Gaga for grapes
Boston may be thought of as more of a sports, wings, and beer town — thanks, Sam Adams — but there’s also a great variety of options for those looking for a few good sips (of wine, that is).
Whether full-bodied and red, bubbly and sweet, or something new entirely, here are a few notable wine bars and wine-minded restaurants to sate those vino cravings.
1 Kendall Sq., Cambridge
The cool atmosphere at this quirky Kendall Square locale, opened by the owners of neighboring restaurant The Blue Room and Cambridge’s Central Bottle shop, is emphasized with low lighting and rockin’ music.
To encourage guests to explore their wines, Belly offers glasses in both half and full sizes, starting around $8 and going up. “Wine yo’’ proclaims the top of the wine list, which offers selections like “sparkling’’ and “a wee bit sparkling,’’ along with a smattering of orange wines, white wines made from grape skins, and some topically rotating choices.
There are also plenty of tasty small plates, which are meant to complement the drink options, said owner and wine director Liz Vilardi. “The food is designed to pair perfectly with Belly’s extensive wine list, which runs the gamut from the off-beat, to the geeky and the classics,’’ she said.
Appetizer options include a duck breast prosciutto, and the salumi chef’s platter (pictured).
26 Charles St., Boston
Opened in 2006 by chef Azita Bina-Seibel and her brother, Babak Bina, Bin 26 offers a long, varied wine list complemented by a revolving list of nibbles like cheeses and charcuterie meats. There are four glass sizes to choose from, from 100 milliliters (about a third of a wine glass) to the impressive 750 milliliters (an entire bottle).
As for the food, “dishes are sophisticated, rather spare creations meant to complement wines rather than knock you over.’’
55 2 Tremont St., Boston
Barbara Lynch’s cozy neighborhood wine bar, which was inspired by her travels throughout Italy and France, might be best for indulging during special occasions. But vegetarians may want to skip this spot, where offerings — besides over 100 wine selections — include sausages, prosciutto, and lots of beef.
Well-known wine director Cat Silirie, named by The New York Times as “Boston’s preeminent sommelier,’’ selects bottles from artisinal producers hailing from Europe, and her yearly trips to meet with wine growers enhance both the wine selection and the employees’ knowledge through weekly “Wine Words’’ discussions.
A rotating selection of morsels include the aforementioned meat and charcuterie.
226 Newbury St., Boston
Inspired by Italian enotecas, or wine bars with tapas-like nibbles, piattini is in itself a term for “little plates,’’ which is what guests will find at this locale.
It’s fitting that this charming little wine bar lives on picturesque, stylish Newbury Street, where diners can sip Italian wines while watching the passers-by as if they were in Rome themselves.
The tiny restaurant, which has just 14 tables inside, is romantic and perfect for a leisurely meal, and an order of a glass of wine brings with it a card detailing the region, tasting notes, and any fun facts.
Heavily Italian, the wine list is long, varied, and fairly priced. And if it’s too hard to pick just one, Piattini has compiled five well-matched wine flights.
89 Holland St.
The new kid on the scene, Spoke Wine Bar in Davis Square opened in spring 2013 with owner Felisha Foster billing it as a “modern speakeasy.’’ The carefully curated wine list changes seasonally, with a focus on small-batch producers, and a new featured wine every Monday.
“Quirky pours by the glass include a delightful Gorrondona Txakolina from the Basque region of Spain, the cold, refreshing Italian red sparkler Lambrusco Rosso, and a French Cour-Cheverny (from the eastern end of the Loire Valley, you might be expecting sauvignon, but this cheery sip is made with romorantin grapes),’’ wrote food editor Sheryl Julian.
Made-to-order snacks are made for sharing with help from John daSilva, former executive sous chef at No. 9 Park, and include dishes like whipped goat’s milk ricotta and a smokey charred eggplant, both $4.
129 South St.
Leather district mainstay Les Zygomates might have been rumored to close, but so far fans of the “labyrinth of French pleasures’’ remains open. The classy spot offers an international by-the-glass list boasting over 50 wines, with an unsurprising focus on classic French regions like Burgundy and Bordeaux. With glasses in three-, five-, and six-ounce sizes, prices that start at $3.75 match the pours.
Those looking for more of an activity with their drinking can join in for Tuesday night wine tastings, and should keep an eye out for special events like a recent “chardonnay showdown.’’ Just be sure not to skip the famous frites.
571 Washington St.
There’s a lot going on at Sip when it comes to food (sushi and short ribs on the same menu), but when it comes to wine, their list is useful and convenient, with generous portions.
Devra First writes, “Offerings are sorted into helpful categories, from ‘sweet & bubbly’ to ‘spicy reds.’ They come in user-friendly portions — sip, half glass, full glass, and bottle. How nice to be able to have a half glass of white and a half glass of red with different courses, or to sample a wine one is curious about.’’
But don’t head to this downtown restaurant seeking an adventure in oenophilia; many of their wines can be “easily found at the corner packie.’’
140 Boylston St.
“Troquet,’’ slang in French for a cozy bistro, was named one of the 100 best wine restaurants by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and earns the title with a wine list that changes daily based on picks by owner Chris Campbell.
There are more than 40 wines available by the glass alone, served in two- or four-ounce pours, and plenty of affordable wines available by the bottle (and also some for only the most special occasions).
“Troquet offers safe haven amid an epidemic of red wine served far too warm. If you want to drink a high-end bottle with dinner, there may be no better place in Boston to do it,’’ Devra First writes.
And don’t skip on the first-floor dessert lounge, Le Patissier — worth a return visit to the now 12-year-old locale.
201 Patriot Place
Located at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro boasts an impressive wine list, with categories like “interesting whites’’ and “interesting reds,’’ each divided into sections of light-bodied, medium-bodied, and full-bodied.
There are over 70 wines by the glass available, varying in price from $8 to $19, with the majority closer to the lower end of the spectrum.
Seasonal menus offer ingredients hailing from local farms, with bites like an artisinal cheese plate, a tomato-poached egg in a jar, and herb-marinated olives.