Wine retail is changing. Gone are the days when a trip to the bottle shop came with the risk of being guilted into spending more than you intended, thanks to judgemental and intimidating staffers who favor esoteric shelving systems.
Instead, welcoming sales teams with a “we studied so you don’t have to” mantra are helping us discover new and interesting styles, and explore different regions.
The wine shop experience, too, is evolving. In many parts of the country, trips to the wine store include an opportunity to sample quality spirits, beers, or a selection of wines by the glass. Locally sourced food menus complete the experience — just don’t forget to leave with the bottle you went there to buy.
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To compile VinePair’s annual list of the nation’s top 10 wine shops, we spoke to staff members, industry professionals, and VinePair readers. To be considered for this list, stores had to be open on a regular basis, offer a wide variety of bottles, and, most importantly, be a cornerstone of the local wine-drinking community.
Friendly service and educational tastings ensure independent stores can compete with large-scale chains and online retail. Each of the shops on this year’s list delivers both with conviction.
Here are VinePair’s 10 best wine shops of 2018.
GREAT LAKES (IL, IN, MI, OH)
Location: Detroit, MI
Equal parts bottle shop, wine bar, and gastropub, The Royce takes advantage of Michigan laws that allow wine sales for both on- and off-premise consumption. While this kind of bottle shop is nothing new for those familiar with buying wine in London or Parisian caves à manger, it’s relatively rare here. Founder, owner, and wine director Ping Ho has a selection of around 500 bottles that focuses on small-batch producers practicing organic, biodynamic, and low- intervention winemaking. An extra hat tip goes to the shop’s industrial art deco design with exposed bricks.
MIDWEST (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Henry & Son
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Gretchen Skedsvold and Mark Henry faced the same problem many do when moving from metropoles like NYC to a smaller city. Namely: Where to buy the hard-to-find bottles they previously had on their doorstep when living in Brooklyn. So they founded Henry & Son. The shop’s selection mixes traditional bottles from established regions with weird, obscure, and wonderful wines. Henry & Son’s 12 under $12 display is ideal for those taking their first footsteps into the wine world, while obscure bottlings like Sparkling Brut Tokaji Furmint will satisfy any self-professed cork dork.
WEST (CA, HI, NV)
Location: Oakland, CA
Those familiar with Oakland’s Bay Grape use one word to describe the wine store: community. Run by husband and wife team Josiah Baldivino and Stevie Stacionis, the shop features a communal table where bottles bought in-store can be shared for a $5 corkage fee while enjoying snacks and small plates from local producers. In four years since opening, Bay Grape has established itself as a locals’ favorite, with regulars returning for its wide selection of bottles averaging $25, as well as guided tastings (both cheese and wine), and personable service offered by certified, approachable staff.
NORTHWEST (AK, ID, MT, OR, WA, WY)
Location: Portland, OR
Selection is the name of the game at Portland’s Vinopolis. Monumental, unrivaled selection. With 2,500 bottles on the shop floor and more than 40,000 stashed away in its wine cellar, this shop has something for everyone. Bottles range from $10 everyday sippers, to fine and rare offerings that’ll set you back the down payment on a luxury car. If Vinopolis doesn’t have what you’re looking for, it claims it’s either because the wine isn’t available in Oregon, or the wholesale pricing offered in Oregon is disproportionately high compared to other states.
SOUTHWEST (AZ, CO, NM, OK, TX, UT)
The Austin Wine Merchant
Location: Austin, TX
The greatest testament to The Austin Wine Merchant’s quality is its longevity. Celebrating 27 years in business in 2018, the Austin wine scene staple gives equal representation to wines from classic European regions, the West Coast, Texas (naturally), and the New World. Popular weekly tastings keep locals informed, while friendly staff ensure everyone leaves with smiles on their faces. In an ever-evolving city, it’s refreshing to see something (relatively) old still feel so at home.
SOUTH (AL, AR, PUERTO RICO, FL, LA, MS)
Location: New Orleans, LA
Bacchanal combines New Orleans’ two favorite pastimes: drinking and live jazz. Like other shops featured on this list, guests can drink bottles on site or take them to go. Bacchanal’s selection focuses on Old World, terroir-driven wines from smaller producers. Live jazz echoes around the shop’s courtyard seven nights a week, while the kitchen turns out Mediterranean-style dishes including whole grilled fish and sardine escabeche.
SOUTHEAST (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV)
Location: Charleston, SC
Another retail shop-wine bar hybrid, Graft opened to much fanfare in spring 2018. Owners Femi Oyediran and Miles White share a love of music, and nearly two decades worth of wine industry experience. Graft provides a space that feels like drinking at home with friends, with funk, hip-hop, and Latin jazz driving the ambiance. There’s no pretension here, just a great place to buy (or sip) great wine, meet new people, and learn about fermented grape juice to the sound of softly crackling vinyl.
MID-ATLANTIC (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA)
Location: Washington, DC
You probably got the memo about DC’s exploding restaurant and bar scene. Hot on its tails is an increasing selection of quality wine shops. Grand Cata is at the forefront, offering a focused selection that started with only Latin-American-sourced wines, and has since expanded to include Old World regions. The space is bright, open, and immediately comforting. Forward-thinking, with easygoing service, Grand Cata is perfectly placed to serve a city starting to take wine very seriously.
NEW YORK CITY
Flatiron Wines & Spirits
Location: Flatiron District, Manhattan
Given the premium on New York real estate, this shop makes clever use of every available inch of space, while still feeling open and relaxed. The selection is unbiased, with a focus on Burgundy and Champagne. There’s enough variation within these regions to appeal to every budget, and California and the rest of the Old World are also well represented. Though many of the wines carried are organic or biodynamic, there’s no “natural” elephant in the room here. Rest assured, you will never, ever walk out of Flatiron with a bad bottle in hand.
NORTHEAST (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT)
Location: Northampton, MA
Provisions lives up to its name by supplying Northampton locals with life’s staples: Great wine, craft beer, and a wide selection of cheese and charcuterie. Its bottles list showcases close to 1,000 handpicked wines from around the world, more than 400 of which come in at $15 or under. The service at Provisions is true to what wine retail should be: employees talking to customers about what it is they want.