Toasts of the Town: Athens’ Best Wine Bars
Amanda Dardanis uncorks some of her favourite Athenian wine bars in which to indulge in hearty explorations of the grape.
Wine Bars. Slowly but surely they’ve been stealth-bombing this city of ours. Century-old classics have been joined by atmospheric new drinking dens, run by well-travelled oenophiles banging the drum about charismatic new Greek varieties and rising international stars.
And thanks to an increasing number of Athens bars adopting new technologies, (like the Coravin system, which allows sommeliers to serve you exceptional labels by the glass without having to pull the cork), there’s never been a better time to embark on a wine safari in the capital. Best of all, at many of the new breed of wine bar, if you sip something you fancy, you can usually pick up a bottle to take home at bottle shop not restaurant prices.
Wine bars are the perfect prop for our epicurean Athens’ lifestyle too. Think of them as an enhanced version of Greek café society: a place to chat, chill, reflect, connect – and worship the splendid grape, while you forget about the world outside.
In the city
A small but perfectly formed Syntagma favourite that champions Greek wines while rocking a retro French bistro vibe. Its match-making credentials: locally-sourced cheeses and meze are expertly set up with their perfect wine “taste mate”.
- Cellar Status: 200 mostly Greek wines with around 20 on offer by the glass.
- Top Note: Taste your way around the vineyards of Greece. Know your Assyrtiko from your Moscofilero and Roditis.
Ipitou 4, Syntagma, tel: +30 210.321.1279, heteroclito.gr
Founded in 2008 as a cellar by two young wine-mad brothers, Oinoscent revamped itself as one of the city’s first wine bars, on a crusade to promote small producers of quality wines from Greek vineyards. Oinoscent now functions both as a cellar and a fashionable (and relatively smoke-free!) hang-out with frequent wine degustations.
- Cellar Status: More than 700 labels from the world over. Wines usually include 5 whites, 5-6 reds and 2 roses, all priced at between 4 and 6 euros.
- Top Note: Strike up a conversation with Michael, one of Oinoscent’s owners, and he will spontaneously guide you through the cellar’s little known gems.
Oinoscent Voulis 44A Syntagma, tel : +30 210.322.9374, oinoscent.com
A Plaka institution as much for its rainbow “wall of booze”, as its history, Brettos morphed from a liquor store established in 1909 into a wine bar in 2007. It has kept its original flamboyant décor and traditional variety of spirits (incl. 40 different flavors of liquor). Wine lovers also know they can always lay their hands on a good glass of vino at decent prices.
- Cellar Status: Vrettos’ selection of 46 whites, 52 reds, 9 roses and sparkling wines are available at prices ranging from 3.50 to 12 euros a glass. Bottle prices are also very affordable.
- Top Note: As the evening sets in, the wooden bar is packed with a heady mix of regulars enjoying a post-work drink, next to high-spirited tourists, drawn by the bright backdrop like moths to a flame.
Brettos Kidathineon 41 Plaka, tel. +30 210.323.2110, www.brettosplaka.com
Corks and Forks
A growing army of devoted fans packs out this charming and homey Piraeus favourite, opposite Marina Zeas harbour, nightly. Share a satisfying meat and cheese platter and a few bottles of great plonk with friends as you perch on stools, or around old wine barrels.
- Cellar Status: A smart wine list (90-odd options) specialising in lesser-known Greek wineries, with more than 20 available by the glass.
- Top Note: “Honest food and fine wines” is the name of the game here. The menu is internationally-tilted, reasonably-priced and constantly evolving.
Akti Themistokleous & Pargas, Piraeus, +30 215.515.9792, www.corksandforks.gr
This is true wine-worshipper country. Go for the ab fab fit-out as much as the clear dedication to all things oenocentric. A high-ceilinged warehouse has been ingeniously re-furbished with a striking wooden sunroof and chairs branded with famous wine territories.
- Cellar Status: 360 wines with a Mediterranean-lean. You’ll find about a dozen alternating by the glass selections (starting at €5 or so).
- Top Note: Paleo’s cut-above sommelier, Yiannis Kaimenakis, owes his wine kudos to extensive explorations of Europe’s finest vineyards.
Polydefkous 39, Pireaus, tel: +30 210.412.5204, find them on Facebook.
3 of the best in the burbs
Check-in for: terrific deals on Wine Wednesdays and “free” Tuesdays where you can Bring Your Own Bottle, with a corkage fee of €8.
Maragkou 18, Glyfada, tel : +30 210.894.1511, www.vinarte.gr
Check-in for: the lively pavement setting in the heart of “Voula Village” – and their pet-friendly policy.
Posidonos 11, Voula Platea, tel: +30 211.012.5700, find them on Facebook.
Sip Wine Bar & Tasting
Check-in for: the fantastic roof garden.
Kyriazi 11, Kifisia, tel: +30 213.032.9830, find them on Facebook.