Wine is back. Not that it ever went away, but in my 10 years as an advanced certified wine professional, wine writer, retailer, and honorary cavaleiro (knight) in the Brotherhood of Port Wine, I’ve watched the public trade out cheesy wine bars for hipper watering holes mixing artisan cocktails or pouring craft suds. The ‘90s-slash-early-aughts versions of wine bars -- distinguished by a design fetish for cork art, dusty fake cellar cages, or plastic and vinyl grapes -- were dated, many serving juice bombs of fruity, flabby cabernet and buttery-as-movie-theater-popcorn chardonnay. Not that there’s anything wrong with those kinds of wines, but if you can just as easily grab them at your parent’s local grocery store, why would you go out to drink?
Then, as this decade started, a batch of young, bright sommeliers, retailers and wine importers started to change the game. Bars and restaurants started to get hip to lighter, fresher styles of wine -- the French even have a word for these drinkable, easy-to-pound sippers: glou, or glou-glou -- from all over the world. Global offerings from places as varied as Slovakia, Georgia (the country, not the state), the Canary Islands, Chile, and Mexico, now find shelf space alongside classic regions from France, Italy, and Spain. Changing tastes also ushered in the natural wine movement, a style of wine making that eschews heavy-handed winemaking for wines with nothing added, nothing removed. (Think of it as wine’s answer to craft, though the farming practices and winemaking techniques are as old as wine itself.)
Today? Wine bars are cool, without any of the pretensions of the past. Whether you’re looking for a date spot or looking to learn a thing or two about what’s in your glass, wine bars in all five boroughs offer a refuge from rowdy sports bars and trendy cocktail spots. Coupled with chef-driven food, cozy, modern decor, and affordable prices, wine bars have come a long way. Here are our favorites throughout New York City.