As the neon lights of Tokyo succeed the setting sun, there’s no better time to slink off into the evening to one of the city’s best wine bars. Choose from establishments offering up both the usual suspects, innovative new styles, boutique wineries and biodynamic beauties. Here’s a selection of our favorites…
Enoteca in Ginza Six, both wine bar and bottle shop, serves up a beguiling selection of more than 1,600 varieties of wine. The decadent design draws you in and the vast array of beautiful bottles makes you linger. Boasting the largest selection of wine in a Japanese retailer, from everyday expressions to luxury fine wines, Enoteca is an institution that lives up to its name. The extensive wine list, array of tasting options (numbering at least ten each day from ¥500 per glass) and knowledgeable staff make this a prime stop for any oenophile’s evening on the town. There’s even a food menu carefully created by chefs who have designed dishes for pairing, and there are wine tastings regularly throughout the year. March – September 8:30am – 6:30pm
GINZA SIX B2F
6-10-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku
If you’re looking for a little more of a vibe, Winestand Waltz is for you. Small, but perfectly formed, the bar only has space for 10 (12 at a push) patrons, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm and a seriously stylish biodynamic wine list. This beautifully curated bar is somewhat tricky to find, hidden down an Ebisu backstreet, the glass door amongst the greenery is what you’re aiming for. Once inside, snack on a selection of bistro style tapas (pâté de campagne, ratatouille and burrata are often on the simple but tasty menu) and wash them down with a glass of something interesting from the rotating list. Italian and French wines feature heavily, but there’s also a distinctly Japanese influence with homegrown wineries and several offerings made by Japanese producers in France.
4-24-3 Ebisu, Shibuya-Ku
Next up is a spot where pure unadulterated indulgence in exceptional wines and organic European fare is not only encouraged, but celebrated. Apéro Wine Bar in Aoyama takes its name from that perfect Provençal time of day; l’apéro, when work has been put to bed, friends have gathered for a glass of something delicious and tapas are being passed around to bring out the subtle nuances of liquid libations on offer. Owned by Frenchman Guillaume Dupérier and secreted away on the top floor of a three-story building, the glass-walled interior imparting a contemporary rooftop feel and the shelves stocked only with bottles made by those he shares a common philosophy with, and that he’d be happy to share with his customers. For sharing is a big part of the aura at Apéro Wine Bar. Each visit feels akin to seeing an old friend, offering up tried and tested recommendations alongside organic dishes lovingly prepared by Guillaume’s partner Chloé from recipes handed down by her parents, and some learned direct from the winemakers who are showcased within. They also have a fabulous weekend brunch with a free-flowing wine and champagne option.
3-4-6 Minami-aoyama, Minato-ku
Looking for something a little more eclectic? Ahiru Store might be the ticket. Rustic, casual and tiny, this place packs a punch with its alluring menu of hard-to-find natural wines and plates of pâté, steamy soups and crisp, freshly baked breads that are delivered to tables of Japanese hipsters with cult-like knowledge and appreciation of unwittingly cool natural winemakers. The combination of the peculiar menu and the laidback but charming hospitality means that the eight seats get filled rather quickly, with queues forming from late afternoon, well before the 6pm opening. Though if you can get a spot, the simple setting and soundtrack of clinking wine glasses over the hum of guests’ unhurried conversations and musings about the wines are certain to make all the pains of waiting in line disappear into nothing.
1-19-4 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku
Last on the list is another wine shop/bar, no.501, that delivers hedonism in abundance. The wine list changes according to what’s arrived from the continental vineyards and is proffered up in a luminous maze of neon shelving in the warehouse style shop, at the rear of which sits the cozy counter bar. Again, the selection focuses on natural wines with a smattering of small plates whose simplicity sings out, accompanying the wines on offer with an artistic gusto that will have you longing for more. The staff, as interesting and authentic as the wines, are a highlight of the visit, proffering knowledgeable, tailored suggestions that result in a fantastically well-rounded wine experience.
2-5-4 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
In a country where wine has a relatively recent history, a vibrant wine scene has emerged, just ripe for raising a toast to. European style treasure-troves and charming new world and natural focused followers have coalesced into a heady dream that is rivaling homegrown booze bars. A pure delight to watch.