New Orleans may be the birthplace of the cocktail—that would be the Sazerac, the quintessential classic sip stirred with rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar—but right now grapes are what’s laissez les bons temps rouler in the Big Easy. Locals and visitors are flocking to the city’s wine bars for trending American producers, wines on tap, refreshing glasses for day drinking, and global flutes fizzing up with effervescence. Take a break from anything dispensed from a frozen daiquiri machine on Bourbon Street and even libations stirred or shaken and instead swirl, sniff and sip at one of these convivial wine dens.
It might be a tad tricky for your Lyft driver to locate this stunning bar housed in a former Catholic church that’s now part of the 59-room Hotel Peter and Paul. Just look for the door marked “rectory,” step through the small dining rooms and to the cozy low-lit lounge whose vaulted ceilings and arches flank bottles on the back bar. The wine focus is all-American with Oregon and California well-represented; try a glass of the slightly fizzy 2018 Patton Valley Petillant Naturel Rosé ($10) from the Willamette Valley, a balanced blend of all three Champagne grapes. If you prefer your wine fortified, an offering of seven low-alcohol vermouth and tonics ($7) includes herbal, bitter, and dry Lustau Vermut Rojo from Jerez, Spain, mixed with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic.
It’s no secret that kegged wines have become all the rage: it keeps its freshness, is über-drinkable and its low-carbon footprint means it's an eco-friendly choice you can feel good about imbibing. This laid-based wine gastropub in the Central Business District (CBD) offers 30 wines on tap; each is available in a 2.5-ounce half-glass, a 5-ounce full glass, an 8-ounce carafe or a full bottle meaning you don’t have to commit to an unfamiliar pour if you’d rather explore. Order a glass or a ready-made flight or build-your-own flight from a handful of half-glasses. The Tangent Albarino from Edna Valley, California ($10 a glass) is a peachy, mineral-driven American version of the Spanish grape from the Rias Baixas region while Poggio Nero d’Avola from Italy’s Sicily region ($6 a glass) is grippy yet approachable.
If owner and operator Crystal Hinds happens to be working the floor of her sparkling wine bar in the French Quarter she’ll certainly be bubbled over with excitement to recommend flutes from the motherland (that would be Champagne) and other global regions. The bar itself is swanky, sleek, and stark, adorned with chandeliers and lots of marble, but don’t let that give you the impression that it’s inaccessible to all but Champagne snobs. Au contraire. Iconic French houses like Krug, Salon and Billecart-Salmon are equally joined by unexpected finds on the by-the-glass list, which boasts 32 selections like Peter Lauer Brut Sekt ($21 a glass), a grower sparkler from Germany’s Mosel Region, and 2013 Gusbourne Brut Reserve ($22 a glass) from Sussex, England; all are available by the half- or full-glass. Flights explore Cava, American offerings, and all things pink. The Bubbles & Troubles cocktails even prove how perfect effervescence can be in elixirs.
When the weather is cooperative there is no better place to be than sitting at an umbrella-covered table on the patio of this wine bar in Mid-City. You’ll find around 30 wines on tap like the lemony, light, and refreshing 2016 Château l’Oiseliniè from France’s Loire Valley ($11 a glass) or the tart cherry notes of the 2016 Poggio Anima from Tuscany ($9 a glass), available by the glass or carafe. The menu of $5 wines by the glass during the all-day happy hour from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday will make you never want to vacate your seat. If you’ve arrived with a larger group peruse the bottle list for fun options like the 2018 Gonzalez Bastias Naranjo, a Moscatel-Torrontés blend from Chile's Maule Valley that gleans tart and funky notes from skin contact ($68 a bottle). And if you have friends who prefer grains to grapes, the adjacent Bayou Beer Garden is a hophead’s paradise.
What makes this spot in Uptown/Riverbend unique is the impressive wine list is grouped by palate and style rather than by region or varietal, meaning that it makes no difference if you don’t know grenache from Garganega or Robertson from Rioja. The ever-changing list offers dozens of wines by the glass and a hundred hand-selected bottle, meaning each new visit is a palate-pleasing new experience. Categories include "Flirting with Oak" (lightly-oaked wines), "Stones and Acid" (mineral-driven bottles), and "Bolder Chords" (big reds). Order a chilled glass of the 2017 Joseph Mellot Sancerre ($12 a glass) from France’s Loire Valley from the "Splendour in the Grass" menu; a whiff of its herbaceous nose will remind you of freshly cut grass in the summertime. The 2016 Lola Pinot Noir from California’s North Coast ($40 a bottle) is rich and smooth with low tannins and flavors of black cherries.