Wine shops educate wine lovers on new varieties and bottles, and bear witness to changing public tastes. With this in mind, Wine Enthusiast created the America’s 50 Best Wine Retailers list to celebrate the industry’s best. But it also made some of our editors ponder which shops are true global icons.
Some may have endured centuries in the same market, others have influenced a region’s wine culture, and a few may just be the first of their kind.
Whichever niche they fill, these are the shops every wine lover should visit at least once, if they’re not already a regular customer.
Acker Wines, New York City
Few places have as many wine shops as New York City, and all should tip their hat to Acker. As the oldest wine merchant in America, established in 1820, Acker went from a small grocer in the Financial District to a fashionable Fifth Avenue venue, and finally to its current Upper West Side iteration. It’s that final location, which opened in 1904, that once boasted Babe Ruth as a regular. Now, it’s a go-to shop for rare treasures and impressive wine auctions.
Berry Brothers & Rudd, London
Britain’s oldest wine shop didn’t start out that way. The Widow Bourne, of whom surprisingly little is actually known, opened a whole-bean coffee shop, The Sign of the Coffee Mill, at London’s No. 3 St. James’s Street in 1698. It wasn’t until 1803 that George Berry took over the family business and began to shift its focus to wine. The family continued to grow Berry Bros. & Rudd, which was even granted a Royal Warrant by the Prince of Wales in 1903.
After it survived the London bombings during World War II, the business went through another expansion. This time, wine cellars were built that hold 8.5 million bottles. Customers can still visit the main store with its renovated basement cellars and vintage coffee scales.
Cave Rokin, Amsterdam
The Netherlands may not be the largest wine-producing region, but its capital city is home to a number of great wine stores. Known as “the wine cellar of Amsterdam,” Cave Rokin opened in the basement of a 17th-century building in 1987. The selection focuses on French and Italian wines, but visitors can find bottles from New World regions as well. Shoppers can also discover a few Dutch specialties like genever and advocaat, a traditional Dutch eggnog.
Caves Augé, Paris
Paris is home to many notable bottle shops, but any wine lover would be remiss to not visit Caves Augé. Founded in 1850, innumerable customers have walked through its doors, like early 20th-century novelist Marcel Proust, a former regular. It’s hard to imagine much has changed there since his day, as bottles are crammed from floor to ceiling. Over the past few decades, there has been a focus on carrying a greater number of labels from small producers, as well as organic and natural wines.
La Contra, Mexico City
Mexican wine may be new to many Americans, but the country’s wine industry dates to the 1520s. One loyal advocate is La Contra. Now with a small chain of stores throughout the country, the first shop was in Baja California’s Ensenada. But visitors to Mexico City should check out the Roma location. As one of the world’s only all-Mexican wine shops, it’s worth a visit.
Established in 1999 by Theirry Servant and Pascal Cheyrot in Madrid’s Salamanca neighborhood, Lavinia is ideal for more than just browsing the shelves. The space was designed to have the perfect light, temperature and humidity for storing wine. The store holds more than 4,500 selections, almost evenly split between Spanish and international labels. Servant and Cheyrot have also expanded Lavinia to Barcelona and Paris, where the 16,100-square-foot store is one of the largest wine shops in the world.
Prince Wine Store, Melbourne
Founded in 1997 by sommelier Philip Rich and the Van Haandel family, Prince Wine Store is now owned by Michael McNamara and Alex Wilcock. The two set out to make the shop one of the best places to buy wine Down Under. Each bottling is tasted and approved by their team of six experts before it’s offered for sale. Prince’s selection now features more than 3,400 labels, a few imported exclusively for their stores. In 2013, the Melbourne locale expanded with an in-store restaurant, Belotta.
The oldest wine shop in Rome, Trimani opened in 1821, but moved to its current location in 1876. Still owned by the Trimani family, who also produce wine at their Lazio estate, it carries about 6,000 labels from all over the world. It’s also exceptional for being the home of Italy’s first wine bar, which opened in 1991.
Villa Viniteca, Barcelona
While the wine portion of Villa Viniteca came into being in 1993, its roots trace to the cheese shop across the street, which carried wine since its 1932 opening. It was Quim Vila and producer Francisco Martí, owner of Ca N’Estruc winery, who decided to expand the El Born shop into its own dedicated spot. Today, visitors to the Barcelona store can browse about 7,500 wines in the collection, which includes some made in partnership with various Spanish wineries.
Germany is famous for its racy Rieslings, but many of the country’s natural wine lovers should thank this little shop in Berlin. Viniculture opened in 1984 and was taken over in 2006 by former sommelier Holger Schwarz. He began to switch the shop’s focus from traditional European wine to natural and biodynamic wines, quite possibly the first retailer in Germany to do so. Now the shop carries more than 500 labels and hosts an annual wine fair in November.