New York City is one of the best places in the world to drink wine.
There are retail shops with unparalleled variety and an ever-expanding array of nationally acclaimed wine-centric spaces that blur the lines between wine bar and destination restaurant: Four Horsemen, Claud, Wildair, Place des Fêtes, Vinatería, Clay, Pinch Chinese, June, Chambers and Contento, among many others. Pioneering places like Terroir and Ten Bells are still going strong, and new spots open seemingly every month.
At the same time, the wine-bar-as-restaurant trend means it’s not easy to find a neighborhood spot where you can casually drop in without a reservation and share an eye-opening glass with a friend.
As Grant Reynolds, co-owner of Parcelle Wine Bar in New York, says, “I dream of sitting at a corner booth in Balthazar, casually sipping a glass of wine and people watching before going to dinner elsewhere, but you just don’t do that.”
However, at these ten places, you can—and while they offer food, wine always takes center stage.
The 10 Best Wine Bars in New York City
Named for the wine director of neighboring restaurant Le Bernardin (and author of Wine Simple) Aldo Sohm Wine Bar is a collaboration between Sohm and chef Eric Ripert. The location offers all the elegance and authority of Le Bernardin without the formality and price tag. The glass list highlights around 40 wines that encourage experimentation. There’s also an unpretentious menu of snacks and shared dishes, such as Angus beef-stuffed red peppers or “The Tower,” which includes ten different charcuterie selections.
“It’s what I think of as a true wine bar—comfortable, thoughtful and challenging all at once,” says Jeremy Noye, president and CEO of Morrell & Company, a wine retailer and auction house. “There’s an ever-changing selection by the glass and bottle that is focused and exciting across regions, styles and price points.”
Bar Jamón is a convivial tapas bar—the menu is scrawled on a chalkboard—that happens to boast a 600-bottle Spanish wine list (courtesy of its connected sister restaurant, Casa Mono in New York). Look for dishes like bacalao croquetas, which are made with salted cod, or grilled sardines.
“As much as I love new places that have sprouted up like Sauced, my favorite wine bar in NYC remains Bar Jamón,” says Talitha Whidbee, owner of Vine Wine in Williamsburg, New York. “There’s something magical about the space that makes you feel both in the middle of the city and hidden away. It’s a joy to be able to drink wines from Spain that are familiar as well as brand new to me. Their list of reserve wines by the glass is unparalleled, and don’t get me started on the Sherry situation.”
Be sure to ask about Coravin pours, which are available as half- or full-glasses.
Despite how quickly the wine scene changes, and how many upstarts arise each year, Corkbuzz, which opened in 2011, is still one of the city’s best. Owner, Laura Maniec, has long been an advocate of drinking Champagne (and other sparklers) at any time with any dish. She offers every Champagne at retail price. There are around 50 glass pours, several flight options and Maniec’s focus on education means a very knowledgeable staff.
“I’ve been hooked on Corkbuzz since day one, as a guest, a Champagne provider and Champagne party planner,” says Rita Jammet, writer and chief bubble officer for La Caravelle Wines. “Talented and charismatic sommelier, wunderkind [and] entrepreneur Laura [Maniec] has created one of New York’s most vibrant, smart and most enjoyable wine bars, and oui, this includes delicious and perfectly wine-friendly food.”
Liz Nicholson, owner of Frankly Wines wine shop (and formerly of NYC restaurants Maialino and Marea), says she modeled this Tribeca spot after her grandmother’s house, and while it looks nothing like an Italian nonna’s living room, it certainly has all the charm and love.
All the wines (except some sparkling) are available by the glass as well as the bottle.
“The list at Della’s is small but super fun and with plenty to get excited about,” says James O’Brien, co-owner of Gus’s Chop House in Brooklyn. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to look outside of my usual wine picks like Champagne, Burgundy and Piemonte, but Liz’s excitement about regions like South Africa and lesser-known parts of Italy always make for an educational and eye-opening experience.”
Fret not if you can’t get a table for the restaurant Gem’s 10-course tasting menu. Instead, head to Gem Wine’s walk-ins-only location next door and order some serious small plates like raw scallops with turmeric, sour apples and endive.
“No-reservation spots are increasingly rare in today’s dining culture,” says Julia Schwartz, sommelier at East Village restaurant Claud. “Selecting wine is equally unfussy at Gem’s wine bar since all you have to do is walk up to the shelves and poke around for yourself.”
The wines on offer change often, and, refreshingly, tend to deviate from the producers that seem to show up on every natural-wine list in the city.
LCVS has one of the most impressive wine lists of any restaurant in the country. It also offers tempting fare like pasta alla vodka with spicy ‘nduja (spreadable pork sausage) and stracciatella (a soft cheese), and their locally-renowned French onion grilled cheese stands up against the best. But LCVS has a cozy, chummy vibe that screams “wine bar” more than fine dining.
“Compagnie has long been a soft spot [and] a place where I’ve taken many friends and met countless strangers-turned-friends at that dark-yet-warm bar,” says Miguel de Leon, writer and sommelier. “The wine excels in both sleeper hits and vintage spreads, particularly in Champagne and exciting natural bottles. One day you’re drinking cru Burgundy and the next you’re drinking some co-ferment from Japan. Zaltos and marble tables aside, it’s an easy place to get comfy, but it’s chic from top to bottom.”
Be sure to look out for LCVS’ monthly wine boot camp classes.
“Drink Wine and Be Kind” is the motto of this snug West Village hideaway, whose maximalist decor gives the same sense of fun and experimentation as their wine list. Here, small producers from Canada to Slovakia join tasty options like a Swedish apple-pear cider pétillant naturel.
“I have been all over that neighborhood for a decade and know from experience—running the beverage program at Anfora—how tough it can be to nurture and thoughtfully walk consumers through an innovative wine program,” says Tara Hammond of importer Black Lamb Wine. “The food they turn out is outstanding and all in a compact Village space. It’s one of the most exciting things to happen to the area in a minute.”
Parcelle falls somewhere between a neighborhood wine destination, bottle shop, serious restaurant and a dreamy hotel lobby bar.
The list hovers around 500 labels, with almost every wine available at retail if you want to swing by the next day and pick one up. Not to worry if you can’t remember specific bottles; Parcelle’s staff can check your reservation and see what you ordered.
“There are a lot of things that Parcelle Wine Bar gets right, [like] food [and] drink. But I think the interior design is where they knocked it out of the park,” says André Hueston Mack, sommelier and entrepreneur. “It feels very Parisian to me, with its fairy plush leather sofas and velvet armchairs matched with perfect lighting. It’s very reminiscent of the restaurants I spend time in in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.”
“Georgian wine has reached a tipping point over the last year,” says Patrick Cournot, owner of Ruffian. “Most customers come already familiar with Georgian orange [wines], a broader range of styles and regions are being imported, and I expect this trend to continue for years to come.”
Cournot’s commitment to wines from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, without ignoring other classic and emerging regions, has earned Ruffian a devoted following since opening in 2016.
“Patrick and his team have made Ruffian feel very personal since day one,” says Juliette Pope, portfolio manager at Bowler Wine imports and distribution. “The wine program is one of the most dynamic in town, with its frequent changes, the rare focus on ‘The East’ and the colorful and—even more unusually, helpful—wine descriptions and categories.”
There’s a lot to like at Temperance, and by a lot we mean the all by-the-glass wine list with over 100 options at any given time. All of them can be incorporated into a flight of half-glasses; you can let your server pick a flight for you based on your interests. From Tuesday to Thursday, everything is half off during the closing hour—if you let the server pick for you.
“The second you walk into Temperance, it feels more like a playground than a wine bar,” says Erin Ortiz, an account manager for the distributor Wine 4 The World. “The staff is always ready to greet you with a cool new wine at any price point with a warm, authentic conversation and experience. It’s a refreshing deviation from the tired, stuffy old pre-Covid wine bars, and Temperance is setting the trend.”