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New York City's Best Wine Bars Are on the Lower East Side

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 11/23/2022 Kyle Beechey

Over the past few years, a standout landscape of wine lists has been bubbling up across New York City's buzzy Lower East Side and this past summer, it exploded. “The wine scene on the Lower East Side hasn't all of sudden emerged out of nowhere, so much as it has vastly and rapidly expanded since the early days of Ten Bells,” says Eben Lillie, owner of Skin Contact, an intimate wine bar on Orchard Street with boundary pushing bottles. 

Ten Bells, the neighborhood's longstanding natural wine and tapas bar, was ahead of the curve when it opened its doors back in 2008, and the others have slowly trickled in since. From a resident’s perspective, though, it feels like it happened overnight. Now, you can’t walk a block without finding a great place to pop in for a quick glass at the bar, or a bottle to linger over with friends—and you won’t find any other neighborhood with as many carefully chosen lists in the entire city. Whether it’s a familiar, juicy red you're craving or the joy of discovering something totally new, there's no better place to drink wine in the New York City right now. (It doesn't hurt that the LES, for short, is also home to super-cool Nine Orchard hotel, set on the huddle of bars, restaurants, and shops known as Dimes Square.) 

Whether you're looking for Parisian-inspired wine bars to full restaurants with considered bottle lists, to even a movie theater with a wine program, read on for the best New York City wine bars in the Lower East Side. 

Le Dive draws inspiration from Parisian tabacs. © Teddy Wolff Le Dive draws inspiration from Parisian tabacs. Most of Le Dive's wines come from European producers and are relatively affordable. © Teddy Wolff Most of Le Dive's wines come from European producers and are relatively affordable.

Le Dive

Le Dive is one of the newest ventures from Jon Neidich and Golden Age Hospitality, responsible for other downtown hotspots like Acme and The Nines. From the moment it opened, it had the same buzzy see-and-be-seen vibe that Neidich is known for. 

Le Dive aims to recreate that classic Parisian tabac experience: a lively space with a long zinc bar, neon tube lights, and cafe tables topped with glasses of wine and simple jambon beurre. In warmer months, if you can snag a sidewalk table, order a bottle and a mushroom pâté or steak tartar, you could almost be tricked into thinking you’re on Canal St. Martin. Wine-list wise, it’s a crowd pleasing selection of mostly European producers and relatively affordable, with glasses starting at $13 and bottles at $42. There are few better places to take in the Dimes Square scene.

Gem Wine

The most intimate of the bunch, tucked in an unassuming block of Broome Street mostly known for laundromats and bodegas, Gem Wine is the casual little sibling of new-Nordic tasting menu restaurant Gem, located just around the corner. The bar comes from self-proclaimed former teen chef Fynn McGarry, who staged at restaurants like Noma and Eleven Madison Park. His sister, Paris McGarry, is responsible for the wine program. 

Keeping it very French, you won’t find a wine list here, just a wall of bottles and four by-the-glass options—there’s red, white, orange, or sparkling, alongside a great selection of bottles from hot young producers. If you aren’t an expert, don’t worry—the servers are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and happy to help (another fail-proof method here is to order anything French). Gem Wine doesn’t take reservations, but the bar can get packed with a line forming as soon as the doors open at 5 p.m. It's worth the wait. Once you’re seated, order a snack from the ever-rotating menu of artful small plates like grilled chicories with bagna cauda, or a boiled artichoke with gribiche. 

Run by sommelier Grant Reynold, Parcelle is a new addition to Division Street. © Collin Hughes Run by sommelier Grant Reynold, Parcelle is a new addition to Division Street. In addition to a wine list and elevated bar snacks, Parcelle offers weekly wine classes. © Parcelle In addition to a wine list and elevated bar snacks, Parcelle offers weekly wine classes.

Parcelle

One of the newest additions to the Lower East Side wine scene is Parcelle, a formerly online-only wine retailer that set up roots with a tiny Division Street bar this past summer. Run by sommelier Grant Reynolds, the bar offers not only great wine (with everything from natural Chardonnays from young Canadian vintners, to classic old world Barolos from Italy). On Thursday evenings they hold weekly wine classes that you can—and should—book in advance, though walk-ins are welcome. The space feels like the world’s chicest living room, with Panton chairs and plush De Sede couches. Lean back, split a bottle from the extensive list with a friend, and order from a menu of elevated bar snacks like whipped lemon ricotta, crudité, and the crowd-pleasing fried chicken sandwich. (For those craving a proper meal, there’s also a small dinner menu and a few actual tables.) 

Skin Contact

Skin Contact was opened in 2020 by New York wine veteran, Eben Lillie, whose father was one of the founders of Tribeca’s Chamber Street Wines and a pioneer in the stateside natural/low intervention wine movement. Lillie grew up in his father’s shop, and that background of expertise shines in this new space, which he runs alongside business partner Stefanie Djie on Orchard Street. 

Consider Skin Contact the place to discover new wine. The list skews global and adventurous, with sparkling orange wines from Spain and hard-to-find pinot gris from Slovenia. With the guidance of Lillie, a virtual human encyclopedia, whatever you try will be an adventure. The bar takes reservations, and serves snacks like smoked paprika Marcona almonds and olive oil-drizzled Burrata. 

Cervo's wine list has a wide range of Iberian varietals. © Cervo's Cervo's wine list has a wide range of Iberian varietals. The Iberian seafood at Cervo's pairs perfectly with Catalonian orange wines and vinho verdes. © Cervo's The Iberian seafood at Cervo's pairs perfectly with Catalonian orange wines and vinho verdes.

Cervo’s

This mecca of Iberian seafood has been a Canal Street staple for half a decade now. A sister restaurant to Brooklyn’s Hart’s and The Fly (known for a Mediterranean-ish menu and rotisserie chicken, respectively), Cervo’s may be a restaurant first but the wine list cements its status as a destination for oenophiles. The wine is almost exclusively from Spanish producers, with grape varietals like xarel-lo, albarino, and vinho verde; you won’t find as wide a range of Iberian wines anywhere in the city, if not the country. (It would be a mistake not to order a glass of Catalonian orange wine to pair with your spicy mussels escabeche.)

Try to make a reservation or go early to snag a coveted bar seat. When the sun goes down, the restaurant becomes a candlelit jewelbox where hours pleasantly evaporate.

Wildair

Wildair is more than a wine bar—at this beloved restaurant, the excellent glasses play a supporting role to the menu from chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske (think of Wildair as the easy-going alternative to their tasting-menu driven Contra next door). You’ll still find that chef-y vibe in the small plates at Wildair, courtesy of items like the pissaladiéclair, a cross between the Provençal anchovy-studded flatbread and a traditional éclair, or Pommes Darphin, topped with uni and jalapeño-shallot relish. Don’t be intimidated by the insider-y wine list though—the incredibly friendly staff will guide you through the collection of easy-to-love natural wines. If you like what you try and want to take a bottle home, they have a wine shop and adjacent wine bar in nearby Essex Market, called Peoples

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