Is there anything more disappointing than a poor wine list at a restaurant with wonderful food? For some reason, many a good restaurant seems to pay little to no attention to the wine list, often purchasing all their wines through a single distributor, usually driven by cost and margin more than flavour and discovery. We've lost track of the amount of times we've had to order beer or water, purely because paying 5x the retail price of a bottle of a wine you can purchase in a supermarket didn't exactly put us in a gastronomic mood. For wine lovers, eating out is as much about the wine as it is about the food, and we tend to treasure restaurants that cater to us, with interesting selections, older vintages that have been carefully cellared and proper glassware to serve them in.
Truly great wine lists cater to all budgets and there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy your meal with a €20 bottle of top quality Muscadet from one of the regions best producers, or, alternatively, splash the cash on that fully mature, Grand Cru Burgundy. Whilst we can't claim to have eaten in all the top wine-friendly restaurants in Europe, there are a few that have truly blown us away, including a few lesser known gems. We'd like to take this opportunity to share our top 10 with you, so should you find yourself in the neighbourhood in question, you have a chance to dig deep into their wine lists and have a night to remember.
Now, we certainly can't claim that Maison Troisgros is much of a hidden gem, being one of France's most celebrated restaurants and a worthy home to no less than 3 Michelin Stars. However, what a lot of people don't realise is just how superb the wine list is here, with more classic French wine than you can shake a stick at. Over 800 wines are listed, including an impressive 30 different bottles of Champagne, and there is also a smaller but well chosen list of wines from Austria, Spain and Italy. Whilst a meal here is unlikely to be an affordable night out, it is one of the most memorable vinous experiences of our lives. Superb. Maison Troisgros
Monvinic is the temple of wine in Barcelona, open for 8 years and home to one of the worlds most diverse, interesting wine lists. Older bottles of classic Australian producers rub shoulders with classic European wines, natural producers and a plethora of local talent. Want a top quality, 12 year old Argentinian Malbec? Monvinic has it. How about a €20 bottle of something delicate to start with? Absolutely, no problem. However, the real stand-out for us here is their superb selection of wines by the glass, with over 50 available on any given day. The list is presented on i-pads as everytime a bottle is completed, another is added from the cellar, the selection updated and voila, the menu continues! If you find yourself in this beautiful city, make sure you leave enough time to enjoy a long, long afternoon here. Monvinic
In Barcelona? Make sure to read our Ultimate Wine Guide to the city!
London isn't short on a brilliant wine list or 10, and picking one of the incredibly diverse and competitive selection was difficult, but Noble Rot stands head and shoulders above the rest for us. It doesn't have the sheer depth or star power of some of the more famous restaurants, nor is it a list that serves dozens of wines by the glass. What it has, is brilliant complexity and breadth, with some of the most affordable prices in London for top quality wine. When compiling the wine list, founders Andrew and Dan were keen to ensure that wine geeks could bury their heads into it, whilst those just looking for a glass of something affordable and tasty could have just as much fun. It seems to have worked, as far as we can see! The list changes often, with new producers discovered and old vintages dug out of cellars across Europe and transported to Noble Rot's own adequately stocked selection. One of the very best wine experiences that Europe has to offer! Noble Rot
You may recall seeing Noble Rot in our Top 10 Wine Bars and Wine Shops Guide to London! Click here for the other 9!
San Sebastian is well known as a benchmark of gastronomic delights, with more michelin starred restaurants per square mile than any other city in the world. Whilst it's possible to have a brilliant time here without splashing out, if you do choose to, consider Rekondo as your opportunity. There is no better Spanish wine list in the world, and at almost 130,000 bottles (we're not exaggerating, really!), this is also one of the worlds greatest wine lists in terms of sheer scale. Whether you want to order a bottle of Spain's most famous winery, Vega Sicilia, from anywhere in the last century or enjoy a bright, fruity, youthful Txakoli, you'll find it here. Personally, with the delicious roast lamb on offer, our choice is any one of the thousands of older, classic bottles of Rioja slumbering in their enormous cellar. A little slice of paradise. Rekondo
As we hit the halfway point of our list, we come to what is probably the single greatest wine list in the world. 'That's quite a claim' we hear you say. It is, but one that we feel is entirely justified. It's hard to do justice to the scale of this list, at 450,000 separate references, including over 1,000 half-bottle options. However, the speciality of La Tour d'Argent is their unparalled expertise when it comes to older bottles of wine. In some sections, there are no wines younger than 15 years old and in some cases, over 100 different vintages of wines are available, stretching back into the 19th century! Guests have been known to arrive hours in advance before a meal, just to peruse this incredible list, although you'd need days to sieve through it in its entirety. Fear not, for no matter how daunting the list is (and it really is, even to renowned experts), the team of sommeliers are brilliant at guiding you towards a special choice, whether it's an old friend or a new acquaintance! A must-visit for any wine-lover in Paris. La Tour d'Argent
If you're in Paris and fancy exploring the wine scene further, make sure to check our Wine Guide to Paris!
Sicily has blossomed from a wine perspective in the last two decades, going from a producer of bulk wine to being an international destination for wine-makers, with exciting projects springing up from Marsala to Etna. However, fine wine lists are still something of a rarity on the island, and that's where Ciccio Sultano comes in. In the ancient town of Ragusa, Ciccio Sultano is a paradise for wine-lovers, featuring some of the worlds most desired, small production wines at very reasonable prices. Whether it's a bottle of Overnoy's wines from the Jura, which have a cult following in themselves, a beautifully aged Chianti Classico or even a 100 year old Marsala wine from Sicily herself, Ciccio Sultano will have it. Our recommendation? Take the opportunity to dive into a wealth of Sicilian treasures, some of which will probably never make it as far as the mainland. It's a remarkable region, with some truly remarkable wines. Ciccio Sultano
This is one of our hidden gems of Europe, but we feel that wine discoveries should be shared where-ever possible! This brilliant restaurant is located just outside Salzburg and is home to one of Austria's truly great wine lists, with a broad list of producers from all across the country. The Döllerer family includes prominent wine merchants, so perhaps its no surprise to see such a well put-together, thought out wine list, with a particular focus on smaller bottle formats and mature wines. The family have maintained a close relationship with many of Austria's leading wine-makers and, as a result, is home to some of the countries rarest, most exclusive wines. You'd assume that would make for a particularly expensive meal, but for the quality and service, this remains one of our top picks for a special meal in Austria. Döllerer
This was recently voted the 'Worlds Best Wine Bar List' by the World of Fine Wine, and we have to concur. A relatively recent project, started in 2013, this is an absolute gem of a destination for wine lovers, with easily the greatest 'by the glass' list we've ever encountered. With over 500 wines to choose from by the glass, it's hard to know where to begin! Prices begin at €6 for a glass and ascend until they reach the lofty heights of €400 a glass, admittedly for one of the worlds most expensive wines; Romanee-Conti La Tache 2009. With this being a bar rather than a restaurant, almost the entire focus is on the wine and the total references exceed 3,500, although there is a lovely tapas menu to help you soak up the plethora of wines on show. Needless to say, this is the sort of place that lives long in the memory and continues to go from strength to strength. We'll be back! No.5 Wine Bar
If you read our Essential Guide to Porto, you'll know that we hold the Yeatman in particularly high regard. A luxury hotel with the most stunning views of Porto and the Douro River, it's perhaps not surprising to discover that one of Portugal's very finest wine cellars slumbers, deep below. The focus, naturally, is on Portuguese wine, including some of the rarest, most venerable bottles of Port currently in existence. However, Portugal isn't just famous for its fortified wines and the countries very best wine-makers are represented here, from every corner of the country. There's rarely a better opportunity to drink fine, Portuguese wine and certainly not in such gorgeous surroundings! Yeatman Hotel
If you're a Champagne fan, this is a must-experience dinner for you, as it's arguably the single best Champagne list in the world. Located in Reims, in the heart of Champagne, there's over 600 references for Champagne alone and a further 1,000 wines from elsewhere in France and the world. Add to that the superb quality of the French haut-cuisine, the beautiful glassware from Champagne's own Jamesse and located in the stunning mansion of Domaine les Crayères... what's not to love? Restaurant La Parc
So there you have it, 10 brilliant wine destinations, 10 brilliant wine lists and it has to be said, 10 very renowned restaurants and bars to dig into. Whilst we've focused on the wine list as the most important criteria, fear not, for many of these restaurants hold michelin stars to boot, and the quality of the food is never in question.Whether you're passing through the city or region, or want to organise a special night out during your trip in Europe, we hope this list gives you some inspiration on places to go. There's some truly brilliant wine out there, and a lot of it is lurking in cellars like these! Cheers!
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