Historically, cocktails and beer have gotten more attention in the NYC bar scene than wine. Sure, NYC launched the modern cocktail movement, and we’re at the heart of the East Coast’s craft beer territory, but it’s time we recognize that many of our wine bars are as impressive, if not more so, than our cocktail and beer bars (not to mention that Long Island wine country is arguably as legit as Napa).
NYC’s best vino havens have mastered the notion of great wine without the pretension that gives the genre a bad name, and with new spots -- like a light and airy all-tap Alphabet City haunt -- joining the dark and storied bars that’ve been begging people to ditch their apartments for a comfortable glass of Malbec since before Malbec was cool, there’s never been a better time in New York to learn to navigate a wine list.
For all those nights when you just want to be cozy and curl up with a glass of wine, but you've already burned through enough Netflix for a lifetime, and you're honestly starting to get pretty antisocial, June is the place for you. Made to look like a rustic train car, this intimate Cobble Hill spot has a homey feel to it, with comfortable booths, lots of warm wood, and mostly natural wines ranging from Western Europe regions, Cali, and even a few from the 212 -- all without the massive restaurant mark-up.
It's easy to become a regular at the Immigrant, largely because of its incredibly friendly staff (sit at the bar and bask in their knowledge) and because it has all the trappings of the perfect date bar: dim lighting, exposed brick, candles, and minimal noise. It's small for sure, but it never feels cramped, and there's room for groups in the back. The menu features wines from all over the world, from the Finger Lakes to Rhone valley, and prices are quite affordable (especially at happy hour when glasses are $8). Also, be sure to try whatever wine is currently on tap, as its always something interesting.
There’s nothing worse than going to a wine bar and feeling like a total idiot because you have no idea what you’re ordering and you can tell the bartender is judging you. Lois is the answer to the intimidated wine drinker’s dream. It's the first bar in New York to offer all wine on tap, in 16 vastly different varieties (because of the kegging, Lois sources from lesser-known, unique places); the wines are affordable (and you don’t even have to tip!), and they come in three different sizes (including a carafe!), depending on how much you're in the mood to drink. And if you're not sure what you want, the staff is happy to recommend or let you try any of the wines.
If you can’t be in Italy, this is your next best option. Bar Veloce’s original outpost has an enormous menu of primarily Italian wines (from the likes of Umbria, Sicily, and Piedmont) that go perfectly with its paninis and Venetian finger sandwiches. Also like Italy, most of the wines stay at a very reasonable $10/glass or less.
If you won the Powerball and could therefore outfit a custom wine bar in your house, this is exactly what you’d want it to look like. The Four Horsemen's modern aesthetic is offset with homey touches like vintage sound machines, cedar wood ceilings, and bookshelves (with actual books!) all of which is to be expected, as it's the brainchild of LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy. The wine list here focuses on natural wines (all of which are actually affordable!) from Western Europe and the US, and the staff here has no problem making the decision on which one you should order. And you should trust them.
A lively bar with a quaint tavern atmosphere and dim lighting, Aria’s the perfect place for wine and bites with a larger group of friends -- namely because of its long, rustic wood tables (for holding all the wine and shared plates of Italian food that you’ll inevitably order). The selective wine list is shorter than at other bars (though by no means small) and features affordable vinos primarily from France and Italy, which pair well with dishes like prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella and suckling pig crostini.
If the giant, front-and-center wine glass wall doesn’t convince you this place takes wine seriously -- or just the simple the fact it’s called "Corkbuzz" -- perhaps the 50+ wines by the glass from all over the world, including South Africa, Napa, and Lebanon, and the series of wine education classes that are offered (from Wine 101, to An In-Depth Guide to the Rhône Valley) will do the trick.
With its small and cozy interiors and light music on the speakers, this Nolita bar has an indisputably romantic feel to it -- but don't let that stop you from rolling solo, as the intimate space is ideal for chatting up a neighbor or asking your bartender for a rec from the extensive rotating wine list featuring wines from all over the world (also be sure to note the huge map that shows where the wine is sourced from).
One of the best new bars of 2015, this sleek Kent Ave spot is perfect for when you're not sure what exactly you want to drink (or eat). There's an impressive selection of 100+ bottles from all over the globe to choose from, plus a number of great by-the-glass options, in addition to bites like grilled jerk wings, oysters, and a solid cheese and charcuterie selection.
This Midtown East newcomer is perfect for a date or a business lunch, sporting a wine list featuring selections from as near and far as Long Island and Croatia, an equally great beer selection, and unfussy yet thoughtful New American dishes like soft poached egg with farro and beet dumplings with caramelized cabbage puree.
Sinatra tunes, vintage chandeliers, classic movies streaming at the bar, all surrounded by the trappings of Upper West Side charm? This is probably what people who only watch movies about New York think all its bars are like. As far as vino goes, Vanguard divides up its extensive list of domestic and international wines with helpful titles like “Earthy, Spicy Reds” and “Unoaked And Lightly Oaked Whites," so you know just want to order based on what you're looking for.
This is about as close to an actual vineyard an urban wasteland like New York can possess, and it actually is one of Manhattan's sole full-service wineries. The place is huge, and not just by New York standards (21,000sqft!) and houses both a stage for frequent live music and a giant basement where, yep, they squish their own grapes for their bottles of vino.
A Murray Hill-adjacent bar that doesn’t smell like stale beer and isn’t flooded with D-bags, folks! The space may be small, but the wine list is not -- packing in a ton of labels by the bottle and glass (primarily from California, France, and Italy), from the affordable to the baller variety. No matter which one you land on, a word of advice: pair it with the spicy sausage lollipops.
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Liz Newman is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and despite completing a wine class while studying abroad in Italy, still relies heavily on others when selecting which ones to drink.
1. Lois 98 Avenue C, New York, NY 10009 (East Village)
Swilling wines on tap has become a real thing in recent years, but at Lois, it's an even REALER thing. The two ladies who run the mirrored den, from Alphabet City Wine Co. and Alphabet City Beer Co., serve all 16 of their selections straight from the spigot. Dig into duck confit arepas alongside California-made Saintsbury Pinot Noir and wind down the evening with Gotham Project’s Katas Palomino Sherry.
Bar Veloce is as close as you can get to Italy without actually hopping on a plane. If that isn't enough to convince you that you need to be here this weekend, you can get a glass of wine for $10 or less.
This wine bar, which was opened by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, focuses on natural wines and has a huge number of them available. It also has a solid selection of eats to pair with your vino like pork shank to share, charcuterie, or toasted almond ice cream.
This cozy West Village wine bar specializes in fine Italian wine (served in tiny five-ounce glasses) and small plates like cheese and charcuterie, mushroom bruschetta, and grilled shrimp, octopus, and sardine tapas. White lights lining the entrance give it a romantic vibe, and candlelit two-person tables make it especially date-worthy.
Part wine education center/part restaurant & bar, Cork's from the world's youngest female master sommelier, who's worked up everything from wine-paired Sunday Suppers, to classes such as Who's Who of French Wine, though being French, they all think they're Who. Those looking for everyday eats, meanwhile, will find shareable plates of squash-buttered prawns, bone marrow w/ blue cheese brulee, and a mint & feta lamb ragout flatbread.
The romantic vibe at YN can help fix even the most horrible of dates. This intimate wine bar is one of our favorites in New York City, with its cozy interior and soft music. Paired or single, this Nolita bar is perfect for anyone looking to develop their tastes for wine, as the venue has bottles from all over the world.
This is one of our favorite wine bars in New York, but don't go here if you are looking for wine and a meal. We love their small plates, but that is all that they are serving food wise. This is a great drinks-only date spot.
This is one of our favorite wine bars in New York City, serving up delicious natural wines for reasonable prices. We also like that the cozy restaurant is shaped like a rustic train car. Other features include comfortable booths and wines Western Europe and California.
Named after the river in Ireland where one of the owner’s husbands grew up fishing, this sleek Kent Ave spot is perfect for when you're not sure what exactly you want to drink (or eat). There's an impressive selection of 100+ bottles from all over the globe to choose from, plus a number of great by-the-glass options, and the menu offers plenty of small, interesting bites (there are lots cheese and charcuterie options, and oysters are just $1 all day every day). The Camlin also does brunch, serving up the classics like eggs Benedict and some of the city's best Bloody Marys.
This wine bar is great for any occasion, and their specially curated wine line can't be beat. In addition to their awesome wine selection, they always have great beers available and a pretty awesome menu, with items like soft poached eggs with farro and beet dumplings and caramelized cabbage puree.
This Murray Hill wine bar feels like something out of Midnight in Paris, thanks to a nuanced, French café/jazz bar feel that offers legit wine and small plates like ham, onion and gruyere tartes. Expect to hear Sinatra playing overhead and classic movies streaming at the bar.
This place is about as close to a vineyard as you are going to get in New York City, and we can't get enough of it. Their wine is fantastic, the atmosphere is gorgeous, and it is the perfect place to impress a special date.
We love this wine bar not just because of it's awesome wine selection, but also because of it's classy atmosphere and tasty menu. Their prices are affordable, so this is a great place to bring a date without breaking the bank.