In the last 15 years, natural wine bars have gone from French fringe to global shorthand for a certain philosophy and style. Whether in Mexico City or Vienna, you’re as likely to find stripped-back walls and coolly designed posters for winemaker events as you are to find bottles of cloudy Jura and punny pét-nats, with plates of sourdough and tartare alongside. In many cases, natural wine bars are excellent restaurants in small-plates’ clothing. So whether you’re stopping by for a glass of Moussamoussettes before your dinner across town, or settling in for a full meal and a few bottles of Tschida, natural wine bars are a great way to dip into the new in any city. Because natural-wine drinkers are passionate and opinionated, it’s remarkably easy to strike up a conversation, no matter the language barrier. Chances are, they’ll lead you to other wine bars, restaurants and cafés that aren’t yet on the radar, pointing them out to you on their Raisin app. Just carry a tote bag from La Buvette or The Four Horsemen and get ready to unlock the city. Copenhagen, Paris and Tokyo are the meccas, but interesting scenes have grown in New York, Mexico City (check out the Japanese-run wine bars), even Venice. As to the belief that natural wine doesn’t give you a hangover, you’ll have to work your way down this list and report back.
Septime La Cave | Around the corner from the award-winning restaurant Septime is its popular sibling, a cozy, always-packed little room where an all-star lineup of bottles can be enjoyed with exquisite bites, be it grilled bread with smoked butter and black truffle, or slices of Spanish Wagyu.
La Buvette | Camille Fourmont’s endlessly charming sliver of a spot has been drawing regulars for over a decade — not just for her charm (and her famous white beans), but for the adventurous bottles she stocks. Check Instagram for pop-up events with global chefs — quite a feat considering there’s no kitchen!
Le Baratin | Arguably the one that started it all, this Belleville staple holds legendary status both in the natural wine world and among the city’s best chefs. Although there are a few seats at the bar for drinkers, it would be a tragedy not to book ahead for lunch or dinner so you can experience Raquel Carena’s earthy, soul-satisfying food before she retires.
Café de la Nouvelle Mairie | A natural wine bar for those who’d prefer a more classic setting, this vintage café near the Pantheon is of the zinc-tables-on-the-sidewalk variety, and also happens to have excellent food.
Soif | An unpretentious outpost of natural wine and a menu that runs toward hearty, updated classics, this lovely husband-and-wife-run spot has 350 natural selections on offer — because it can’t be all Left Bank first growths all the time. Better yet, they’re open Monday (as well as for lunch).
Den Vandrette | Opened by the importer who helped kick off the city’s considerable natural wine scene, this cozy, subterranean spot on Nyhavn Harbor has an on-point biodynamic list, as well as small dishes of the minimalist Danish variety. In summer, it turns into a harbor-side party, with BBQ nights filling the picnic tables.
La Banchina | It’s worth the bike ride beyond Noma to discover this waterside seafood and vegetarian all-day-café-cum wine bar. In the summer, people swim between glasses. In winter, the sauna is its own reward (book ahead) — as is a dinner reservation for one of the restaurant’s 16 seats.
Rødder & Vin | This cool, living-room-like space serves as both boutique and wine bar. Owner Solfinn is beloved by many of the city’s chefs, who you might find here on their day off. In COVID times, make sure they’re serving when you plan to go — or take advantage of their bike delivery service.
Ved Stranden 10 | This transportive, canalside bar is on the Top-5 list of many of the natural wine world’s globetrotters. Not only is the cellar worthy of a flight, the all-Prouvé décor in this 19th-century storefront is as chic as it gets. On Mondays, guest chefs from around the world prepare a one-pot staff meal available to all.
Julie | Nerding out is the name of the game at this sweet and casual (and award-winning) wine and cheese bar and boutique. They don’t take table reservations, but you’ll want to park yourself for awhile in order to pair your way through the day’s selection, segueing into oysters and a plate of spit-roasted pork and veggies. (Something about watching those cabbages spin is hypnotic…)
Bastard | Favored by chefs for its extensive wine list (a full skin-contact page!) and its gutsy, French-ish food. It’s worth shooting over the bridge from CPH to experience an evening here.
Brawn | Is it a restaurant or a wine bar? Yes. And it’s wonderful. The casual East London stalwart is a destination for its good food, great wine list, and excellent, excellent personality.
P.Franco | An East London destination for its list, of course, but also its coolly designed posters for collabs and pop-ups with the world’s most interesting winemakers and chefs.
40 Maltby Street | Tucked into a wine-importer’s warehouse under a railway arch, you’ll have to fight the regulars for a spot at which to explore their inspiring menu and wine list. Everything here has a humble exquisiteness — no wonder considering that the owner’s parents are behind the pioneering Neal’s Yard Dairy and Monmouth Coffee. Currently only offering a set menu during COVID.
Cantine Isola | It’s not a natural wine bar, but don’t be a snob. This charming family enoteca – open since 1896 — is a neighborhood institution for good reason. You can taste everything from an inexpensive Sicilian bottle to a DRC, all pulled from the shelves lining every wall.
L’Angolo Divino | Tucked off the Campo dei Fiori, this neighborhoody enoteca is the kind of place where you have to prove your natural-wine cred to owner Massimo Crippa on the first glass before he pours you the weird stuff sourced from around Italy. Challenge accepted!
Litro | It’s worth the trip to the quiet Monteverde neighborhood just above Trastevere for the natural and biodynamic Italian list at this upstart, whose name pokes fun at the osteria carafe of so-so house wine. Let them introduce you to some of the country’s most interesting small producers.
Vino Vero | Yes, Venice has a burgeoning natural wine scene, best exemplified by this. canalside Cannaregio bar. The focus here is on small producers — and the delicious cicchetti that keep magically appearing on the bar.
MAST | The wines on pour at this sleek weinbistro are made with minimal intervention. The food, too, has that minimalist, modern feel, earning it a Michelin nod.
O Boufés | A sleek rendition of the distressed-walls-and-raw-wood-floors of the international wine bar vernacular, elevated even further by Michelin-starred chef Konstantin Filippou’s menu. He dresses up his ox tartare with broccoli, mushrooms and hazelnuts, and sources the pork for his schnitzel from heritage-breed mangalista pigs.
Foxy Karakoy | “Local and real” is the motto here, with a wine list that highlights Turkey’s Marmara, Central Anatolia and Aegean regions, and a food menu that goes beyond wine-bar staples straciatella and anchovies (they’re here, too) to include taramasalata and, say, fried cauliflower with pomegranate molasses.
The Four Horsemen | In addition to a global list that gets deeper by the year, this Brooklyn favorite happens to have a fantastic, Michelin-starred restaurant beyond the bar. No matter how casual it may seem, everything from the glassware to the sound system (and playlist) is carefully considered and always just right. (Outdoor only for now.)
Frenchette | While technically a spectacular restaurant, there is that gorgeous bar up front, where you can gradually work your way through wine director Jorge Riera’s all-natural list, which is the envy of many somms and wine-store owners in NYC.
Peoples | Why doesn’t New York have wine bars like they do in Paris, where they double as wine shops? Well, ask the state liquor authority. It won’t happen anytime soon. In the meantime, the crew behind the cult wine bar Wildair and Contra restaurant have plopped the city’s chicest, most jaw-droppingly-stocked wine boutique next to their wine bar and tasting counter in the basement of Essex Crossing. Until they reopen, order online for delivery to 15 states.
The Ten Bells | Arguably the city’s first natural wine bar, this pubby Lower East Side tapas bar has been a training ground for a long list of sommeliers and importers, and still serves as Mecca for a host of winemakers and industry vets.
Bar Bandini | The wine bar of the moment (though we’re eager to see what Voodoo Vin brings when its counter finally opens), the anchor of the Sunset Strip wine scene has a cult-heavy list and excellent pizza (served Wednesday through Sunday), not to mention a patio that gets a workout almost year-round.
Kismet | Okay, so it’s technically an all-day Mediterranean restaurant (and it’s technically take-out only for the moment), but this Los Feliz restaurant has the city’s best list. When they reopen, stakeout one of the counter seats and let them drive.
Ordinaire | It’s only fitting that Oakland should have such a focused bar and wine store, one opened by a doctoral candidate who was inspired by unfussy Parisian stalwarts like Le Verre Volé. This is where visiting natural winemakers and chefs come to pay their respects.
Verjus | Owners Michael and Lindsey Tusk, of celebrated restaurants Quince and Cotogna, don’t do anything halfway. Their Jackson Square ode to French wine bars is grown-up and sophisticated, from the décor to the Euro-tour wine list, the copies of Glou Glou and just-right housewares. And then, in the adjoining dining room, there is the take-no-prisoners food: Boursin omelettes, Monterey Bay squid with Serrano ham, daily meat pies and, for those fans of L’Ami Jean in Paris, riz au lait. You will leave tipsy, full and possibly with a new set of knives in your tote bag.
Loup Bar | With its elegantly composed small plates and a solid list of low-intervention wines, this Euro-chic wine bar near Roma Norte is the leader in the city’s burgeoning natural wine scene.
Cicatriz Café | Brooklyn ex-pats Scarlett and Jake Lindeman have a hit on their hands with their all-day café, which opens its floor-to-ceiling doors at 9 a.m. and caps off the evening around 10:30. In between, you’ll find delights from avo toast and fried chicken (or fried avocado!) sandwiches to legit albondigas — not to mention a tight list of international wines.
Amaya | In addition to running popular restaurants in Mexico City and Baja, star chef Jaír Téllez is also the winemaker behind Bichi Wines. The all-natural list at this casual outpost offers impossible-to-find wines, as well as those from Mexican producers like Vena Cava. Reservations recommended. Still thirsty? The Japanese standing wine and sake bar Le Tachinomi Desu (yes, Japanese natural wine bars are a thing here) is around the corner.
Winestand Waltz | If you can find this deeply charming, francophilic standing bar in Ebisu, you deserve to be one of the 10 or so people who can fit in here, amongst the Jacques Tati posters and Stan Getz albums. While the list leans French, ask the owner to pour you something from Japan. Items from the daily-changing food menu are often served on antique ceramics and crystal.
Bunon | Sake is served alongside natural wines in this restored two-level home, where the owners have opted not to ape Paris but to be fully traditional Japanese in design. No sourdough with butter here; the owner’s family runs a rare-fish business, and they also manage a vegetable plot, so the super-fresh menu changes daily.
Tasogare | And you didn’t think you’d find Gut Oggau in Fukuoka! Your people are here — and they’re pairing it with a plate of Japanese curry.
The Summertown Aristologist | Located next to the restaurant of the same name, this cellar door is a great place to go for flights and bites (that bread!) or just a glass.
Big Wine Freaks | While it looks like a plush nightclub, this wine bar offers a wide-ranging list (explore the Champagnes, not to mention the Job Lot Amphora, the sole Russian bottle), and a menu of the tartare/sardines/octopus variety.
Christine Muhlke is a food consultant and writer currently based in Woodstock, NY. A former editor at The New York Times and Bon Appétit and the founder of the Xtine newsletter, she has written books with chefs Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, David Kinch of Manresa and Eric Werner of Hartwood Tulum. Her most recent books include Wine Simple with Le Bernardin’s Aldo Sohm and Signature Dishes That Matter.