Any New Yorker knows that the paradox of choice is real. The more choices you have, the more anxiety you'll get—and the more FOMO you'll probably have. When it comes to wine bars, NYC isn't short on choice. Google alone tallies over 100 spots where you can get your fix of Sancerre or Barbera.
So what separates the best wine bars in New York City from the rest? A comprehensive wine list is a must—that is unless you serve a carefully curated selection of wines on tap. A focus on natural wines is preferred—unless the intimate date-night ambiance overcompensates for the sulfites you're about to ingest. Great food is a plus—especially if you're connected to a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Ready to tour the best wine bars in New York City? From casual East Village establishments to Cobble Hill gems, these are hands-down the best spots to grab a glass of red.
1. Lois, Alphabet City
Lois could easily deter a few visitors. For one, it's located on Avenue C (also called Loisaida Avenue)—which only a couple of decades ago (we hear from our wiser Manhattanite counterparts), was considered a no-fly zone. Secondly, they serve wine on tap—and in stemless glasses (shock, horror)! But mark our words, Lois is actually one of the quaintest and most pleasant wine bars to sit at in all of New York City. Started a few years ago on the premise that when it comes to wine and food, accessibility and quality are not mutually exclusive, Lois serves great wines and delicious food in a fun and casual atmosphere.
2. June, Cobble Hill
If you're going to make the trek to Brooklyn for wine, there's one obvious destination: Cobble Hill's June natural wine bar and restaurant. Boasting a dramatic vaulted ceiling, a long marble bar, and art deco charm, June serves the best natural wines in a convivial and lively atmosphere. Unpretentious and never too busy, this wine bar is the perfect place to retreat to when you'd rather avoid the Manhattan crowds or when you've spent the day walking around the charming brownstone-lined streets of Cobble Hill.
3. Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar, West Village
Blink twice and you might miss Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar. Tucked away on an unassuming West Village street, this tiny Zagat-rated 15-seat establishment is cozy and intimate. Inside, the wood-paneled walls and dimmed lighting will set the stage for a memorable evening filled with laughter (and, of course, wine). While it isn't a wine bar specifically, it does have an impressive list with wines by the bottles from Piemonte, Burgundy, Madeira, and more. In case you were wondering, it's a great date spot!
4. Bar Jamon, Union Square
Nestled behind Michelin-starred Casa Mono on the corner of Irving Place and 17th street is Bar Jamon, the restaurant's sister establishment and wine bar. Boasting two long bar tables, Bar Jamon is often buzzy with happy hour crowds, so a short wait is expected. With a focus on Spanish wines and tapas, this quaint bar will transport you to Rioja, Catalunya, and serve your wine with delicious sides like pork croquetas, house-made merguez, and confit goat.
5. La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, Nolita
On a quiet Nolita street, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels (or Supernatural Wine Company—if translated from French), focuses on a French-heavy wine list and small plates. A Paris outpost from Experimental hospitality group, this wine bar serves a head-spinning list of around six hundred bottles in a dimly lit and plush atmosphere. In fact, it's possibly the closest you'll come to an authentic French wine bar in New York City—unpretentious, knowledgeable, and convivial.
6. Wildair, Lower East Side
Is it a wine bar? Is it a restaurant? Few people agree on the official title of Wildair, a small casual eatery on the Lower East Side. One thing that everyone does agree on is that Wildair is the perfect spot to grab a glass of wine or a bite to eat in the area. Attached to the acclaimed tasting-menu restaurant Contra, Wildair focuses instead on seasonally produced small plates and natural wines. This tiny, buzzy establishment is in high demand these days though, so booking ahead is highly recommended.
7. Denizen, Williamsburg
Few people outside of Williamsburg have heard of Denizen—and most are missing out. Located on a quiet street corner just a block away from the L train's Bedford station, this wine bar focuses on biodynamic bottles and really friendly service. That aside, the cheese-heavy small plates menu is ambitious and quite fantastic. Sit at the bar and make friends with everyone around while enjoying a Piemonte orange wine paired with a cured wild salmon crudo, and (why not) a roasted broccoli plate doused in cheese sauce.
8. Ruffian, East Village
If you can handle the sensory overload that comes from the smoke of bacon being fried, carrots being curried, and octopus being seared right behind the narrow 19-seat counter, you'll love Ruffian. The tiny East Village bar serves up over 250 funky wines and ambitious dishes paired with loud hip-hop. It's certainly an unpretentious spot—where local chefs, hospitality professionals, and residents all gather for a seriously great glass of wine. The wine list cleverly divides rosés as "Beach Sipping" or "Stoop Sipping," the champagne as "Central Park" or "Tompkins Park," and the reds as "Rootsy" or "Kool-Aid." If you're up for an adventure, this is your place.