Recently, I've been asked where my go-to spots are in the city for great French wine. When you're talking about a wine bar in New York, the possibilities are endless. But where can you find great French wine, ambiance, and staff? Not everywhere.
Here's a curated list of my favorite places to meet up for a glass in New York City.
1) Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar
Right around the corner from the office and my boyfriend's apartment, this cozy little spot has bottle and glass options that always feature my two favorite French regions : Loire and Beaujolais. But even if you aren't a fan of either (and if so...why even do you follow me??), there's also almost always an eclectic mix of both old and new world wines. Gamay from the Vinho Verde region? A flight of Sicilian reds? You'll find it here. And while Downing Street is technically part of a larger Blue Ribbon franchise group, you'll never feel like you're in that kind of place. And the bartenders are all funny, kind, and personable - most of them could talk to you for an hour about their favorite bottle on the list. (Believe me, I've asked.)
2) Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
As far as French wine bars go, this one is a New York classic - with a Parisian cousin. When I first moved to New York I fell in love with this place because it was one of the only spots I could find that always consistently had a Muscadet on the by-the-glass menu - no matter the weather. Like myself, these guys love the Loire, but they also love wine education. There's always a mystery glass for both red and white. I've done it once (and got it wrong) but the somm on staff at the time and I had a great convo about St. Nicolas de Bourgeuil (which was my guess but not the wine in my glass). Plus, the location is in the heart of what I call French New York. It's right next to Maman, a little French café on Centre Street, and often you'll hear more French spoken on the block than English.
3) AOC East
While I work in SoHo, I spend weekends chilling on the Upper East Side, which has been my home (more or less) since moving to New York three years ago. If you're a New Yorker, you know that the subway doesn't really work on the weekends, so a lot of us stay close to home just to avoid the headache. The UES isn't really known for its vibrant nightlife and pubs reign supreme. But there is one stand out and that's AOC East in Yorkville. Of all the French inspired wine bars in New York, this one reminds me the most of Paris. Everyone on staff has a French accent, and all the wines are kept right where you can see them on the shelves behind the bar. The cheese and charcuterie section is magnificent, and there's always a Provence red, a Saumur Champigny, and a Gamay on the menu. Convinced yet? It's also the perfect date spot, with low lighting and affordable bottles on the list.
Honorable Mention: Amélie West Village
This place gets an honorable mention because it's so popular, I've only been able to get in once (every other time it's been at minimum an hour wait just for a glass of wine at the bar). Not only is there a great French selection but what I think is super important to call out is that it's half organized by grape varietal and half by region, which appeals greatly to the American consumer just getting into French wine and might not know too much about the regions. My favorite list isn't the reds, but the white - there's always a Picpoul by the glass, which is a great value and such an interesting wine!
The truth is there are hundreds (possibly thousands?) of French-inspired wine bars in New York, and everyone has their own preference. But if you're just discovering the New York wine bar scene, these places just can't be beat. We might even see each other there! Santé!