From century-old watering holes to envelope-pushing vinotecas to secret somm hangouts, these are some of the best in town.
First, sherry poured from a barrel and a handful of fried almonds; next, an amphora-aged airén and crunchy pig-ear ssäms; later, a limited-release tempranillo and slow-braised beef cheeks—in Madrid, there’s no better way to dine than by embarking on a wine bar crawl. Lately the wine gods have been shining brightly on the Spanish capital: Beyond the city’s old guard of dusty bodegas, where diehards still flock for sturdy Riojas and comfort-food cuisine, the city now boasts a bevy of trendy wine bars specializing in little-known varietals, funky natural wines, and nueva cocina tapas. In other words, there’s no better time than now to taste Madrid’s past, present, and future through the offerings at its varied vinotecas.
To make the most of your evening, start late—no earlier than 8 p.m., unless you enjoy the solitude of an empty bar—and ask whomever’s behind the bar what wines they’ve been loving lately. Remember that in this part of Spain, every copa should come with a sidekick—a slice of sausage here, a dollop of ensaladilla there—so if you don’t get one because the bartender is in the weeds, insist: “¿El aperitivo, por favor?”
Keep these pointers in mind and this list in your back pocket, and you’ll be ready to wine and dine like a Madrileño.
Bendito Vinos y Vinilos
Hidden among the meat and produce stalls in Mercado de San Fernando, you’ll find Bendito Vinos y Vinilos, Madrid’s premier natural wine bar. It’s the passion project of José González, a bespectacled wine savant who knows his fruit days from his root days and will choose your wine accordingly (ask him how the amphora-fermented “Kapis” by Daniel Ramos are drinking; they’re a rare treat). Cured meats and cheeses purveyed from small European producers are plated, as the bar’s name suggests, on repurposed vinyl records.
Bendito Vinos y Vinilos, Calle de Embajadores, 41, Stall #4; mercadodesanfernando.es; +34 661 750 061
A photo of this Barrio de las Letras standby, with its inviting picture windows, old-timey marble façade, and hand-painted signage, would make a fine postcard. There’s a cheese and wine shop up front, perfect for light grazing, and more tables out back should you wish to hunker down with a bottle or two. While you wait for hot tostas spread with bloomy Torta del Casar cheese or smoky Majorcan sobrassada, González’s star dishes, settle in with a glass of Coca i Fitó, an elderflower-scented garnacha blanca from Catalonia.
Rustic brick walls, twinkly lights, and a playlist of slow jams make La Fisna a cozy place to bring a date (or friend or book—whatever melts your butter). Co-owners Delia and Iñaki are bigtime francophiles, so if you want to sample, say, a red Sancerre or a vin jaune by the glass in Madrid, it’s basically La Fisna or bust. The latter sings alongside the bar’s crispy octopus, sprinkled with bacon dust and cut into medallions over a bed of spicy revolcona potatoes.
This geeky yet casual wine bar in the heart of the gay-friendly Chueca neighborhood is run by a proud Castile–La Mancha native named Vicente. Though his list boasts wines from more than 70 Spanish DOs (denominations of origin), he’s a loud advocate for his native region's many unsung bottles such as the spicy monastrell-syrah blend by Bodegas Mainetes, a steal at €3 a glass. It stands up nicely to the kitchen’s lomo de orza, an old-school Manchegan delicacy of pork tenderloin preserved in lard.
Vinoteca Vides, Calle Libertad, 12; vinotecavides.es; +34 915 318 444
There’s nothing remotely pretentious about this wine-focused restaurant on Calle Ferraz, the locals-only tapas street that empties out onto the Parque del Oeste, but don’t be fooled by the informality of it all—Entrevinos’s t-shirted waitstaff know their stuff. Let them steer you toward Spanish grape varieties you’ve probably never heard of such as maturana, prieto picudo, or albillo. Cabernet franc fans shouldn’t miss the earthy Galician caíño produced by Galiardo winery.
A diamond in the rough on the tourist-mobbed tapas street Cava Baja, Taberna Tempranillo has retained the snug feel of a classic Spanish tavern while its neighbors went the way of subway tiles and Edison bulbs. Every glass of wine comes with a complimentary tapa of better-than-average salchichón, a peppery dry-cured sausage, and the cobwebbed wine wall flanked with dangling jamones makes for excellent Instagrams.
Taberna Tempranillo, Calle Cava Baja, 38; +34 91 364 15 32
It’s sherry or nothing at this throwback bar on Calle Echegaray that hasn’t been renovated in almost a century. Here, amontillado flows from weathered oak barrels, a black cat prowls beneath elbow-worn tables, and tabs are chalked right onto the long wooden bar. At La Venencia, time seems to have stood still since the days when Hemingway was a regular and Republican revolutionaries convened in the back room to conspire against Franco in the lead-up to the Spanish Civil War—and that’s precisely why we love it.
La Venencia, Calle Echegaray, 7; +34 914 29 73 13
Blink and you could miss Café Di Vino, a cubbyhole with three tables on Calle Manuela Malasaña that’s not on any of the lists. Lourdes, the owner, always has a few bottles open in the back and will happily pour you a glass or four of her latest discoveries.
Café DiVino, Calle de Manuela Malasaña, 23; cafedivino.es; +34 914 46 49 50
It would be dangerous to live above De Vinos, a wine bar that’s so homey you’d likely never leave. You could spend hours leaning on the marble bar chewing the fat with Yolanda, the establishment’s chatty owner, and quaffing her lovingly chosen wines. (Hot tip: Her cavas are consistently exceptional.) They pair swimmingly with quintessential Spanish snacks like translucent ibérico ham, canned mussels en escabeche, and dense Idiazabal cheese.
De Vinos, Calle de la Palma, 76; +34 911 82 34 99
This 80-year-old bodega embodies the local slang term castizo, which loosely translates to “rootsy” or “authentic.” Defunct clay tinajas (amphorae) tower behind the beat-up wooden bar. Crumpled napkins and olive pits litter the uneven tile floor. Regulars huddled around cheese plates erupt in laughter and slap one other’s backs. You get the sense that things at Casa Gerardo haven’t changed in decades—that is, except for the wines, which are surprisingly intriguing: Taste a Spanish gewürztraminer or a pinot noir rosé from the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Calle Ponzano, Madrid’s trendiest tapas street, upped its wine game in 2016 with the arrival of Taberna Averías, a vinoteca with dozens of wines by the glass and hundreds more by the bottle, plus elegantly plated tapas to boot. The sherry selection is particularly deep here, and it’s nice to see so much mencía—León’s exquisite, highly underappreciated red—on the list.
As you sip a citrusy Leonese abarín or inky Castilian tempranillo in this 151-year-old bodega located steps from the Plaza Mayor, look around: You’ll see painted wrought-iron columns, an obsolete seltzer machine, ornate bronze beer taps, a tin bar covered in nicks and dings—Ricla shows its age, and it’s all the more charming for it. Food-wise, the elderly patronne’s slow-simmered callos, or tripe, are downright panacean on a cold day, but if innards make you squeamish, the olive oil-cured bacalao is almost as satisfying.
A Parisian-style bar à vin plopped in the center of Madrid, Bistrot Cascorro is where French expats go to get their wine and comfort-food fix. Indulge in France’s greatest culinary hits here—from cassoulet to escargots to homemade pâté de campagne—and wash them down with bold natural wines, of which there are 40 by the glass.
Snagging a barstool in this La Latina hole-in-the-wall is the closest you’ll get to sunny Andalucía without hopping on the AVE. Flash-fried seafood, hefty pours of jerez, and that region’s signature alegría are omnipresent in the bar room adorned with vibrant azulejo tiles and meter-long strands of dried chile peppers. Manzanilla, the dry, slightly saline sherry hailing from the coastal city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, is the wine to get here.
Sanlúcar, Calle San Isidro Labrador, 14; la-taberna-sanlucarlalatina.business.site; +34 913 54 00 52
You could try a new wine every day for a year at Angelita and still not reach the bottom of the list. Sommelier David Villaón, the brains behind the restaurant’s ambitious wine program, has compiled a treasure trove of national and international selections that run the gamut from spätlese rieslings to grower champagnes to local garnachas from the Sierra de Gredos. His zany, forward-thinking vision percolates into to the kitchen as well, where chefs coax produce from Villaón’s family farm into dishes like char-grilled spring onions topped with beetroot romesco sauce.