Best wine bars and stand-out cellars in New York City 2012

Swirl and sip vino or snack on small plates at these wine bar destinations, offering gems from the city's best cellars.

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  • Time Out, Photograph: Daniel Krieger

    Buvette

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Corkbuzz Wine Studio

  • Ardesia

  • Photo: Marianne Rafter

    The Tangled Vine Wine Bar & Kitchen

  • Photograph: Noah Devereaux

    Terrior Murray Hill

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    The Saint Austere

  • Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

    ABV

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Chicken-liver "toasties" at Kaia Wine Bar

  • Time Out, Photograph: Jeffrey Gurwin

    Gottino

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Blue Ribbon

Time Out, Photograph: Daniel Krieger

Buvette

Wine bars are a local obsession among New York bar-flies. Haute cocktails and craft beer may have stolen wine's thunder in recent years, but grape aficionados haven't retreated into their cellars to sulk. Instead, they've regrouped and reinvented the wine bar, tossing out the pretense, pushing into underserved 'hoods and creating funky, affordable lists that'll shake you out of your "big-Californian-red" rut in no time. Here, we check out the ten best wine bars in New York City. Did we miss your favorite wine bar? Let us know in the comments.

Buvette

  • Critics choice

Chef Jody Williams thrives at this intimate Gallic-themed wine bar. The approach here is small but exacting. She's filled every nook with old picnic baskets, teapots and silver trays, among other vintage ephemera. Even the bottles of wine seem to have been chosen as much for their aesthetics as their drinkability. The list, limited to France and Italy, includes Chateau d'Esclans's Whispering Angel, a bright, summery Provence rose available by the glass ($10) or bottle ($39). The food is just as thoughtfully curated, served on tiny plates and in little jars and crocks, receptacles tailor-made for the restaurant's very tight quarters. Try the exceptional fluffy brandade (house-cured salt cod emulsified with garlic-steeped milk) and rustic hand-cut steak tartare anointed with a sprightly mix of frise, capers and cornichons.

  1. 42 Grove St, (between Bedford and Bleecker Sts), 10014
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Corkbuzz Wine Studio

  • Critics choice

This intriguing hybrid offers a restaurant, wine bar and educational center within spitting distance of Union Square. With its design-mag decor and $15 glasses of wine, it doesn't quite have the for-the-people edge of Terroir. But the earnest educational angle, as well as the youthful energy of owner Laura Maniec, delivers its own inviting appeal. Before you drink anything, chat with one of the staffers, who preach the Maniec gospel to patrons as they navigate 35 by-the-glass options and around 250 bottles. Try a bright, acidic muscadet, like the 2010 Pépière Clos des Briords ($12 per glass), or the assertive Riesling Smaragd from Austria ($18 per glass). Corkbuzz also offers plenty of opportunities to boost your vino IQ. Check corkbuzz.com for the full slate of classes, which cover topics such as seasonal pairings and bottles that go well with takeout.

  1. 13 E 13th St, (between Fifth Ave and University Pl), 10003
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Ardesia

  • Critics choice

Le Bernardin vet Mandy Oser’s iron-and-marble gem offers superior wines in a relaxed setting. The 75-strong collection of international bottles is a smart balance of Old and New World options that pair beautifully with the eclectic small plates. Our grüner veltliner—a dry, oaky white from the Knoll winery in Wachau, Austria—had enough backbone to stand up to a duck banh mi layered with house-made pâté and duck prosciutto. A blended red from Spain’s Cellar Can Blau, meanwhile, was a spicy, velvety match for coriander-rich homemade mortadella.

  1. 510 W 52nd St, (between Tenth and Eleventh Aves)
Book online

The Tangled Vine Wine Bar & Kitchen

  • Critics choice

This UWS wine bar was conceived with the inquisitive drinker in mind. Though the interior is generic, the wine—a mostly organic and biodynamic collection of Old World bottles—more than makes up for the setting. The eager sommelier-barkeeps steered us toward offbeat discoveries like a rare white Gravonia Rioja ($18) that was rich, raisiny and as viscous as sherry. There are also bargain gems like a crisp green-apple Chiorri Grechetto ($12). Snacks from former Mercat chef David Seigal round out the experience: a squid-ink fideos (paella made with short noodles) was exceptional.

  1. 434 Amsterdam Ave, (at 81st St)
More info

Terroir Murray Hill

Hooking the Murray Hill hordes on riesling may sound like mission impossible, but it's a fitting challenge for the iconoclasts behind Terroir. The populist wine bar has already conquered the East Village and Tribeca, and the winning formula remains largely unchanged here: wines on tap, rock & roll on the speakers and a hyperactive beverage list peppered with entertaining asides (including paeans to mead and sherry, and an essay about kosher wine). Young, energetic staffers are keen to introduce drinkers to lesser-known wine-producing regions like the Canary Islands, where volcanic soil lends a smoky minerality to the 2009 Frontn de Oro ($13 per glass). You'll find most patrons nibbling on something while they drink, and you should follow suit—in addition to old favorites like veal-and-ricotta meatballs ($17) and sage-wrapped lamb sausages ($8), chef Marco Canora has added a few old-school sammies. We liked the fried oyster po' boy ($12) paired with the 2009 Emile Balland Croq'Caillotte ($15.75 per glass), a dry Sancerre that provided a citrusy counterpoint to the crunchy bivalves.

  1. 439 Third Ave, (between 30th and 31st Sts), 10016
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The Saint Austere

  • Price band: 1/4

You'll find none of the typical wine-bar posturing at this Williamsburg wine bar, which ditches the trendy art and light jazz (relics of the '90s yuppie dens that first defined the genre) in favor of industrial accents (aluminum bar top, plumber's-pipe shelves) and old-school hip-hop. You might not even peg it as a wine bar until you spy the big wooden toolbox behind the bar, which doubles as a storage case for Old World wines served by the glass. The list is tight and well focused, with reasonable prices (most glasses go for $9--$10) and some choice picks from co-owner Fabrizio Pirolo, a former distributor. We settled in with a 2008 Le Velette Resso di Spicca sangiovese ($9 per glass), a vibrant red with an earthy nose, rich notes of cherry and a slight mintiness. Next came a procession of excellent small plates: a bowl of absurdly creamy polenta ($10), kicked up with spicy crumbled sausage and enriched with chicken jus, and confited pork belly ($14) with crispy brussels sprouts and tart agrodolce. Grab a glass of Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco ($11)—a sparkling red wine from Italy's Emilia-Romagna region—to cut through the richness.

  1. 613 Grand St, (between Lorimer and Leonard Sts), 11211
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ABV

  • Critics choice

The menu here is rife with eccentric touches: vino on tap, an exotic all-European beer list and interesting food from chef Corey Cova. More than 50 wines are organized under user-friendly headers such as “rich, earthy, exotic reds” and “clean, crisp, refreshing whites,” with an eye toward offbeat producers. And those Continental brews, including classics like Kulmbacher pilsner ($6) and beer-nerd bait such as Evil Twin Hop Flood ($7), offer a refreshing detour from the all-American drafts that are de rigueur these days.

  1. 1504 Lexington Ave, (at 97th St)
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Kaia Wine Bar

There was a time when uttering the words wine bar and Upper East Side in rapid succession could make a room go cold. But this airy South African joint is shaking things up in the rarefied 'hood, adding a casual wine component to the burgeoning nightlife options (Jones Wood Foundry, Earl's Beer and Cheese) that are slowly breathing new life into the upper 90s. New World wines dominate the bottle and robust by-the-glass offerings, including plenty of interesting blends from South African vintners. If you're looking to split a bottle among friends, gather around the repurposed 19th-century coal stoves in the back and order the crowd-pleasing Little J ($40), a smooth, shiraz-heavy blend with notes of plum and cherry. Chardonnay haters may be converted by the 2010 Haute Cabriere ($11 per glass) from Franschhoek, South Africa, which deploys skin-off pinot noir grapes to give the white wine a mellow, creamy body and a subtle sweetness. Match it with spicy chicken liver ($11), sauteed with piri-piri sauce and served with a cooling mint yogurt.

  1. 1614 Third Ave, (between 90th and 91st Sts), 10128
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Gottino

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Jockey for a seat at this narrow enoteca, marked by a long marble bar, a piddling five tables and a menu of choice Italian nibbles to go with the all-Italian wine list. The least expensive glass goes for $9, and there are only a few bottles under $40, so bargain-seekers might want to start with a prosecco cocktail instead. Then attack the menu. Thick-cut cacciatorini (cured pork sausage) luxuriates in a shallow pool of olive oil infused with oregano and garlic, while in another wee dish, eye-poppingly tangy white anchovies keep company with celery, parsley and preserved lemon.

  1. 52 Greenwich Ave, (between Charles and Perry Sts)
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Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar

  • Price band: 4/4

The marble-topped bar at this tiny spot offers an ideal spot to sip vino while digging into small plates such as warm, thick toast with luxurious smoked sturgeon. Attentive bartenders offer friendly guidance with the diverse 250-bottle wine list, which has everything from a $600 Saint Emilion to a $33 Greek robola; diners can sample many more-expensive bottles by the glass.

  1. 34 Downing St, (between Bedford and Varick Sts)
More info

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