A Quick-Start Guide to the Best Wine Bars in Tokyo
While wine production in Japan got off to a relatively late start, appreciation of wine has increased rapidly in the last decade, and signs are following. The best wine bar in Tokyo is nearer to you than you might think.
Drinking culture in Japan is strong, with nomikais and after-work parties a near mandate for the average worker. However, the drink of choice is frequently beer or sake, with sake having over a thousand years of history in Japan. Wine production only began in the 1870s in Yamanashi, which makes it a relative newcomer in comparison.
Yet the wine industry in Japan has been growing. There are 331 wineries in Japan, based on figures provided by Japan's National Tax Agency. And according to a study published by Kirin, the present wine market has more than tripled compared to recorded numbers from 1989.
This bodes well for the oenophiles and the casual imbibers in Tokyo, or anyone looking for their next wine-based adventure. During these times, with travel options limited, exploring wines from far-off locales is not a bad second-place finish.
Word-of-mouth referrals are often the best way to navigate the Tokyo wine bar scene. Another trusty method is through GuruNavi or Tabelog, Japan's Yelp-styled review sites for eateries and drinkeries nationwide. But to start you off in your hunt for the best wine bar in Tokyo, we’ve gathered 6 of our favorites for you to look over.
For the wine lovers, a traditional wine bar in Ginza
An elegant wine bar in Ginza with a rotating list of rare wines and amuse-bouche menu, dedicated to helping you with serendipitous encounters in your wine journeys. Written up in several Japanese magazines and newspapers, it is still relatively unknown to visitors to Japan. With 11 seats, this is the perfect choice for when you want a quiet evening, a good conversation with a wine master, and an encounter with some gorgeous varieties. No service fee until after midnight. Reservations preferred.
Access: Ginza Subway Station, Tokyo Metro Line, Exit 1
Standing space only at this cozy nook in Ebisu
A cozy nook of a bar, Wine Stand Waltz is tucked away behind a metal entrance on a residential street that is not too far from Ebisu Station. Recognized by Parisians as someone at the forefront of Japan's natural wine movement, Mr. Oyama Yasuhiro began his career as a French chef but is now the owner of one of Tokyo's most popular natural wine bars. Small finger foods are available, but this is a standing-only bar, so it is ideal for after-meal drinks when you aren’t ready to call it a night. Walk-ins only.
Access: Ebisu, JR Line, East Exit
Non-traditional, yet perfect wine bar in Omotesando
A cozy wine bar that takes the best of European wine traditions and Japanese Izakaya-style comfort, serving a great selection of natural wines, Japanese wine, and okonomiyaki—and playing 70s and 80s records to set the mood. The interior is casual; the walls painted red. This is a great date spot or a place to hit if you want to slip into another world. A sommelier is on call, and the owner-chef prepares vegetarian and spicy foods, too. Reservations are possible.
Access: Omotesando Station, Tokyo Metro Line, Exit A5
Expect the best in this upscale Ginza wine bar
A fine wine bar that you can slip into, whether alone, after work, or with a date. They serve wine from 5 major chateaus, by the glass if you so prefer, and carefully selected aperitifs, such as prosciutto plates and cheeses from Fermier that will complement your wine tasting. The interior is stylishly decorated with comfy seats and an excellent view of city lights. A lovely addition to an evening out and about. Service fee: ¥1,000. Reservations are possible.
Access: Ginza Station, Tokyo Metro Line, 3 Exits A2 and B3
Elegant trattoria, café, and bar in Nakameguro
Upstairs is a trattoria, café, and bar with an open terrace garden and one full wall lined with books. Downstairs is Ristorante Scintilla, a fine-dining establishment with full courses that pair well with natural wines from Italy. Wine selection for both the upstairs café and the downstairs restaurant is carefully chosen by the owner and founder of HIBANA in Shinjuku. There is a walk-in cellar where you can peruse available vintages and order a glass or a bottle from off the shelves. A delight to visit at any time of the day or night. Reservations possible through Tabelog.
Access: Nakameguro Station, Tokyu Toyoko Line / Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line
Classic Italian cuisine + a delightful wine list in Hiroo
Near Hiroo Station, down a flight of narrow stairs, is this hidden treat. Chef Shohei Sasakawa studied in Italy and trained in Campagna and Tuscany, where he immersed himself in mastering the culinary techniques of the local regions he visited. Today, he has more than 20 years of experience and uses that to refine each dish he presents. The wine list is masterful and can be found on their website. This is the place to go when you want food that will surprise and delight you before your day comes to a close, paired with a vintage that will help you unwind. Reservations are possible by phone.
Access: Hiroo Station, Hibiya Line
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