Philadelphia is a city known for its BYOB culture. But as the liquor laws have loosened up, restaurants and bars have stepped up their game, keeping up with a renaissance of interesting bottle shops. These days, a wide variety of bottles, glasses, and half glasses from excellent producers all over the world — even right here in Pennsylvania — can be had at savvy wine destinations. In this beer lovin’ town, there's even a local group of wine pros who run wine weeks and other wine-centric events. Sip right at Philly’s best wine bars and restaurants.Read More
Philly’s Wine Bars Have Come Into Their Own
When you don’t want to BYOB, seek out these restaurants and bars pouring gorgeous wines by the glass from all over the world — including right here in Pennsylvania
Along with imported selections like South African pinot gris and Spanish rosé, Martha serves an assortment of Pennsylvania wines from producers like Stony Run Winery and Wayvine Winery & Vineyard. Sip it in the quirky Kensington courtyard with a classic Italian or veggie-filled vegan hoagie.
This wine bar and retail shop has been on Frankford Avenue since before Fishtown was cool. It’s still the place to go for organic, biodynamic, and natural wines. Fishtown Social owner Vanessa Wong sources her bottles from less-common regions and small wineries around the globe. Pair the drinks with a charcuterie board or a plate of Fishtown Pickles. Wong also runs the wine shop Wahine Wine Company down the Jersey Shore in Ventnor City.
Yes, that Johnny Brenda’s: Fishtown’s beer bar and music venue also has a cool wine program. Owner Will Reed helped successfully lobby Harrisburg to legalize draft wine, and he serves a rotating list of domestic and imported wine on tap.
A.bar’s 17-page wine list includes offbeat wines alongside iconic labels, favoring those produced with minimal intervention by the vintner. This Rittenhouse destination is owned by Ellen Yin of High Street Hospitality Group, who just won a prestigious James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur.
Not enough Philadelphians give Old City’s Panorama the attention it deserves. Long-time wine director William Eccleston curates the Italian restaurant and wine bar’s 400 bottles, 120 taps, flights, and 150 wines by the glass, which vary by the week. There's so much to choose from here that it's noted as the largest wine preservation and dispensing system in the world by Guinness World Records.
Along with a robust sherry collection, Townsend Wentz’s Oloroso offers a list of all Spanish glass pours, broken into four categories: sparkling, white, rosé, and red. And the Center City tapas bar pulls from all over the country, including emerging regions, so the list is much deeper than the standard Riojas and cavas. In South Philly, Wentz’s eponymous French restaurant, Townsend, also features a robust wine list that grounds itself in the classics while dipping into more unusual selections.
A pastry chef at heart, Vedge co-owner Kate Jacoby went after her first-level sommelier certification once she heard the acclaimed vegan restaurant was getting a liquor license. Since then, her international collection of natural and organic wines has grown into what might be considered one of the most conscientious and eclectic lists in town. From orange to Lambrusco, the wines at this Center City vegan institution are always of the moment.
Jet Wine Bar
Globetrotting archaeologist Jill Weber drew inspiration from wine regions she’s visited around the world for this South Street staple. Jet Wine Bar pours off-the-beaten-path styles like Georgian Rkatsiteli and Turkish Çalkarası rosé. Classes, tastings, a wine club, a wine retail shop, and a rollicking wine garden keep things fresh.
Bloomsday pours wine at its all-day cafe and also sells bottles to go from its Fancy Wine Shop. The Headhouse Square charmer is the place to try bubbly from Pennsylvania and Champagne, funky pet-nats, and orange wines from Slovenia. The list also includes more familiar old- and new-world options.
The Good King Tavern
The Good King Tavern takes an uncommon approach to its wine descriptions: The French favorite in Queen Village labels its reds, whites, and bubbles by the glass “good,” “better,” and “best.” If that still doesn’t simplify the process of picking a wine, the bartenders know their stuff and are well-equipped to answer questions. The same is true upstairs at sibling Le Caveau, a sexy wine bar and retail shop with an equally strong selection and staff.
Every Monday night from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., the bar at Queen Village’s charming Southwark restaurant becomes Winewark. It’s when sommelier Jamie Harrison Rubin pours rare and fun bottles, like 2007 Barolo and 1993 Jura. The kitchen is closed, but delightful bar snacks, like fried macaroni, are available.
Le Virtù sources its wine exclusively from Italy, shining a light on the food and drink of Abruzzo in particular — if it’s an Italian wine that’s hard to find elsewhere, this East Passyunk pioneer will probably have it. Sip these stunners in South Philly’s most charming garden along with a plate of fresh pasta.