Sarah Pierre, owner and managing partner of 3 Parks Wine Shop in Atlanta’s Glenwood Park neighborhood, lights up when you ask her about the city’s wine scene.
“Atlanta’s always been a good wine market, but what we’re seeing now is just so exciting,” she says. “So many people are drinking wine now, and so many people care about what they’re drinking.”
Known to many as the “Capital of the South,” Atlanta is a dynamic culinary destination. Restaurants like Miller Union, helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Steven Satterfield, and Staplehouse are lauded perennially for their seasonal creations. It’s no surprise that Atlanta’s wine scene has strengthened alongside its kitchens.
Pierre credits this to beverage directors who seek out small producers.
“You see wine bars popping up, which weren’t really successful in the past, that are becoming really successful,” she says. “And the wine pop-ups that are happening, like the Stanky Wine that they’re doing at Brush Sushi.”
Natural wine is especially popular in Atlanta. Look no further than the recently opened 8Arm Wine, Lyla Lila and Hazel Jane’s. Each are either entirely or hyper-focused on natural wine. Natural wines aren’t new, but there’s renewed interest in them, and Atlanta’s restaurants and wine bars relish to introduce them to their guests.
Beyond natural wines, restaurant chains have changed their approach to wine lists.
“The time of having those chain restaurants with corporate wine lists committed to a certain wine and pour[ing] that everywhere? That world is over,” says Perrine Prieur, of Perrine’s Wine Shop. Now, she says, growing empires like Ford Fry create dedicated wine lists that vary across their restaurants.
Whether it’s to sip a small-batch wine at an intimate bar or a dive into a deep list in an award-worthy setting, “people want to try new things, and are way more experimental when it comes to their wine selections,” says Prieur.
Atlanta’s Best Wine Bars
The nighttime enclave of 8Arm, 8Arm Wine is neon-drenched and intimate. It’s where people go to try something funky, ideally while they enjoy plates from Chef Maricela Vega.
“Most of the wines on our list, I would say probably at least 80–85% of our wines, were already natural anyway, and so it’s always just kind of been part of our DNA in terms of that we believe wine should be, in the same way that we source local produce,” says Josh Fryer, the beverage director.
The list rotates often, but producers might include Bichi from Tecate, Mexico, and Radikon from Fruili-Venezia Giulia, Italy. Between sips, order tinned seafood imported from Portugal and Sweden, or bites from the kitchen.
Ponce City Market is bustling, but within is casual Bellina Alimentari, a market/wine bar. Its 14 seats are first-come, first-served. The wine list is 100% natural.
One gem that lead bartender Greg Emilio is excited about is a Malvasia-Trebbiano blend from Colombaia, a Tuscan producer.
“I like [it] so much because, though it’s a white wine, it has lots of savoriness and almost kind of umami notes that you’d get with a dry-aged steak,” he says. “To me, that was just one of the coolest discoveries, that a white wine could be so savory and just have so much going on that you wouldn’t expect.”
Stay for dinner. Everything from a locally sourced charcuterie board to lighter-than-air pastas will have you order another glass or two.
The dark tavern tucked in the back corner of Krog Street Market, Ticonderoga Club is known primarily for its cocktails. It’s run by two renowned bartenders, Paul Calvert and Greg Best.
But, it’s a wine favorite of Pierre and Prieur.
“Paul is just really thoughtful about his wine list, and he has the same kind of ideas and philosophies as I do,” says Pierre. “And he’s not trying to do the most like, ‘Oh, here’s this fancy producer from France.’ That’s not what they’re doing. They’re pulling the farmers as well, and that’s what they’re pouring, all that small production stuff.”
It also offers Sherry flights and hearty dishes from the kitchen.
Restaurants with Excellent Wine Lists
Dining at Atlas is about more than just the food. The posh restaurant sources its art from British billionaire Joe Lewis’s private collection and rotates works from artists like Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso.
The food prepared by Christopher Grossman is top notch, and the deep wine list curated by Samuel Gamble is no different. There are more than 70 wines by the glass, and exclusive bottle offerings include a vertical of Chateau Musar from 1989–2004 and nearly every vintage of Opus One from 2004–2014. An extensive Madeira collection includes a bottle produced in 1908.
Gamble says that the agnolotti with seasonal truffles and foie gras jus pairs perfectly with one of its d’Oliveiras Madeiras, offered via tableside cart when the dish is served.
What do you do when your wine list has 1,350 items on it? If you’re Bones, a steakhouse institution in the Buckhead neighborhood, you put it on a tablet. Flashy technology aside, the restaurant is decidedly old school. You’ll find wood paneling, red leather chairs, crisp linens and waiters in gold jackets.
Order a filet mignon or porterhouse (really, you can’t go wrong) and search for your wine by variety, region, name or price.
South African restaurateur Justin Anthony opened his first restaurant, 10 Degrees South, in the late 1990s. “All the Pinotage that was coming out of South Africa at the time, the quality wasn’t so great,” he says. That’s changed, and at Cape Dutch, his restaurant focused on South African braai, Pinotage is one of his best sellers.
“Kanonkop is one of the best out there,” he says. “Just very fruit-forward, very smooth, very easy drinking.” For those who look to geek out further on South African wines, there’s Vin de Constance by Klein Constantia. The storied dessert wine was a favorite of Napoleon, and it’s a perfect mate for Cape Dutch’s desserts.
Found in West Midtown, Miller Union’s wine program has been a city staple for 10 years. Under the leadership of co-owner Neal McCarthy, it’s been a James Beard Award semifinalist twice and a finalist once for Outstanding Wine Program.
McCarthy doesn’t consider himself “into” natural wines, but he does focus on bottles from small farms that are organic or biodynamic. Just as Satterfield’s seasonal veggie-forward menu changes frequently, McCarthy’s wine list changes every couple of weeks with his dishes in mind.
Atlanta’s Best Wine Shops
3 Parks Wine Shop
When 3 Parks Wine Shop opened in 2013, it was important to Sarah Pierre that she include small-production wineries and female winemakers. As she’s become more conscious of how her food is produced, her store’s collection now includes more biodynamic and organic producers. Her shop, bright and welcoming, is a place where customers can order flights on the weekend or partake in Rosé Club during summer.
“I want people to feel good when they’re shopping for wine, and to feel like we’re friends,” she says.
Perrine’s Wine Shop
After she served as sommelier at the now-closed JOËL Brasserie, Perrine Prieur opened her cozy boutique in Atlanta’s mixed-use Westside Provisions District in 2010. She sought a space that’s casual and approachable for the novice and connoisseur alike.
While set in an industrial setting, the aesthetic is softly chic. A large wood dining table and chairs invite you to hang out and talk wine for a bit. Peruse the carefully curated selection and grab some cheeses, or attend one of the weekly tastings that are known to sell out.
Holeman & Finch Bottle Shop
The brainchild of husband-and-wife team of Chef Linton Hopkins and Sommelier Gina Hopkins, Holeman & Finch Bottle Shop offers much more than wine. The Peachtree Hills gem also has spirits, beer, glassware and cocktail ingredients.
However, wine lovers frequent it for its smart pricing and unique offerings curated by Wine Buyer Emily Moe and Beverage Manager Alicia Yandell. Exciting offerings may include Bride Valley Blanc de Blancs from southwest England and Scenic Valley’s Gruner Veltliner out of Willamette Valley.
Local Wine Festivals
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
Since its inception in 2011, the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival has attracted chefs, wine and spirits experts, and others from throughout the South. A springtime weekend event, it features in-depth learning experiences about various pairings and culinary techniques, as well as tasting tents that highlight regional bites and sips.
Decatur Wine Festival
Wine lovers who seek a laidback opportunity to sip the day away flock to the Decatur Wine Festival. Held each autumn on Decatur Square, the festival benefits the Decatur Arts Alliance and features nearly 500 wines. Its lack of pretense is a great way to try something new.