Fortitude Valley wine dive bar Dark Red is a treasure trove of Italian vino

January 25, 2023NewsNo Comments »

What small bars lack in size they often make up for in personality. Brisbane’s tiny tipple temples come in all kinds of flavours, from the minimalist cocktail caves to the chic natural wine bars. Dark Red in Bakery Lane is a cosy repository that’s filled to the brim with Italian wines – some familiar and some hard to find. No matter what you’re drinking, though, expect to be brought into the bar’s friendly fold. Dark Red is intimate, approachable and pouring now!

When Hannah Wagner stepped up to take over ownership of the Bakery Lane nook previously home to uh oh italian wine store + bar, she experienced the usual uncertainty that comes with striking out on one’s own. The hospitality veteran, who has worked at an assortment of spots, from rooftop bars to buzzing eateries, is finally going it solo with her new venture Dark Red. Despite Hannah’s early trepidation, it didn’t take long for the bar to find its footing – Dark Red has quickly become a hit amongst Fortitude Valley’s sipping set. Chalk it up to the bar’s intimate setting and lived-in aesthetic (with some fetching Benjamin Franklin-themed wallpaper adding an irreverent touch to the decor), or attribute it to Hannah’s personable nature – whatever the recipe is, it’s got folks returning for more. “I feel like the customers helped me with that,” says Hannah of Dark Red’s early coalescing. “Being such a colourful space, a lot of the feedback I’ve gotten is that it feels like walking into someone’s living room, in a nice way!” To hear Hannah tell it, the true magic moment of a visit to Dark Red is when guests strike up a conversation with a group at another table. Seeing as the bar only boasts two tables inside (in addition to a bench that looks out to the laneway and a few outdoor tables), that means most guests end up sharing a communal experience. This kind of informal charm is hard to instil in a venue, but Dark Red seems to have cultivated it naturally. “The resounding thing – that I really loved and what I really wanted – is that it’s almost like you’re at a wine dive bar,” says Hannah. “That’s what people have been saying and that’s perfect.”

Having inherited a wealth of incredible Italian vino in the ownership transfer, Hannah has taken it upon herself to become educated on the intricacies of Italian wine, flavour profiles and regional traditions. Through this process, she’s fallen head-over-heels in love with the country’s diverse viniculture landscape and Dark Red’s selection speaks to her fully-fledged obsession. From a curatorial standpoint, Hannah is electing to be picky about the labels she adds to Dark Red’s shelves, supplementing the bar’s established cellar of untouched gems with other rare and hard-to-find labels that you won’t often spy at other watering holes. Of Dark Red’s 60-strong selection, the vast majority are Italian vineyard imports, with bold barolos, choice chianti, primo pecorino and medium-bodied montepulciano all visible on the shelves. One keen area of focus for Hannah is spotlighting and sharing the story of female winemakers, with vino from Arianna Occhipinti and Elisabetta Foradori featuring amongst the rotation. Not one to completely forsake Australian wines, Hannah also stocks a small amount of easy-drinking home-grown vino from the likes of VHS Wines, Delinquente Wine Co., Architects of Wine and Adlib Wine. Though a by-the-glass list is scribed onto Dark Red’s mirrored wall, Hannah, who dislikes formulating strict menus, is keeping the selection fluid in order to better showcase the wines she’s loving at any given moment. If you ask Hannah, it’s better to taste, than to read – she’ll happily take wine novices on a tour of Italian wine if they’ve unsure which direction to head. “I think when I first got onto wine, it was a little bit scary and I feel like a lot of people think it’s a bit scary,” says Hannah “I just love that people feel comfortable here – they feel okay enough to admit they don’t know anything and we can just go for it.” Beyond wine, guests can knock back Italian beers (including Birra Flea’s Ma.Ma Chiara) and Italian amaro and vermouths. In the future Hannah will look to add a selection of bottled cocktails for on-site and take-home consumption. As for food, QR codes affixed to the tables allow guests to order from the menu at Gung Ho Dumpling Ramen Bar across the lane.

Fortitude Valley wine dive bar Dark Red is a treasure trove of Italian vino

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