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Travel Tip: Barcelona Wine Bars

Where to drink wine by the bottle or glass in this cosmopolitan Spanish city

Regina Winkle-Bryan
Posted: August 26, 2013

Note: This article originally appeared in the August 31, 2013 issue of Wine Spectator.

Barcelona is the seat of Catalan culture in eastern Spain, with a wealth of museums and history stretching back to the ancient Romans. Likewise, Catalonia is food-obsessed; not only are tapas bars and traditional foods ubiquitous, but this is the birthplace of molecular gastronomy and the avant-garde cooking that has spun off from it.

Wine bars have been slow to catch up. However, a spate of openings—including Bar à Vins in 2012 and Monvínic in 2008—offers locals and visitors a broader experience of Spanish gastronomy, and of vino variation in particular. Here are some of the best of the forward-thinking ones, plus a couple more traditional places worth a look.

Ronda Sant Antoni, 41
Telephone: (011) 34-934-260-050
Website: www.moritz.com
Open: Daily, noon to 2 a.m.
Cost: Tapas $2-$166; entrées $20-$60
Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa

Tucked into a corner of this Jean Nouvel-renovated 19th-century brewery is one of Barcelona's newest wine bars. Don't let all the ale put you off—with 800 bottles to choose from, 45 to 50 wines by the glass, and weekly wine events, Bar à Vins is all grape and no hop. "There were low-profile places where wine wasn't treated with the respect and knowledge that it deserves, and on the other hand you had fancy places with expensive wines, but no place in between those two concepts," says Moritz's Arnau Grinyó, explaining the need in Barcelona for a place like Bar à Vins. "We're trying to break down the walls around wine that make it look complicated and unfriendly," says Grinyó, who hopes young people will be drawn to Bar à Vins by its low-key vibe and accessible prices. By charging $3 to $115 a glass, there's something for everyone.

Bar à Vins offers monthly "routes" that highlight wines by region, varietal or other theme, paired with local foods selected by chef Jordi Vilà. The "Lost In Priorat" route is a voyage through the region's history, featuring Scala Dei 1975, Celler Mas Doix 2000 and Mas Martinet Viticultors Els Escurçons 2009.

That Bar à Vins can offer so many wines by the glass is due to an argon gas preservation system developed for Moritz, allowing high-end labels such as L'Ermita, Vega Sicilia and Pétrus to be served by the centiliter. If the Álvaro Palacios Priorat L'Ermita 2000 is too steep at $790 a bottle, perhaps you'd opt for a 2-centiliter sip at $23?

Carrer de la Diputación, 249
Telephone: (011) 34-932-726-187
Website: www.monvinic.com
Open: Monday to Friday; bar, 1 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.; kitchen, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; hours vary in August, closed holidays
Cost: Tapas $13-$33; entrées $19-$53
Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa

Opened in 2008, Monvínic is a pioneering space created by Sergi Ferrer-Salat, with contemporary interiors designed by Alfons Tost. Much more than a bar, Monvínic has received considerable international praise for its library, wine bar, restaurant, tasting room, and ample cellar with 20,000 bottles. Choose from more than 3,000 wines by the bottle and 45 by the glass. While many Barcelona bars and eateries are staying local and conventional, Monvínic is expansive, offering wines from 20 countries and counting (though with a hefty 500 Spanish wines on hand, too).

The time-honored paper menu has been done away with, replaced by an interactive tablet that is constantly updated to reflect newly available by-the-glass wines. In the restaurant, the day's slow-food spread is projected on the wall and often changes from lunch to dinner, depending on what's fresh at market. Eighty percent of the products served by chef Sergi de Meia are "Km 0," sourced from within 100 kilometers of Barcelona. For an excellent bargain, pop in for the menú del día, a three-course meal (including wine) whose dishes might include scrambled eggs with mushrooms and green asparagus; veal with truffle sauce; and chocolate soup with amaretto ice cream, for a mere $26. Otherwise, peruse entrées ranging from sea cucumber with hummus and tea ($55) to duck eggs with honey, pork belly and caviar ($19). All entrées are also served as half-order "tapas" in the wine bar.

Carrer de les Magdalenes, 19
Telephone: (011) 34-933-176-937
Website: www.onofre.net
Open: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to midnight
Cost: Tapas $4-$22; entrées $6-$18
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa

Serving almost exclusively Spanish bottlings, owner Marisol Gomez Losada offers a frequently changing selection of 16 wines by the glass. More than 200 labels, representing 18 Spanish regions, can be ordered by the bottle, including sparkling wines, rosés and dessert wines. Tread Art Nouveau tiles to the intimate back room for a sumptuous meal of tapas, including oven-roasted asparagus with romesco sauce ($6), artichoke salad with truffle and Parmesan ($8), boards of Spanish cheeses (including Tronchón, Mahón and Picón Asturiano, $16), and select cured sausages called embotits ($9). Weekdays, stop in for the lunch special menú del día, a three-course meal for $20, wine included.

Carrer Agullers, 7
Telephone: (011) 34-902-327-777
Website: www.vilaviniteca.es
Open: Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; hours vary in July and August
Cost: Tapas $3-$160; entrées $5-$30
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa

One of Barcelona's oldest wine bars, Vila Viniteca opened in 1932 as a small neighborhood grocery. Since then, the bar/shop/importer-exporter has grown into one of the largest wine distributors in Spain. Vila Viniteca is massive, and spans the length of a cobblestone street. Go into the deli and down the stairs to locate a petite bar with seating for about 10. Wooden shelves are stocked with jars of Priorat olives ($3), Navarran white asparagus ($20), anchovies from Cantabria ($3.50), and white tuna belly in olive oil ($12). Any deli item on the shelf can be served up with one of the 13 wines by the glass. If none of those appeal, any of the 7,500 wines sold at their shop next door can be uncorked at the bar and served with one of the 350 cheeses stocked in the deli.

Plaça Santa María, 5
Telephone: (011) 34-933-103-379
Website: www.lavinyadelsenyor.com
Open: Daily, noon to 1 a.m.
Cost: Tapas $3-$20
Credit cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa

A favorite among locals and tourists, La Vinya del Senyor carries more than 400 wines in a stunning setting, featuring front-row vistas of the Santa María del Mar basilica. On a velvety summer night, the terrace is the perfect place to savor a bubbly Juvé y Camps Blanc de Noirs 2009 or Belondrade y Lurton Rueda 2011. The 20 by-the-glass wine selections change every 15 days, and water is the only other beverage available to wash down tapas from the concise menu. Choose from Marennes oysters ($8), Aragonese olives ($3), Iberian cured ham ($15) and Cantabrian anchovy skewers ($4).

Carrer Dagueria, 20
Telephone: N/A
Website: www.barzimbcn.com
Open: Monday to Saturday, 6 p.m. to 11 p.m; hours vary in August
Cost: Tapas $3-$9
Credit cards: None accepted

Standing behind Zim's Macael marble bar, owner Francesc Mas says, "We're not cool," adding, "we only serve products we personally like." It's what you see is what you get, and all on offer is excellent. Choose from 12 reds and whites, a Rimarts Brut Nature Cava Reserva 2010, or vermouth, in addition to an array of Cal Rovira cured meats, artisanal cheeses from Formatgeria la Seu, olives, potato chips and pickles. Scan the reds and come across Bodegas Rodero Ribera del Duero Carmelo Rodero 2012 and the Mallorcan Bodegues Ribas Consell 2010, but no Rioja, because Mas doesn't serve it or any other status labels. A supporter of the underdog, he says, "I'd rather serve Coca-Cola than Rioja." Coke is not on the menu, but Colonias de Galeón Petit Ocnos 2011 and Paco & Lola Albariño 2011 are. With stone walls, flickering candlelight and jazz tunes, Zim can hold a maximum of 20 people standing (and that's pushing it).

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