Most people don’t go to wine bars to be lectured by a sommelier, and even though wine bar culture is new to Moscow, the clientele has caught on to the idea that wine bars are places to socialize and learn in an informal atmosphere. Where should guests to the Russian capital go to get a good pour?
On a typical Friday evening, Gavroche is filled with middle-class and creative hipster-types looking to get the weekend started in a relaxing atmosphere. The design of the place is a bit ordinary, but Gavroche could hardly ask for a better location near Park Kultury metro in central Moscow.
The choice of wines is not overwhelming, but enough to satisfy the needs of a common wine drinker. Some 25 wines – both whites and reds – are available by the glass and more than 100 – are waiting to be consumed by the bottle. The lower price tag for 150 ml of Hugel Gentil 2010 is around $9, which is fairly acceptable for Moscow. Nevertheless the prices of wines by the bottle is rather on the high side for this “democratic” wine bar.
Most of the wines are French, but Italian bottlings are also very present – the Pinot Grigio Elena Walch 2011 is available for $45 and a Jaquesson Cuvee Brut for $143. Gavroche is quite a new place on the Moscow map, but well worth visiting. Address: available on the website www.thewinebar.ru
You can’t lose if you choose a wine bar from the Grand Cru chain. Most of them are actually just wine shops with occasional tastings (if you are lucky enough to be invited) and only two are “real” bars with places to sit and sip.
The first one, which also features very nice food, is on Malaya Bronnaya Street just beside Patriarch’s Ponds – the famous ponds featured in the Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita”. The wine bar is a creation of Maxim Kashirin and serves as the retail division of his Simple Wine importing company, which has a rather impressive fine wines and spirits portfolio – probably even the best in Russia.
Grand Cru is also quite famous for its connection with Spanish chef Adrian Quetglas who controls the menu. The prices are not particularly cheap, but people come here for the high level of service and guaranteed wine satisfaction no matter what their taste buds are up for. Address: available on the website www.grandcru.ru
If you’re looking for the best wine price spread, the Vintage bar on Krasina Street is the choice for you. Despite its rather central location, the bar itself is no posh place. The modest interior seems to say that the owners are focused on wine, not design.
The owners themselves are regulars in the bar, which is another sign of their commitment to the place and their products. In order to handle its low-priced range of wines (starting from as low as $13 per bottle!) the bar had initially to remove “wine by the glass” option from its menu – but this option is now available again. Although the bar is not so easy to find, it’s full of people almost every night. Address: available on the website www.barvintage.ru
One of the most elite wine bars can be astonishingly empty on Friday night. In fact, Dissident hardly qualifies as a wine bar; it’s more a wine restaurant with an extremely relaxing atmosphere and great staff ready to take care of everything.
Dissident is a place with a long history, which is probably why it’s quite well known among wine people.
Still the prices mean the crowd is made up less of people who really know wine and more of people who are ready to spend $20 on a glass of red Argentine Terraza de los Andes – and for this place it’s a hot deal. Despite some high wine prices, the food seems to be of great quality and price. The grilled lamb is especially excellent.
The interior is very cozy and home-like, which is something that is missed in places like Gavroche. The background music is another advantage – good taste can be heard from far away. The restaurant is on the 5th floor of the Nautilus business center on Lubyanka Square right in the middle of the city. Address: available on the website www.dissident.msk.ru
Bontempi is situated just in front of the famous DomZhur (House of Journalists on Nikitsky Boulevard). Source: Press Photo
Although Marco Cevretti is not in charge of Bontempi’s extensive wine list, he’s the person that really makes this place work. Situated just in front of the famous DomZhur (House of Journalists on Nikitsky Boulevard), Bontempi seems to be always booming with life – partly due to the current trend toward worshiping wine and food but more because of the great unconventional design of the main area of the bar, which is located below the ground level.
If almost all other wine bars are generally sacrificing their food choices on the altar of extensive wine lists, Bontempi is the exception that proves the rule. Food is served in just the right portions, not very big, but extremely well done.
The wine list is really nice and the concept of selling wines dominates the whole idea of the place. After 6pm, almost each wine has two different prices here – one if you want to drink the wine at your table (more expensive), and the other – if you want to leave the bar in the evening with a bottle that you liked most. Before the evening, the take away price is the same as the price in the bar. By the way, did I mention great Florentine steaks and the possibility to come with your own bottle? Address: available on the website www.barbontempi.ru
Source: Initially appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines (c) 2013