It’s funny, Spain has the largest square acreage of grape vines planted of any country in the world but consumes, on average, more beer than wine each year, per capita. There are thousands of bars in Barcelona, and though wine is an integral part of Iberian culture—cultivation of grapes and vinification date back to before the Roman conquest of Hispania by Caesar Augustus—it is actually no easy task to find a bar in this city with a diverse list of fine wines by the glass.
If your goal is to soak up the local, no-name reds and whites that fall with gravity from ancient oak casks into thimble-sized tumblers at dusty, character-drenched bar bodegas, Barcelona has you covered. However, when looking to take your discerning palate for a ride through the 79 denominations of origin of Spain or beyond, a bit or research will serve you well. That being said, the local red wine in cask is very often from Priorat, 150km south of Barcelona, one of the only two DOQ/DOCa (Denomination of Origin of Quality) wine regions in the country (the other being the Rioja). DOCa (DOQ in Catalan) is the highest Spanish wine ranking—an extra seal of quality created in 1988 to award exceptional production regions for their unique terroir, consistent quality, and integrity (among other classification standards). In a funny anecdote, Catalunya bestowed DOQ status on the Priorat in the year 2000, but it took Spain until 2009 to recognize the region as a DOCa. The rivalry continues!
To find a “wine bar” with an accessible, interesting, varied selection of Spanish wines by the glass, modern often beats classic in Barcelona. Keeping the art of wine appreciation alive, bars have opened around Barcelona the focus on wine tasting itself, offering lists that span the width and breadth of Spain, sometimes even creeping over the border into France, shoving off to Italian soils, or venturing into the New World. Here is a list of five bars and restaurants that go above and beyond the Barcelona average, offering glasses of fine wine (and bottles) for any taste and budget.
A modern, softly-lit bar restaurant in the center of El Born with a list of 18 Spanish wines by the glass along with both creative and classic spanish dishes. The wine list changes every couple of months, the current list at the time of publication being fixed until the end of summer 2014. With a varied selection of whites, reds, rosés, and sparkling wines, the “warmer months” list features lighter, more refreshing wines than what would have been found at Disset Graus last December. In addition, they also offer group wine tastings upon request (Scheduling through their website). With a warm, stylish vibe, this bar is quite comfortable and the knowledgable staff pleasantly inviting.
Bar Zim, and cheesy sister establishment Formatgeria La Seu, reside on the same, narrow street on the fringes of the Barrio Gótico. Both of these gourmet hideouts are the kind of places that seemingly disappear as soon as the security shutters are lowered—indeed you may be hard-pressed to locate these little treasures. Tiny and inconspicuous, Bar Zim is a little nook dedicated to the love of wine (and cheese and jazz music) that is nearly always full; not a hard feat with only a couple tables and a bar seemingly borrowed from a dollhouse (if dolls drank wine and ate jamón). With 12-14 wines featured—all sold by the glass and from all parts of Spain—this wine bar is the antithesis of the bright, polished, sometimes-sterile tasting palaces that, to be fair, offer merely a different (not inferior) enological experience. Bar Zim is a place to cozy up to friends and strangers a like, and let the smiling owners lead the way through less-than-famous but wonderfully-unique Spanish wine regions, guiding you eagerly with knowing hands.
Around 24 wines by the glass, all Spanish in origin. Red, white, rosé, sweet, and sparkling form a complete list that is accompanied by an array of wine bar essentials such as charcuterie, pates, cheeses, seafood, tapas, and more. Also a wine shop with over 200 wines (international but Catalan focused), Zona d’Ombra charges €4.50 for corkage if you buy a bottle, and features live acoustic music and other events to pass a tranquil weekend afternoon (one can often find a relaxed, wine-quaffing crowd gathering in this narrow, medieval corridor at the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter—the old Jewish sub-barrio known as the Call). As an added feature, for those who can’t make up their minds, pay €4.50 and experience a tasting flight of any four wines on the by-the-glass list.
A literal “wine library”, the Viblioteca wine list by-the-glass includes 18 wines that changes every 15 days! All of the wines are from Spain, including reds, whites, Cavas, sweet wines, and Vino de Jerez (sherry). The master list features 150 bottles and the kitchen artfully serves up artisanal raw milk cheeses, composed salads, carpaccios, tartars, and house-made savory tarts. Also a wine and beverage education center, Viblioteca offers single-subject lectures, wine tastings, classes on pairings, and “gin tonic” tastings (in keeping with the cocktail-loving times).
With a healthy selection of wines from all across Spain, with many Catalan options in the bottle catalogue, this restaurant (more classic than the others on this list) pulls you in with rich smells from the partly-open kitchen, and the narrow entrance way flanked by a wall of fine wines. The menu includes an extensive offering of plates, including cured meats, multiple types of pates, cheeses, salads, tapas, and catalan specialties. Right in the center of the city, near the cathedral, this lively gem also sells their wines, cheeses, pates, and preserves to go. With 15 wines-by-the-glass rotating every couple of months (mostly Spanish with a little South America thrown in), Onefre is a perfect place for an afternoon meal or a evening extravagance.
BONUS: Make sure to check out the Restaurant/Wine Library/Education Center that is Monvínic. Countless wines on an iPad wine list, served not by waiters, but by regionally-specialized sommeliers! Members have access to an extensive research library (physical and digital) and tastings/menus are top-notch.
If you’re keen to have a specialized tour of Barcelona, with a trusted guide who will help you explore the best wine and food Barcelona has to offer, we’ve got you covered! Check out Catavino’s Barcelona tours!