A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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NYC Wine Bars

January 27th, 2004

Wine bars are a fun way to learn about wine. In the early ’80s I remember taking a wine class where the instructor said that the best way to learn was to pull plenty of corks. This makes a lot of sense, but it’s not practical to open 4 bottles of wine just to compare them. Alas, wine bars are the perfect solution because of their broad selection of wines by the glass.

Wine bars have become very chic in NYC, and the selections are far better than the old chardonnay, cab and merlot. One online directory listed over 50 wine bars in NYC; which would be nice, but unfortunately many of these establishments were restaurants with a good wine list. This article will focus on the best true wine bars in NYC. Those places that offer a large selection of wines by the glass with no prerequisite to buy food. I see the wine bars falling into three separate tiers: the large global wine bar, the ethnic wine bar and lastly the amiable wine bar, which may not have nearly as extensive a list as the first two, but is an enjoyable place to have a glass with a friend.

The two wine bars with the most diversified lists are: Morrell and Divine. Both have extraordinarily large lists of wines by the glass, with selections from over 10 countries. But they are also quite different. Morrell has a very high-end list with over 110 wines by the glass, with a large offering of sparking wines and dessert wines. The prices are very steep, and the atmosphere chic. Divine has a more moderately priced list of 75 wines, and stores them all in a cruvinet. A cruvinet looks like a giant tap, but it works because it removes the oxygen from the bottles, thereby improving their shelf-life. In addition to wines by the glass, Divine offers a smaller “sample” size with prices ranging from $2 to $8. If you want to compare wines, this is the place to go.

Another way to taste and enjoy wine is to select a bar that focuses on the wines from one particular region, most typically France or Italy. Although the wines are limited to one region or country, they usually have a much deeper selection from that specific area. Two places have an outstanding selection of Italian wines: I Trulli Enoteca and Otto Enoteca. The Enoteca at I Trulli, attached to a restaurant of the same name, has a broad list of 50 Italian wines by the glass; with an especially large selection from southern Italy. Also interesting, although with not as large a selection, is the Enoteca at Otto, which is also attached to a restaurant. Otto offers about 25 wines by the quartino (1/3 of a bottle), with a strong focus on wines from northern Italy. Although both offer a great opportunity to taste Italian wines, there is the added advantage of excellent food.

For French wine I have two favorites: Le Bateau Ivre and Rhone. Le Bateau Ivre serves over 100 wines by the glass, and uses a vac-u-vin to keep the bottles fresh. Although small, it is a great place to sample French wines. Rhone perhaps has the smallest selection of all the places listed, but I enjoy it because of its specific focus on the wines of the Rhone Valley. After 10 P.M. Rhone becomes quite a scene, but earlier in the evening it is a comfortable spot to enjoy wine.

Sampling wine is fun, and there are many other places to meet friends and just enjoy a few glasses of wine. Here are a few you might enjoy: Bar Veloce, Belly, Etats Unis, In Vino, Paradou, and Punch & Judy.

Wine Bar Locations (all in NYC)

Belly: 155 Rivington St, (212)532-1810

Bar Veloce: 175 Second Ave, (212)260-3200

Bar Veloce: 17 Cleveland Pl, (212)966-7334

Divine East: 244 E. 51St, (212)319-9463

Divine West: 236 W. 54St, (212)265-9463

Etats Unis: 247 E. 81 St, (212)396-9928

I Trulli: 122 E. 51 St, (212)481-7372

In Vino: 215 E. 4 St, (212)539-10011

Le Bateau Ivre: 230 E. 51 St, (212)583-0579

Morrell Wine Bar: 1 Rockefeller Pl, (212)262-7700

Morrell’s Restaurant: 900 Broadway, (212)253-0900

Otto Enoteca: 1 Fifth Ave, (212)995-9559

Paradou: 8 Little W 12St, (212)463-8345

Punch & Judy: 25 Clinton St, (212)982-1116

Rhone: 63 Gansevoot St, (212)367-8440

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