The 10 Best Wine Stores in Manhattan
Declaring New York's top ten wine shops proved even harder than counting the city's finest bowls of ramen. The number of high-quality wine retailers at our disposal is an embarrassment of vinous riches, and the abundance of stellar shops forced me to draw up separate lists for Manhattan and Brooklyn (coming soon).
I touched on the benchmarks of a noble retailer last week in my interview with Jean-Luc Le Dû of Le Dû's wines, but let's recap the criteria. First, to make this list, the store must have a passionate owner and an approachable, educated, and similarly enthusiastic staff. Second, it must deliver a range of regions and price points with unusual selections, especially on the lower end (stocking cheap, predictable wines found on any supermarket shelf in the country is lazy and boring). Third, the wine shop must create opportunities for consumer education, through first-rate tastings, newsletters, or classes.
Although my top ten, below, all hit these marks, I would be remiss not to applaud exemplary specialty shops with singular geographical dedications: California wines at California Wine Merchants, Chilean at Puro, Italian at Enoteca Di Palo and Italian Wine Merchants and Spanish at Despana and Tinto Fino.
Appellation Wine & Spirits
Known for his commitment to organic, biodynamic, and sustainable wines, Scott Pactor has been filling his shelves with these once-hard-to-find bottles since 2005. A supporter of low-to-no-intervention farming and winemaking, Pactor might've been ahead of his time had he opened any earlier. Fortunately for us, his shop served to anchor this now booming neighborhood, and you are guaranteed to walk out with a bottle that in some way reflects a model of sustainability. Appellation staffers are super knowledgeable -- but since Pactor is frequently in the shop, feel free to pick his brain on the tenets of natural wine directly. 156 Tenth Ave, 212-741-9474
Astor Wines & Spirits
Descending into Astor conjures a Wegmans for wine, rousing childlike glee akin to one's first time shopping in a stadium-size, reasonably priced grocery after taking years of abuse from D'Ags. It's not quite Citi Field, but the selection here is almost as broad, hitting every corner of the world at every price point. Looking for Beaumes-de-Venise rouge? Holy hell, they have one; right next to a Rasteau! Need something more familiar? Astor rocks quite the collection of boxed wines. As a bonus, its selection of spirits and sakes also runs deep. With its plethora of sales, weekly tastings and classes at the attached learning center, Astor is a true leader. 399 Lafayette Street, 212-674-7500
Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit
This cheery, laid-back Flatiron shop makes wine selection easy for those short on time, knowledge, or both. With ingenious categories like Green, Value, and Take-out, in addition to Meat, Fish, and Poultry, the selections are fun and well-priced, and are backed by a helpful staff. I recently had an unusual need for a German Riesling Sekt under $20, and Bottlerocket not only stocked one, but chilled it in advance of pick-up so I could bring it to the party cold. That's service! 5 W. 19th Street, 212-929-2323