzo loves “Emidio Pepè wines, particularly the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

“It’s an incredible winery founded in the late 19th century by his grandfather of same name Emidio Pepe. The winemaking has remained unchanged in its philosophy and a great expression of low intervention Italian wine. We’re really lucky to have allocations of these wines at both of our venues as they can be tricky to come across,” he says.


EMILIO SAYS: “For me it always oscillates between the two. I have always loved big mouthfeel wines, a Beechworth Chardonnay or Chianti Classico. Since owning our own venue however, I have the opportunity to enjoy much lighter, juicier wines that I wouldn’t normally purchase if I was committing to a bottle elsewhere. We’re really fortunate that we have relationships with suppliers and our wine buyers who know our tastes and put bottles in front of us to try that they know we would like but we wouldn’t choose for ourselves.

ZOE SAYS: “If I had to choose it would be white. I’m Jura obsessed at the moment and love the oxidative style of whites or Vin Jaune that are typical of the region. Previous to owning my own restaurant I was a manager at two Asian restaurants both of which had extensive Riesling lists. The eight years I worked between the two restaurants I was able to deep dive into the world of Riesling but am now broadening my tastes to match with more European pairings.”


“Cabernet Franc is our new go-to grape that we really didn’t know too much about before. The typical high acid and soft tannin means it the perfect medium between our two wine tastes and makes it really versatile for us to drink with or without food. We’re really liking the Cabernet Franc from Bobar in the Yarra Valley at the moment,” says Emilio.


“Septime Le Cave in Paris is the little sister of the impossible-to-get-into restaurant Septime. Le cave, which is right around the corner from its bigger sibling, is a small space which showcases some delicious natural French wines by the glass and has a small array of terrines and other charcuterie that is amongst the best we have ever had. Zoe was pregnant when we were in Paris last so we are looking forward to giving the La Cave wine list more or a nudge next time we are there,” says Scalzo.


“Al Moro in Rome right near the Trevi Fountain. It’s a quintessentially Roman restaurant that, despite being in one of the most touristy parts of the city, manages to maintain a local clientele,” says Rubino.

“The waiters are old school and have probably been working there longer than we have been alive, they are apathetic but brilliant at their craft. We’re lucky that we speak Italian, if you don’t, you’re likely to be turned away or at least forced to sit on their outdoor tables. They have a great menu containing all the Roman classics… Carbonara, Amatriciana, Roman Artichokes… to name a few, and they are all executed perfectly.”


I have an appreciation for a small and mighty list,” says Zoe Rubino.

“I like a really tightly curated list with a balance of accessible and heavy hitting wines. I understand how hard it is both financially and logistically to develop a list from scratch especially as a venue with no other siblings to draw from; so, for me bigger isn’t necessarily better.”


“A small pet peeve would be when someone asks for a wine list when there is already one on the table, which happens far more often than you might think,” says Zoe Rubino.


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