Six wine bars you have to try

Looking for a bar whose wine offerings go beyond the vin de maison variety? Here are are a few places to check out.

Philémon Bar

Drinking wine is one of life’s simple pleasures, and going to a bar is a great alternative to, say, playing your Xbox. Finding the right spot, however, can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you’re looking for some interesting whistle-wetting. Like it or not, for most bars, wine is an afterthought. They carry lower-quality “boxed wine” (often labelled house wine or vin de maison).

Nonetheless, there are options. Here are a few spots that offer mainly private import and/or organic/natural/biodynamic wine that won’t disappoint the thirsty little oenophile inside you.

Buvette Chez Simone (4869 Parc; 514-750-6577)
Buvette Chez Simone was once a well-kept secret mainly frequented by Plateau folk. Now, it’s a drink destination for all, and for good reason. It ranks high on the summer patio list and is open every evening, offering a great selection of small nibbles, cheeses, cured meats and more. Though the wine list changes regularly, you’ll find a large selection of fantastic Old World wine served by the glass (currently ranging from $6.75–$11 per glass), with half-glass options offered as well. Try the 1987 Gran Reserva de Fondillon for a heartwarming nightcap.

Philémon Bar (111 St-Paul O.; 514-289-3777)
Old Montreal isn’t just about bad caricature artists, horse rides and beaver tails anymore. With great bars and restaurants opening each year, it’s become one of the hottest nightlife neighbourhoods on the island. The bustling Philémon Bar on St-Paul Street is a good place to enjoy a fine glass of vino. It has a wine list that covers most classic wine regions in both the Old and New World (with Quebec making the cut, too!), with many options served by the glass (currently $8.50–$12.50 per glass). Try the 2010 Clos St-Michel Côtes-du-Rhône or the 2010 Rainer Wess Wachauer Riesling.

Accords (212 Notre-Dame O.; 514-282-2020)
Accords is, of course, French for “pairings,” and this place is just that: a restaurant and a wine bar in the business of pairing fancy chow with great vino. Also located in Old Montreal, it too ranks high in the summertime patio list and boasts a sophisticated wine cellar. Its by-the-glass wine list is diverse and lengthy (currently $8–$21 per glass) and consists almost entirely Old World offerings. Want to try more for your cash? The half-glass portions are also half the price, so order more for less and ask one of the sommeliers for interesting flights. For something different, try the 2011 Oca Bianca Fiano or 2009 Tschuppen Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir).

The three aforementioned spots don’t require you to eat with your wine. Here are a few restaurants that offer affordable snacks with serious wine options.

Bocata (310 St-Paul O.; 514-507-8727)
Stellar Italian-French-Spanish cuisine for both large or small appetites and a deep wine cellar. Bocata has an excellent variety of bottles that are served by the glass (currently $8–$30 per glass). It also offers half-glass servings, so go nuts! Try the 2009 Olivier Guyot Pinot Noir or the Nerello Mascalese, a fringe Champagne-style sparkling wine from Sicily.

Pullman (3424 Parc; 514-288-7779)
You can’t go wrong at Pullman, which boasts great food and an interesting wine list (currently $7–$15 per glass). Half-glass servings and trio flights make it a great spot for trying new things or sipping on favourites. Try the Bordeaux-style white 2010 Château Lestignac Les Abeilles des Collinettes or the 2010 Schiefer Blaufränkisch Krise red from Austria.

Les Trois Petits Bouchons (4669 St-Denis; 514-285-4444)
The staff at Les Trois Petits Bouchons is knowledgeable and friendly, and the spot has an accessible, tasty menu. Bottles served by the glass (currently $8.50–$13 per glass) are listed on a blackboard and change often. Try the 2009 Domaine Binner white from Alsace or the 2009 Georges Descombes red from Beaujolais. 

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