Better known for craft beer, Boston has its share of excellent wine bars. Connoisseurs may want to reserve a table at one of several Boston restaurants with notable lists, such as French fixture Les Zygomates and Barbara Lynch’s South End spot the Butcher Shop. It’s also worth checking out the free wine-tasting sessions held in chic specialist shops.
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Best wine bars in Boston
As might be expected at a wine bar, Spoke has no TV, a well-curated wine list and a menu focused on cheese, cured ham and oysters—perfect for pairing with the vino. However, this unpretentious offshoot of revered Dave’s Pasta on the outskirts of Davis Square also offers skillfully-executed cocktails and a varied draft list.
Vintage posters and red banquettes, a zinc bar and a live jazz line-up—Ian Just’s vrai français bistro has long been one of the lone bright spots in the nightly deserted Leather District. And all that glitters is not vibe. A fiercely eclectic and fairly priced wine list accompanies the carte of slightly tweaked standards: wonderful wilted salads, earthy vegetarian crêpes and precision-cooked steak frites.
Owned and operated by English expats, Shays is one of the nicer bars in the area. Sunk a few feet below the sidewalk and sporting a handy outdoor patio, the bar itself is rather poky. It attracts a lively mix of local academics, artists and die-hard regulars. Though many quaff from the bar’s extensive beer menu, this is primarily a wine bar—and there are no spirits.
Patrons on stylish metal stools appear ready to topple out into the street on warm, busy nights. Is it the consistently packed house or the prime location that gives Tory Row its air of self-importance? No matter—the people watching is superb, the nibbles are filling and reasonably priced, and the beer and wine selection features a smattering of locally produced favorites.
The gorgeously appointed upstairs restaurant may be a paean to French fine dining, but it’s the downstairs bar that will evoke your Paris yearning/nostalgia. Wines from France, Italy and the U.S. make up the list, which includes half-bottles and many a wine by the glass. But by all means settle in with a friend and order a full bottle; the insanely well-stocked cellar includes some amazing finds from Burgundy and Bordeaux and at least one $1,000 bottle.
The French mainstay has enticed cork dorks for almost 15 years with a wine list far longer than the food menu. Beautiful and hard-to-find wines from Argentina, Hungary, Spain and France are poured in two-ounce increments, so you can sample your way through the Rieslings or Cab Sauvs without hitting the floor afterward. The higher-priced bottles, meanwhile, are one of the greatest bargains in town, as co-owner Chris Campbell lowers his markup for pricier vintages. If you stay for dinner, take additional pleasure in the wine recommendations that accompany each dish.
When wine bottles serve as lamp bases and wine labels as wallpaper, you know you’re in for a good glass of grape juice. The 25-page list at this quietly stylish rendezvous is ever-evolving, and refreshingly full of enological wit and wisdom. Savour several sample pours or linger over a carafe paired with exquisitely simple Italian plates, including apt assortments of cheese and charcuterie.
It’s polished, it’s chic, it’s packed with designer-clad South Enders swirling wine goblets and nibbling on pâté, it’s…a butcher’s shop? Yes, indeed—as well as a cosy soapstone-and-slate wine bar. Owner Barbara Lynch stocks the display cases with every delicacy, from pigs’ heads and whole hams to quails’ eggs and truffle butter, and fills the short menu with equally delicious, simple fare. Own-made charcuterie and antipasti can be washed down with a selection of mostly European boutique reds. After a bite or two, regulars often cross the street to B&G Oysters, also owned by Lynch, to complete their surf-and-turf crawl.
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Nodame88