After walking into the ‘new’ Publik, the feeling is instant nostalgia. Cape Town’s Publik is back.
‘It never really went anywhere, we were always here. Our purpose was just different,’ says owner David Cope of the new Kloofnek Road locale, who between owning a wine bar, a distribution centre and his own wine label, Alphabetical, has a cult following of wine lovers intent on exploring the world of unusual wines.
Choosing to endorse the increasingly favoured philosophy of natural winemaking – wines made with minimal cellar intervention by winemakers intent on honouring the fruit, the soil and the land. These wines, made in limited quantities using sustainable farming methods, make only a tiny dent in the Cape’s overarching vinous marketplace. There are not many of them, they’re special, and Publik is one of the few wine bars in the city – the country, even – that provides a platform for people to taste, explore, ask questions and enjoy a selection of varieties and bottles that aren’t overtly available. Fronted by head bar manager Chris Groenewald, a passionate and equally well-versed wine brain, expect friendly, inclusive service featuring ‘the best damned wines you’ve never heard of, yet.’
Publik has been the little neighbourhood bar that could, opening initially at 81 Church Street in 2014. Emulating its emphasis on minimalist winemaking (free of chemicals, additives and added sulphurs), the then black-walled, wood- and steel-curtained ‘basement’ founded a keen and eager-to-discover wine community. To meet his consumer’s demand, David founded the online store that featured a selection of wines and curated cases all sporting the Publik stamp of approval. The higher online demand birthed the Publik Distribution Centre, small then, but now a national undertaking. (Sign up to the newsletter or follow Publik on Instagram for regular ‘Warehouse Tastings’. Each tasting features a different selection of wines presented by the winemakers themselves.)
Now in its new phase, Cape Town’s favourite wine bar is small and equally understated with incredible heart and infectious passion. Select your poison from a regularly revised wine list with a food and snack menu curated to highlight the wines on offer: sustainably sourced biltong, cured meats, rich cheeses and house-pickled vegetables – not to mention giant Spanish olives and whipped ricotta and melba toast, a favourite.
The wines’ vintages might have changed and the new additions may not be well known, yet – but in the most touching way, Publik’s loyal wine-loving community remains.