“In New York, beer is considered a grocery item, so you can buy it at pharmacies, bodegas and delis,” says Tekla Israelson – Brooklyn resident and CMS-certified sommelier.
However, the same rules do not apply to wine and spirits, which must be sold at a stand-alone outlet and come with restricted hours (if you want beer, you can buy it 24/7, where wine stores are forced to close by midnight).
“New York is special because we’re highly regulated,” Israelson says. “We have retailers that concentrate on really good quality wines and spirits, and they’re not diluted by spreading themselves too thin.”
One of the hippest places to stock up is Parcelle, a Manhattan wine store in the base of an apartment building near Hudson Yards from the team behind hip NYC eateries Charlie Bird and Legacy Records.
June, Cobble Hill.
“[New Yorkers] are very European in that they like to go to different shops for different reasons,” says Parcelle wine buyer Christine Collado. “It’s not always about convenience – we find that often people are seeking an experience.”
Parcelle also offers “wine school”: free weekly classes that cover topics like blind tasting or Burgundy. “It’s nothing too technical,” she says. “We just want people to feel comfortable drinking great wines.”
Speaking of experiences, Rooftop Reds is a worthy excursion. It’s New York’s only rooftop vineyard, with riesling, grüner veltliner and pinot noir (among others) in custom planters across a 14,800-square-foot space on top of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. While the venue is enormous, with benches, picnic tables and hammocks aplenty, bookings are essential due to the industrial location.
Ruffian, East Village.
Four great wine bars
This wine bar nails drinking in all seasons – its leafy back garden is a cool oasis in summer and cosy booths inside the Midnight in Paris-inspired dining room are a great place to warm up in winter. June has always had a natural wine focus, but there’s been a shift to more eco-friendly offerings lately, particularly with more wines on tap. The experience doesn’t come cheap, but its generous “happy hour” (from 5pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday) should soften the blow.
Ruffian nails the brief for “snug” – only 20 guests sit single file along the cream-coloured concrete bar (which also houses the tiny kitchen), and you can barely shuffle behind to get from the front door to the bathroom. Walls lined with 1950s and '60s exhibition posters from The Met, a low ceiling of white-washed wooden beams and an eclectic glass list – think Slovenia, Georgia and Croatia – make this one of the most original wine bars in Manhattan.
After a few Covid-related delays, Brooklyn wine bar Pips is open for service. The project, from the team behind long-standing New York restaurants Colonie and Gran Electrica, was supposed to be a drop-in spot for snacks and vino. However, a pandemic pivot has turned their offering into a full-fledged restaurant. The food is largely Italian (think sugar snap peas with ricotta salata and poppyseeds, and pork polpette with gremolata and horseradish), backed up by a list of European low-intervention wines and a solid range of amari. How very New York.
Gem WineLower East Side
The team behind chic fine-diner Gem (by a now-adult Flynn McGarry, who starred in the documentary Chef Flynn as a teen) has opened a walk-in only wine bar, and it’s much more than an overflow area. The wine list is verbal, mostly European and all natural – by the glass your options are “one of each colour”. Small plates, which lean on Gem’s foraging themed menu, are served on vintage plates with vintage forks. Look around the small dining room, everyone else is tearing into house-made bread, hunks of gouda and spicy capocollo with their hands too.
Gem Wine, Lower East Side.
Four excellent bottle shops
Parcelle WineHudson Yards
At Parcelle Wine the thermostat is set to a chilly cellar temp and bottles are lined up single file – it’s more like an art deco-inspired wine library than a bottle store (don’t worry, everything is for sale). The range has been selected by Charlie Bird and Legacy Record’s top somms and favours classics from Spain, Italy and France, backed up by New World producers.
Master sommelier Dustin Wilson is part-owner of neon blue wine shop Verve (you might recognise him from his lead role in the critically acclaimed SOMM documentaries). As you’d expect from a wine store owned by the ex-wine director of Eleven Madison Park the service is impeccable, plus they offer same-day delivery of their 3000 or so bottles. Helpful if you’ve no desire to leave your Airbnb.
Astor Wines and SpiritsNoHo
As New York’s largest wine store – it takes up the entire basement of the 135-year-old De Vinne Press Building – Astor is known for carrying an exceptional range of bottles from around the globe. If you’re homesick the range of Australian wine is impressive – not a bottle of Yellow Tail in sight. Of particular highlight is the walk-in cool room for rare, delicate and natural wines where prices can (not surprisingly) run into the thousands of dollars.
This airy neighbourhood wine store specialises in orange, organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines – prices are particularly reasonable, with a lot of bottles between $20 and $50 (although you could spend way more). It’s the brainchild of Andrew Tarlow, of popular Williamsburg eateries Marlow & Sons and Diner, and his musician mate Dennis “DJ” McNany, who has brought in his extensive home record collection to play in the store.