Barcelona by the Glass: Eldiset

Established: 2012

Style of establishment: Wine Shop

Price by the glass – €3.90 to €4.90

Price by the bottle – €18 to €69

Address – Carrer Antic de Sant Joan, 3, 08003 Barcelona

Phone number – 932 68 19 87

Opening Hours – 7pm – 2am, Monday to Sunday

One of my favourite wine bars over the last two years has really come into its own recently; Eldiset, formally known as Disset Graus, was opened in 2012 by the Cuasnicú family and since then, has gone from strength to strength. The name Disset Graus is literally ’17 degrees’ in Catalan, so named due to the preferred temperature of serving mature red wine. Due to a problem with registering the name, the bar changed to Eldiset, a play on the same name, and started to become well known for its excellent wine, cocktails and tapas.

However, the big change for Eldiset didn’t come with the name, but with the focus on Catalan products. Previously, wine was served here from a few, disparate places such as Spain, Argentina and France with nothing linking the food, wine and concept together. Then in November 2013, Alex Sanchez joined as the head sommelier and brought with him a strong passion for Catalan wines as well as formal training from CETT, the university for tourism, hospitality and gastronomy. Now, there’s not a lot of bars and restaurants in Barcelona that employ sommeliers with any level of salary as the wine culture here is still quite embryonic and there’s not a lot of disposable income sloshing around the city in general. A strong move then by Eldiset, given the circumstances, and one that’s paid off. It didn’t come as much as a surprise to discover that Alex’s mentor in the world of Catalan wines is Miguel Figini, a local expert in Catalan wines, co-founder of a Catalan wine school and a lovely man in general. It goes a long way to explain Alex’s passion for locally produced wines and thankfully, this rubs off on Eldiset in a very obvious way!

The Wine List

Every glass or bottle of wine in Eldiset is sourced from one of the 10 wine producing Denominación d’Origen’s located within Catalunya. This is a smart move by Eldiset for a few reasons. First and foremost, there’s an awful lot of delicious wine in Catalunya and for a bar with around 60 references by the glass and by the bottle, there’s simply no need to move outside of these 10 regions. From the concentrated, powerful wines of Priorat to vibrant Cava from Sant Sadurni d’Anoia and all manner of innovative wines from the Penedes, wine lovers in Cataluyna are somewhat spoilt for choice! Secondly, and all politics aside, it makes sense to drink locally. You can connect with local cultures and grape varieties, as well as having the option to go and visit the winery on a day trip should you so wish to. It’s also a way of sustaining local business, something that is becoming increasingly important in a busy, cosmopolitan city like Barcelona.

The actual list itself changes every 6 months or so, completely changing the wines available by the glass and most of the wines by the bottle. There’s typically 15-20 wines available by the glass and 30-40 by the bottle, with a separate section for ‘natural’ wines, or wines produced in a minimal intervention style. The wines are a nice collection of modern and traditional wines, with a mixture of most Catalan wine regions. The wines at the lower end command a slightly higher mark-up but are well chosen and represent good value for money, whilst the 2-3 pricier bottles are personal favourites and also some of the very best wines available in Catalunya. 5 Partides, Teixar and Clos Mogador? Sign me up! Most of the wines command around a 40-100% mark-up from retail pricing but there are one or two ‘bargains’ for those seeking it out. It’s very rare to see anyone spending any amount of money on a bottle of Cava, and so they still have a few bottles of Recaredo’s superb Familia Reserva 2005 available for €50 – €5 less than retail price. Take advantage of their very generous 25% discount for bottles bought and taken away and you have yourself a veritable bargain!

Top picks from their current line-up:

Cava – Recaredo Familiar Reserva 2005 – As mentioned above; expensive but stunning. Old vine Xarel.lo and Macabeo aged for 10 years on its lees before disgorgement; a special wine to be enjoyed at leisure and make sure to do so in a white wine glass; the beauty of this wine will be lost in a flute.

White – Raventos I Blanc Silencis 2015 – At the lower end of the price scale at €22 euros a bottle, this is a delicious, vibrant and incredibly fresh expression of Xarel.lo from one of the most exciting projects in Catalunya at the moment.

Red – Cal Batllet Diatra 2013 – The baby brother of 5 Partides, at €23 euros a bottle in a restaurant this is terrific value. Smoky, dark and very Priorat. Perhaps not an ideal companion for the summer months, but the air-conditioned interior of Eldiset allows a temporary reprieve from the heat, so why not!

The Space

Eldiset is a small but organised bar, split evenly between the front and the back. Very simply, the front is designed for not much than 30 persons and has more of a casual approach; high stools set around the bar itself, 3-4 small tables and one larger table. The back by comparison is where you’d want to go for a longer experience such as dinner, as the seating is lower, more comfortable and the tables set a touch more formally. In total I wouldn’t imagine that the whole bar seats much more than 50-60 persons when completely full, but late at night it’s common to see additional groups standing by the bar waiting for a table to free up, so it can get quite crowded! The décor is modern but really quite restrained, with lots of wood, cream colours and mercifully in Barcelona, air conditioning. The (very) small kitchen is behind the bar itself and the space has been maximised really as much as possible.

The Food

Now we come onto the other major part of Eldisets success; excellent food at reasonable prices, served unpretentiously. The star of the show here are the ‘Torradas’ or ‘Tostadas’, which is essentially a flat, crispy bread with different toppings. Eldiset serve a whopping 15 different styles of these torradas, with each being a carefully constructed flavour combination. Personal favourites include the guacamole, parmesan cheese and chilli peppers torrada, or for a sweet-touch try the raspberry jam, blue cheese and green apple torrada, finished with roasted crushed nuts. They’re served in pairs on a black slate and are ideal for sharing, so if you go with a friend/partner, order two and try both!

Aside from that, there is a smaller section for more traditional foods including plates of Iberian ham, cheese, octopus and other items. Whilst these can be very nice, the delicious torradas for me are what defines Eldiset and also represents the best value for money. Having said that, the salmon tartar with ginger is quite lovely and pairs beautifully with a glass of Sumoll. There’s also a pairing menu option that I haven’t had the pleasure of trying yet, serving 4 courses with 4 glasses of wine for €39.

Conclusion

Eldiset is probably the best wine bar in the Born at the moment, and certainly one of the best in the city. Now it’s becoming better known it’s increasingly more difficult to wander in and grab a space at the bar, but it’s well worth booking a table, bringing a friend or two and turning into the focus of the evening itself. There’s not many places where a combination of excellent, well priced local wine and food go together so readily and when friends visit from the UK, it’s often one of the first places I take them to. I’m already looking forward to visiting for an evening this August and as always, I get particularly excited when it comes to the changing of their wine list. Keep your eyes peeled this Autumn for some new and delicious wines coming to their menu. Make sure to read the tips below and go enjoy an evening at Eldiset!

Tips

Eldiset is not a large place and the tables book up quickly, especially those at the back. Make sure to call and book a table at least a day in advance to avoid disappointment; reservations are only taken by phone but fear not, the staff all speak a good level of English.

Failing the above, go early. Eldiset gets very busy from 9pm onwards but from 7-9, it tends to be quite subdued. Ideal for an early dinner and better yet, to interact with the staff a little.

This is likely to be a tip in every entry I make into Barcelona By the Glass, but make sure to ask for help if you’re not sure about the wine, food or pairing. Not every member of staff has formal wine education but they all know the wines they serve well, as well as which food to match it with.

The first time I visited Eldiset and went to use the bathroom, I assumed the door was locked as it looks like a sliding door and…well.. it wouldn’t slide. Don’t be silly like me and give it a good push instead. Looks can be deceiving!

As is so often the case, the more expensive wines tend to be the better value when ordering by the bottle, with a much lower mark-up vs retail prices. If you’re going to order a bottle to share, consider trading up a bit and getting more bang for your buck.

Barcelona by the Glass: Vila Viniteca

Established: 1932 (Shop opened in 1993)

Style of establishment: Wine Shop and Distributor

Price by the glass – NA

Price by the bottle – €5 to €15,000

Address – 7 Carrer Agullers, Barcelona, 08003

Phone number – 937 777 017

Opening Hours – Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 8:30pm
Saturday from 8:30am to 5pm
Closed on Sundays

Vila Viniteca is the largest distributor of wine in Barcelona and probably all of Spain, with a huge portfolio of wines and spirits available across the country. The business has actually been in operation since 1932 as a general store, but really became what we know it as today when their flagship store opened on Carrer Agullers in 1993. The catalyst for this move was a relationship formed between Joaquim Vila and Francisco Martí of the Ca N’Estruc winery in Esparreguera. The two met at a wine tasting, created the idea, opened the shop together and the rest, as they say, is history.

This is one of these improbable stories in the wine world, where something that shouldn’t really work in the time and place does, and not only that but becomes the most successful operation of its kind! It’s hard to say exactly what the magic combination was, but Vila Viniteca have always been aggressive in the marketplace, working hard to secure the business of bars, shops and restaurants around the major cities of Spain, have a strong presence at trade fairs and events whilst simultaneously having the largest and best stocked shop in Barcelona as well. Not a bad combination! In addition, Vila Viniteca have also become famous for their blind tasting competition, where pairs compete for a hefty cash prize of €30,000, most recently won by wine critic Luis Gutierrez. As their business is understandably quite diverse, including a gourmet food shop next to Vila Viniteca itself, for the purposes of Barcelona by the Glass we will only focus on their flagship store on Carrer Agullers.

The Selection

This is the reason you come to Vila Viniteca. The shop itself is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of wine, with the best selection of Spanish and international wines in the city. As there’s so much to choose from, I’m going to list the major wine producing countries and styles of the world with a brief note about the strengths and weaknesses that Vila Viniteca have to offer. However, be aware that what you see in the store is only a fraction of what’s available; for a more detailed look, ask the store for their updated catalogue and as always, ask for assistance if you’re unsure about anything.

The Old World

Spain: I suppose it goes without saying that the selection here is fantastic. Nearly every famous name in Spanish wine is sold and distributed here, including a few exclusively sold by Vila Viniteca. The prices are also excellent, with many smaller stores around the city purchasing from Vila and adding their own mark-up on top. In particular their in-store selection of Cava is tremendous and it’s rare that I would come in looking for a bottle and not find it here. Recently I visited Priorat for the Fira del Vi festival and fell in love with a stunning new release of a white wine from Bodegas Mas Alta. Their only distributor? Vila Viniteca. They’re also quick to move with changing trends within the country and whilst Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat are strongly represented, there is increasingly more shelf space given over to Galician wines and new-wave producers from classic regions.

France: This is a really mixed bag, as you might expect from a country as diverse and complicated as France. Bordeaux is the pride and joy of Vila Viniteca and the vast majority of the space directly next to the counter is dedicated to expensive Chateau. The problem is, like their Burgundy selection, the top wines are all simply far, far too expensive. If you’re serious about buying premium wine from either Bordeaux or Burgundy, it’s much cheaper to buy it in the UK or France and have it shipped to Spain. That being said, there are some minor Chateau at reasonable prices and their selection of Burgundy from areas such as the Macon and the less established villages is very good. Drouhin’s Santenay 2013 remains one of my favourite, affordable Burgundies in the city.

Where Vila Viniteca shines with regards to France is within the other regions of France, notably the Loire Valley, Alsace, southern France and even the Rhone to an extent. Crisp Gamay and Grolleau Noir from the Loire makes for affordable, delicious summer-time drinking, their range of Alsace goes from the generic bottlings of the major producers to rare, 20 year old sweet wines and everything inbetween. The Rhone is a little hit-or-miss but everytime I go in, there seems to be a better selection. The Louis J Chave Selection range is fantastic and whilst pricey, usually worth every penny. Take your time and peruse their catalogue with regards to French wine; there are definitely bargains to be had, particularly where you least expect them to be!

Germany: Very few of these wines are available in the store itself but the selection is really quite impressive and often reasonably priced. It still revolves primary around Riesling, which is presumably why Spaniards aren’t interesting in buying it, but Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are starting to slowly creep in as well. Look out for older bottles from top producers such as Egon Müller , Fritz Haag and Dr. Bürklin-Wolf amongst others!

Italy: Ah, Italy. This is probably the most poorly represented major wine producing country within Vila Viniteca, for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious to me. There are a few odd-ball bottles, a little bit of Amarone but the small selection they have seems to be dedicated to enormously expensive trophy wines, mainly from Tuscany with a few Barolo and Barbaresco producers thrown in for good measure. Whilst I appreciate having the opportunity to blow my savings on a single bottle of Massetto, I’d prefer the chance to buy a good quality, reasonably priced Chianti Classico, given the choice!

The New World

New World wines aren’t popular in Spain. Trying to find a decent selection of wines from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa or anywhere for that matter is like finding a needle in a haystack, so thank God for Vila Viniteca in this regard. The prices are generally competitive with the rest of the European market, the selection is solid and better yet, due to the majority of Spaniards not buying them, I’ve been able to buy mature examples of some top wines over the years for the same prices as current releases. In order of their selection and price rating, their New World offering is roughly as follows:

1. New Zealand – Their selection here is pretty great. Good, often aged, examples from major regions on both islands. I was delighted to buy the last of their Kumeu River Hunting Hill 2011, a wine I regard as being one of the greatest New World Chardonnays available.

2. South Africa – Eben Sadies wines from the Swartland and Olifants river, Pinotage and Cabernet blends from Paarl and Stellenbosch and even a reasonable range of cooler climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Walkers Bay; a surprisingly strong selection here!

3. USA – This is the big surprise; buying wine from the USA is typically nigh on impossible in Spain. However, due to the American business interests of producers such as Torres, Drouhin and Roederer, who they also distribute, their selection of American wine has gradually grown and grown. Drouhin’s Oregon wines aren’t cheap but are top quality examples from the region, the Torres family vineyards in the Russian River Valley are well established now and hey, if you’re purchasing wine for anonymous millionaires docked in their yachts, there’s plenty of Harlan Estate and Screaming Eagle as well!

4. Argentina/Chile/Australia – Coming in last are these three countries as whilst wine is available, it’s mainly represented by mostly generic brands and often a little overpriced. There are still some bargains to be had and a 2009 bottle of Catena Alta’s Historic Rows Malbec was a recent highlight. With Chile making inroads into the fine wine scene, let’s see how the selection changes accordingly over the coming years!

The Space

Walking into Vila Viniteca is a moment of cheek-clenching glee for the wine geek; rows upon rows of beautiful wines from across Spain and the rest of the world, all aching to be drank. I won’t bother trying to paint a picture of which wines are where, as with only a few exceptions the orientation of the store tends to be moved around every 6 months or so. Just be aware that:

1. What you see is not necessarily all there is. The selection of Vila Viniteca is absolutely enormous with something like 8,000 wines available, the majority of which are stored in a huge underground cellars around Barcelona and Esparreguera.

2. The catalogue is not always up to date so be sure to ask the members of staff to check the up-to-date stock on the computers if you’re looking for something specific.

3. Remember that the staff are there to help you. The selection may be overwhelming but just like a good sommelier in a restaurant, the staff are there to help you choose the right bottle at the right price; don’t be afraid to ask for it!

Conclusion

It’s hard to look past Vila Viniteca as Barcelona’s premium wine store. If you’re looking for something specific or just want to browse their enormous selection, I highly recommend you go in and look around. Whilst the customer service has improved over the last few years, being such a large company does mean that it’s inevitably lost a little personal charm, but my experiences over the last year have been excellent. Go and check it out and if you fancy something a little special to eat, don’t forget to check out their gourmet food shop next door.

Tips

Whilst I understand this isn’t possible for everyone, do try and visit Vila Viniteca either in the morning or the afternoon. As a great deal of customers come in the evening after work, it makes it difficult to find the space to browse and also to get the attention of the staff as the shop gets so busy!

Make sure you come at least once with an hour to spare. The joy of Vila Viniteca is being able to casually browse around the entire store and patience is often rewarded; some of the very best bargains I’ve found have come as a result of poking through dark corners of the store to uncover hidden gems!

Vila Viniteca are understandably incredibly well connected in the world of wine and host/attend a large number of wine fairs through the city. It makes sense to follow them on twitter, facebook and instagram to keep up to date with these announcements.

I know I’ve said it before but do make sure you ask for help! The entire point of hiring trained professionals in wine stores is that so they can streamline the world of wine for you and help you to make sensible, delicious choices. If you feel overwhelmed, grab someone to help you navigate the selection.

Within the store itself, there is a stock-room in the back that not everyone knows about. Here they store some incredibly interesting, rare and often very expensive wines, but also some really great bargains are to be found here as well. The room isn’t open for casual browsing but if you ask a member of staff to take you back, they’ll show you around.

As with any store, it pays to get to know people. If you find a member of staff who you get on with, seek them out! One of my good friends, Alex, is someone I met through shopping at Vila Viniteca and both Gonzalo and Cristina are people I make a point of chatting to whenever I go in. They’ve got their pulse on the heart of the shop and are likely to point out interesting and special bottles that otherwise may pass you by!

If you’re looking to purchase an expensive bottle of something that you’ve found in the store, make sure to ask that they sell you a bottle from their stock room or cellar, not the bottle that’s been stood up for weeks at room temperature in the shop itself.

Barcelona by the Glass: Gran Bodega Maestrazgo

Established: 1952

Style of establishment: Wine Shop

Price by the glass – 3 euros to 5 euros

Price by the bottle – Shelf price + 5 euros corkage fee

Address – 90 Carrer San Pere mes Baix, 08003

Phone number933 10 26 73

Opening Hours – Monday to Saturday from 10am to 2:30pm and 2:30pm to 10pm

Closed on Sundays

Gran Bodega Maestrazgo is one of Barcelona’s oldest existing wine shops, having been founded by Agustin Moliner back in 1952. An olive farmer by trade, the two severe winters of 1951 and 1952 quite convinced Agustin that there had to be more to life than scraping a living in the countryside, and so he headed to Barcelona to set up a Bodega. Now, Bodega’s traditionally sold wine but also olive oil, vinegar and other related products so it wasn’t such a giant leap to move into the sales aspect of the business, rather than growing and producing it. The neighbourhood in question, was, and still is, a quiet residential close to the Santa Caterina market. Business flourished, to the extent that the Bodega is still thriving under the capable hands of Jose Moliner, the third generation owner of Bodega Maestrazgo.

As a disclaimer, it’s worth noting that this is a shop very close to my heart. I lived on the street for three years and it was largely down to visiting Bodega Maestrazgo on a nightly basis that I started to become fascinated by wine. Jose was the first person to explain wine to me on any level and he’s now a close personal friend of mine, also allowing us to organise our very special Maestrazgo Wine Club tastings in the private tasting room adjacent to the shop itself. I’m thrilled to be able to recommend Bodega Maestrazgo to anyone visiting or living in the city, as it’s truly one of the last historical wine shops still in business and thanks to Jose’s forward thinking nature, manages to stay up to date with many of the latest trends and wines, as well as catering to the old classics and even bulk wine for as little as 2 euros a litre!

The Selection

Bodega Maestrazgo is first and foremost a Spanish wine shop. To that end, it comes as no surprise that a good 95% of the products here are from across Spain, with a small selection of Champagne, German Riesling and the occasional splurge on something interesting (most recently a selection of wines from Penfolds, South Australia!). However, the wines on sale are a wonderfully eclectic mix of what Spain has to offer, with a big selection of the classics such as Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat, but also a lot of the new-wave Spanish wines from Galicia, Andalucia and Madrid. The price points are all very reasonable and it’s rare to find wine on sale here for more than €50 a bottle; there simply isn’t the market for it within the area. If I had any criticism of the bottle selection, it’s that there could be more thought put into the white wines but frankly, that’s as much to do with consumer demand as it is with any purchasing decisions.

The other option you have of course, is to buy the bulk wine stored in barrels at the front of the shop. In terms of volume, these sales far outstrip bottle sales and with good reason; the prices are outrageously low. €2.30 a litre for a reasonable, if anonymous, of Spanish red grapes? €2.60 a litre for a young, supple Tempranillo blend from Ribera del Duero? Yes please! Do like the locals and bring your own plastic container, it only has to be an empty bottle of some sort, as that saves you the cost of purchasing a new one which costs almost as much as the wine itself. The ‘Vi Negre’, literally ‘Black wine’, also happens to make an excellent base for Spanish Sangria.

The real beauty of Bodega Maestrazgo, however, is their dispensation to serve alcohol by the glass until 9:30pm every evening, something that not every wine shop can boast of. There are typically 2-3 whites and 2-3 reds available by the glass, but if you’re with friends simply ask after the corkage fee to drink within the shop. €5 is the going amount and makes for a stupendously affordable alternative to ordering wine in restaurants and bars; take a €20 euro wine, drink at €25 due to corkage and compare that to the same wine selling for €40 in a restaurant. It’s a no-brainer. They also have a large selection of cold wines, Cavas and Champagnes in the fridge to the front of the shop so feel free to peruse there as well; nothing beats a cold bottle of Cava and a plate of Jamon Iberico on a warm summers evening!

The Space

When I bring people to the store, I refer to the area as being ‘Old-old town’ rather than the ‘New-old town’ of central Born. It’s not that one is older than the other, it’s simply that this part of Barcelona has seen very little in the way of investment and only recently has there been any changes in business ownership at all. As a result, the shop itself looks like it hasn’t changed much since 1952 and in reality, it hasn’t much!

As you enter you go through the doorway with the till on your left and the large selection of bulk wine in barrels to your right. All the bottles and the space to sit down and grab a drink are at the back, so this is where I strongly recommend you make yourselves comfortable for the evening. Grab a barrel or a small table, sit back and relax! If you find yourself falling in love with any particular wine and need to take it home via air-travel, make sure to ask Jose who can either ship it or wrap small quantities in bubble-wrap to be safely stowed in your hold luggage.

The Food

As there is no bar licence here, the food is a relatively simple but delicious affair; cheeses, cold meats, olives, anchovies, bread and some truly delicious olive oil. The Jamon Iberico they slice off the bone is as good as any I’ve had in the city and very competitively priced; it’s become my go-to plate for €15 whenever I eat there! There’s a selection of cheeses and I highly recommend the Idiazabal, a smoky sheeps cheese from the Basque Country in the north of Spain and whatever new delights they have in stock. The beauty of the food here is that it changes often, with Jose constantly experimenting with new cheeses, cured meats and even different breads from across the country. If the Galician sour-dough is available, order half a loaf, dribble liberally with olive oil and prepare yourself for one of the best rustic food experiences going.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, this is a shop close to my heart, so I admit it’s hard to be objective about it. However, I’ve not once taken a guest or family member there who hasn’t fallen in love with it and it’s not hard to see why. In a world where authenticity is at a premium, Bodega Maestrazgo manages it effortlessly and with no strings attached; what you see is what you get. There are fewer more genuine experiences of Barcelona’s wine scene to be found and every wine lover passing through should try their best to visit. As I still spend a lot of my time there, should you see me come and say hello and of course, make sure to meet Jose if he’s in the shop himself as his intense, warm and generous nature is as much a part of Bodega Maestrazgo as the bricks and mortar.

Tips

Bodega Maestrazgo is an enormously popular spot with the local community, so make sure to get there slightly ahead of the crowd as it can be hard to find a spot past 8pm, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.

Whilst the wine-by-the-glass list is interesting and balanced, it really does pay to bring a friend or two and take advantage of the corkage directly from the shelf. There are some stunning wines to be had, constantly updated and very reasonably priced.

Only one or two members of staff speak English so be patient if you don’t speak any Spanish and you’ll figure it out!

Make sure to ask what cheeses and meats are currently available as they change often. Regardless, definitely order the Jamon Iberico de Bellota in the largest format possible!

Either go early during the evening or better still, during the middle of the day. Setting up shop at 12:30 and enjoying a bottle of excellent wine over the next 2 hours is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Bring a friend (or a book!) and expect to wander out with a big smile on your face.

Barcelona by the Glass: Monvinic

Established: 2008

Style of establishment: Bar and Restaurant

Price by the glass – 2.50 (half glass) up to 50 euros (depending on what’s available by Coravin)

Price by the bottle – 20 euros to 5000 euros

Address – 249 Carrer Diputacio, 08007, Barcelona

Phone number – +34 932 726 187

Opening Hours – 11:00 to 23:00 from Tuesday to Friday (No wine served before 1pm)

                              19:00 to 00:00 on Saturdays and Mondays (Dinner reservations from 8pm)

                              Closed on Sundays

The first entrant into ‘Barcelona by the Glass’ simply has to be Monvinic; one of the most famous wine bars in Europe and with probably the largest cellar in Barcelona at a whopping 10,000 bottle capacity. Despite its fame within the wine industry, I’ve been surprised a few times by how few people know about it, even those visiting the city who are expressly interested in discovering the wine scene here. I hope this post will go some way to showcasing what I consider to the most complete wine bar in the city as well as the only viable place to study for those wanting to taste an international selection of wine by the glass!

Monvinic was founded in 2008 by Sergi Ferrer-Salat, a businessman who’d experienced great success within the pharmaceutical industry and wanted to create a centre of wine culture within Barcelona. As co-owner of the Ferrer Bobet winery in Priorat, there is clearly a passion for fine wine and it shows within Monvinic, with the same no-expense-spared approach and clinical architecture. The result is incredibly elegant, if a little cold at first experience, but the wine takes centre stage here and everything is built around it. In an age where everyone is rushing to make wine appear simple and friendly, there’s something quite refreshing about this old-fashioned approach, where the intellectual pursuit of wine isn’t played down or hidden in any way. That’s not to say there isn’t something here for anyone looking to stop by and grab a glass of wine, but ultimately it is designed as a wine bar for wine lovers.

The interior is roughly divided into two halves; the wine bar and the restaurant, both of which have access to the goldmine of a wine-list that has come to define Monvinic.

The Wine List

The main reason to go to Monvinic is their unparalleled choice of wine. The first time I went into Monvinic I was floored by the selection available. Aside from the rotating 50 wines as a ‘by the glass’ option, there are a good few thousand wines available to choose by the bottle as well. As a wine geek, this is the sort of list I can sit down and read for hours, made infinitely easier by their use of i-pads as menus; I have seen people criticising the i-pad menu but frankly it’s misplaced as it’s a choice between that or reprinting the menu every single day, which is simply not feasible. I regularly practice blind tasting at Monvinic using their ‘by the glass’ menu as a base, which allows me to practice with wines from around the world for around €30 a week, a unique proposition in a city (rightly) dominated by Spanish wine. It’s worth noting that the ‘by the glass’ list is listed as either a full or a half glass, making it the perfect place to try a lot of different wines with the same budget.

However, what impressed me the most was the sheer diversity of the wines available. There are many restaurants where the crème de la crème of wine is available at exorbitant prices, and should you want to sample older vintages of Vega Sicilia Unico, Sine Qua Non, Romani Conti and 1st Growth Bordeaux, Monvinic have you covered as well. However, what sets them apart is the keenly priced and extremely well sourced wines from all across the world, including a host of lesser known names in addition. Tissot’s wines from Jura are available from as a little as €35 a bottle, Stefano Lubbiana from Tasmania for not much more. Want a delicious, aged Pinot Noir? They have a host of aged Burgundy from lesser known Domaines between €40 and €60 a bottle. Even some well known names from older vintages haven’t been speculated upon and it’s possible to find wines with 10-15 years of bottle age with the same price you’d expect to buy their current vintages for at retail prices.

Whilst this still isn’t cheap when taking the average salary of Barcelona into account, it knocks the trousers off the same wines priced in most restaurants around the world and there are a host of gems available for those prepared to look through the list. Oddly, if there is a weakness it’s actually the Spanish selection but as every other bar and restaurant in the city focuses around this, I don’t mind it at all. Champagne could use a little love but really I’m splitting hairs; it’s the best wine list in Barcelona by some distance.

The Space

You enter through a sliding glass door from Carrer Diputacio to a small reception area, where you can either wait to be seated or head on past yourself. Just past the reception there is a darkly lit row of low tables, backed against a wall and surrounded by comfortable chairs; welcome to the wine bar. This area of Monvinic is for casual dining and drinking and it suits the purpose well. The bar menu differs slightly to the restaurant area and this is where the €20 Menu del dia is served, as well as a good selection of tapas, although the Menu del dia offers far greater value.

The restaurant area is to the rear of Monvinic and encompasses a large, well lit dining area, an out-door terrace at the back and a chef’s table within the kitchen itself. The a la carte menu is primarily served here and it makes for a delicious, if slightly pricey, evening. The venue is also popular with groups, so don’t be surprised to find a full dining room even on week-day evenings. Booking ahead is highly recommended and a summer evening on the terrace, with a good bottle of wine is hard to beat!

The Food

Honestly, a year ago I wasn’t excited by the food that was on offer. Whilst the prices have remained on the high side, in 2016 Monvinic hired a new Head Chef, Ariadna Julian, which has transformed the kitchen considerably. With an emphasis on slow-cooking and seasonal ingredients, you get what you pay for and the food I’ve had over the last 6 months has been excellent. A recent highlight was the best Fish and Chips I’ve eaten in Barcelona, paired beautifully with a crisp Fino Sherry.

There are also two tasting menus available at €55 and €75 that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try. This doesn’t include wine but with the huge selection available by the glass, does open up an opportunity for a very fun, creative evening!

Conclusion

I’ve long been of the opinion that anyone who is interested in wine should spend a substantial amount of their time at Monvinic. I find it slightly odd that more people don’t find their way here, especially anyone studying wine and preparing for exams and I wonder if that has anything to do with the slightly cold interior design. If there is anything I would improve it would be a warmer welcome and a more attentive service from the staff, although this too has improved in the few years I’ve been frequenting Monvinic.

With the beautiful restaurant area in the back and investment into new, better food I should really be recommending a formal dining experience but truth be told, the strength of Monvinic is, and probably always will be, their wine list. Their wine bar is the heart of the experience and a must-visit for anyone interested in wine in Barcelona.

Tips

Make sure you book a table well in advance – if you’re going for an evening meal don’t forget they have an outdoor terrace at the back of the restaurant.

Take the time to search through the wine list; a keen eye will be rewarded!

Whilst Monvinic would no doubt say differently, this is not the sort of place where I would bring children

Unusually, payment is always done at the reception as you leave Monvinic so don’t be surprised when payment isn’t taken table-side

Some of the sommeliers are quite eclectic in their wine preferences; beware asking them for their personal preference if you’re not of an adventurous nature!

As with all restaurants and bars that employ sommeliers, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The list is enormous and if you don’t have the time to search through it, a quick moment with the sommelier regarding your preference of style and budget should yield something delicious and well priced.

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