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Barcelona Wine Bar Review – Monvinic

We get a lot of requests for reviews of places, wines, and occasionally, a hotel or two. However, the new chic wine bar in downtown Barcelona called Monvinic, takes the cake. A few months ago, we started receiving requests to review this swanky wine bar. And from what little I had read online, as the website is less than informative, it appeared to be interesting and innovative place for a wine geek looking to explore fine wines.  But due to the EWBC, and various prior engagements, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when we could actually check out the place, with a group of friends in tow.

Arriving early, while the rest of group was maneuvering the various train schedules, my first impression started off poor. Walking up to two large, what appear to be, glass windows, I searched in vain for an entrance. Walking back and forth, I searched for a way to get in, even going so far as walking into the adjacent apartment building, hoping to find a side door. No luck. And just as I was about to give up, I decided to give it one last shot. Peering into the window, slowly inching my face towards the glass, the huge window/door slide open. As if this wasn’t frustrating enough, the employees were watching me search for the entrance, and just stood and stared without helping me. UGH, strike one!

From the moment you walk in, you immediately realize that this is to be an UBER-modern experience. From the front entrance halfway down the left side, you have a unique glass library of sorts with a wide range of wine books lining the room. I suppose this is very nice and interesting, but I’m not sure a lot of people come out for a drink with the intention of picking up “The Oxford Companion to Wine“. Then again, this is not a fault. Actually, some of us bigger wine geeks might enjoy having a place like this to meet and talk.

However, in an obvious state of confusion, it took quite awhile before anyone decided to talk with me, as I wandered looking for either my friends or a place to sit down. Eventually, I was greeted in English, which moved to Spanish, and guided to a bench on the right side of the room with modular cubes and tables that worked to create an organic setting depending on your group size. Handed a tablet computer, the waitress explained that all the wines can be searched by style, price, color, grape, region, soil….etc, etc. It was fun to see wines I had not seen in Spain before, such as a Turley Zinfandel and obscure South African wines. I was also impressed by the choices and enjoyed browsing through the menu. The only flaw I noticed was as you navigated inwards, you occasionally hit dead ends.

The list is wide ranging, and for someone who lives in Spain, this is a treasure since it’s unusual for us to have so many choices. That said, for anyone visiting from abroad, you come to Spain to taste Spanish wine, don’t you? The Spanish selection was decent and included wines from regions that you don’t usually see on a menu, but wasn’t anything to write home about. That said, I won’t criticize them on this aspect, and instead, emphasize the fact that they have a great wine list for a wine geek.

Yet despite the modern sleek design and diverse wine menu, I most likely will not return. When our group had all arrived, we decided to start off with a bottle of white. Turning to the electronic menu, I chose a 2006 Clos Nelin from Clos Mogador, an interesting Spanish white, big in body and unique in style, from the Priorat region. My idea was to give my visiting guests something they wouldn’t expect. Made with Viogner, Pinot Noir and Granatxa Blanca, it’s a wine without peers.

Having taken our order, the waiter promptly prepared a large square fish tank with ice and water; a bit of an overkill, but stylish nonetheless. Approximately 10 minutes later, nice glassware was placed before us, followed by the wine, which was taken out of the large fish tank and poured into my glass. Following the tradition, I quickly took a sniff, but before I could even taste the wine, he began filling the rest of the glasses without even looking at me. Clearly, I was a bit shocked, but decided to let it go. I’ve been to places with much less style, who at the very least, had a serving protocol in place. It seemed rather strange to not allow the person who ordered the wine, sample it, especially on a bottle that ran 50+ euros. But sadly, that wasn’t even the worst of it. When I tasted the wine, it was warm. Clos Nelin, from the Priorat, is an elegant wine that needs to be chilled to show off its complexity, due to it’s 14.5% alcohol. This wine was served at red wine temperatures, and consequently, was disjointed, out of balance and hard to swallow.

But I had no fear, because I was in a wine bar, where despite their slip up on their wine service, would clearly understand the issue with temperature. After a struggle to get his eye, the waiter finally made his way back to us. And after I explained the problem, one that could have been solved if I had had the chance to taste the wine before he poured, I was promptly told I was wrong. “But sir, the wine came from the cellar at the right temperature.” Strike 2 and 3.

After our server left, we continued talking, while the remaining half of the bottle cooled down in its glass fish tank for approximately 15 minutes. And sure enough, it was a wonderful wine when served at the right temperature. Worth every penny! But next time, I’ll bring it home and serve it myself.

And although I haven’t been able to give them a chance to redeem themselves, Gabriella did go back a few nights ago, having ordered a few whites ‘by the glass’; but unfortunately, her review wasn’t much better. The wine service was similar to our first experience, and when she had tried to find the bathroom, she passed it three times in vain, as it too was a sliding wall. Tricky! But rather inconvenient when your single desire is to simply find, and use, the facilities.

Here’s my recommendation. If you want to appear to know a lot about wine, wile sitting in a “stylish new bar”, this place is for you. If you want, on the other hand, to fall in love with wine, go elsewhere. After our Monvinic experience, we stood in line at C24, a small restaurant just a few blocks away and ordered a few fantastic tapas and a bottle of Mestres Visol Cava, which was served at the correct temperature, despite the busy night. If you stop in, try the rabbit ribs, as they’re amazing! Not to mention, in the middle of what was an incredibly crazy and hectic Tuesday night at C24, they took the time to pour me a sample of the wine, asked what I thought of it, and above all, smiled.  Home run!


Ryan Opaz

Update: See this post for Ryan’s Return to Monvinic

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