New Orleans has always loved its wine. Our French roots and culinary fortitude have created a perfect environment for wines from the new and old worlds to find appreciative palates. The last several years have seen a significant increase in specialty wine bars, so it’s no longer necessary to go to a restaurant like Commander’s Palace, Restaurant R’evolution, or August to get a fix of the good stuff.
Cultural aspects of wine in NOLA life abound — the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE), held every May, is one of New Orleans’ well-known events. It’s been around for more than 20 years, raising money for culinary non-profit organizations (don’t miss the Royal Street Stroll). Elsewhere in the city’s cultural fabric, wine has its own Mardi Gras krewe — the Krewe of Cork — that parades every Carnival season in the French Quarter. There are multiple wine social groups, wine tasting groups, wine dinners… trust us, New Orleans is the place to get your wine on. And here are a few places to start:
New Orleans Wine Bars
315 N Rendon St.
Open 7 days a week at 11 a.m.
The newest player on the wine scene, Bayou Wine Garden is from the same team that brought New Orleans the Bayou Beer Garden. In fact, it backs right up to the beer garden, and the two bars share a courtyard. Featuring 32 wines on tap between the indoor and outdoor bars, plus craft wine cocktails, and a happy hour menu from 3:30-6:30 p.m. that includes a raw oyster bar and smoked chicken cracklins, this establishment is everything that anyone with taste buds would want to check out (bonus: it’s also dog-friendly). BWG also has a stellar cheese selection and house-made charcuterie program, which features traditional meat preparation as well some more exotic meats like boar, alligator, and goat.
8118 Oak St.
Open Tues-Sat at 5 p.m.
Another wine bar that shares outdoor space with a beer bar, Ale. In this case, Oak was the first one of the pair to hit the chic Riverbend stretch of Oak Street. Oak has a selection of small plates designed by Patois chef Aaron Burgau and hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Their considerable wine list is grouped by palate notes like “Stones and Roses,” “Herbs and Smoke,” and “Bolder Chords.” Pro tip: head there on Wednesday nights for half-price bottles of wine.
3641 Magazine St.
Open Mon-Sat at 4 p.m.
Next door to the Uptown bistro Lilette, this retro-chic gastro-wine bar also focuses on spirits and cocktails. The food menu offers a variety of items that are perfect when out on the town, living it up with the pretty people: think grilled octopus, various crostini, cured meats like jamon serrano, and, of course, the ever-important “Fried Brown & Crunchy” section of the menu, which includes dishes like gouda beignets and butternut squash fritters.
610 Tchoupitoulas St.
Open 7 days a week at 2 p.m.
The excellent acronym of the Wine Institute of New Orleans notwithstanding, W.I.N.O. lives up to its name with its 120 wines sold by the ounce in the self-serving wine bar. Dangerously simple and delicious, the self-service system uses a tasting card to rack up all your ounces of various wines (which can run from $1-$20). When you’re finished, simply pay your tasting bar tab at the register. W.I.N.O. has a significant education component with classes and guided tastings, and also makes things fun with a regular, light-hearted, blind wine tasting competition.
4525 Freret St.
Open 7 days a week
Freret Street’s restaurant explosion now includes Bar Frances, a Parisian-inspired spot with several options for natural and organic wines. Find 17 sparkling wines, 38 whites, 5 roses, 3 orange wines (the New York Post deemed these “the new rose“), and 41 reds. Dishes like a charcuterie plate, tuna nicoise salad, chicken liver mousse, and steak frites extend the Parisian vibe.
3442 St Charles Ave.
Open 7 days a week, Mon-Thurs at 5 p.m., Fri-Sun at 3 p.m.
The Delachaise has long been known for its great wine, creative food, and romantic atmosphere — it’s a very popular place for couples to get engaged. Set right on the Mardi Gras parade route, it’s also a relatively sophisticated (and very delicious) way to watch the parades go by. With more than 20 wines available by the glass (and a surprisingly solid beer list) plus a French- and international-inspired food menu (think anything from moules frites to mofongo), this funky wine bar is one of the city’s most under-the-radar institutions. Pro tip: Order at the bar. It’s required.
7708 Maple St.
Open Tues-Fri starting at 3 p.m. and Sat-Sun starting at 11:30 a.m.; closed Mon
Just two blocks from the St. Charles Streetcar line, Delachaise’s kid sister, Chais Delachaise on Maple Street, keeps the same bistro feel and solid wine list. Sip from the happy hour menu 3-6 p.m. (check their Instagram for specials) and enjoy the tidy front patio if the weather’s nice. Notably, almost all of their wines are available by the glass or the bottle.
3143 Ponce De Leon St.
Open Tues-Sat at 11 a.m., and Mondays at noon
This laid-back wine shop/lounge features free weekly tastings, wine classes, dinners, and special events. It’s located in the Bayou St. John neighborhood next door to the 1000 Figs restaurant, who also provides a menu of small plates for Swirl. The shop carries a selection of reasonably priced, well-curated bottles for sale, and many of them range from $12-30 dollars. Keep an eye on their social media (@swirlnola) — sometimes free live music will pop up during happy hour, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. and features half-priced wines by the glass.
3700 Orleans Ave #1C
Open 7 days a week at noon
Located in the renovated American Can Company in Mid-City (close to the Canal Street streetcar as well as the Lafitte Greenway), Pearl Wine offers both wine shopping and wine drinking experiences. The wine bar area features more than 25 wines by the glass, a wide beer selection for only $3, and a full cocktail bar. Monday nights are for a “Mani and Martini,” where $20 gets you a drink and a manicure. Bonus: they deliver.
600 Poland Ave
Open 7 days a week at 11 a.m.
What started as a simple wine store deep in the Bywater has grown to be one of the best New Orleans experiences a visitor or local can have. The kitchen has grown from a pop-up style to an actual full-time kitchen (which is fantastic), and there’s an inside bar space for cocktails or to escape the courtyard when the weather is foul or the mosquitos are in full force.
Bacchanal bills itself as “NOLA’s Backyard Party,” and the casual, jovial atmosphere in the courtyard during one of its nightly, no-cover live jazz jams underscores that motto. Pick a bottle of wine out in the shop, and the staff will ring you up and send you on your way to your table with the opened bottle and glasses. You can also do something similar with the cheese plate. Bring up however many cheeses you want, and they’ll arrange it into a badass cheese plate. Traditional wines by the glass are served upstairs in the indoor bar.
730 Bienville St.
Open 7 days a week at 4 p.m. Mon-Thurs and 1 p.m. Fri-Sun
This French Quarter spot is the fruit of owner Patrick van Hoorebeek’s journey from long-time maitre’d for some of the city’s best restaurants to having a place of his own to serve a wide variety of wine by the glass, European-style small plates, and, true to his Belgian heritage, several beers from that country. van Hoorebeek was also instrumental in founding the oenophile Mardi Gras revelers’ Krewe of Cork and remains its king to this day. Patrick’s Bar Vin also offers climate- and temperature-controlled wine lockers for serious wine folks to rent.
1906 Magazine St.
Open Tues-Sun at 4 p.m.
An eclectically decorated, high-ceilinged hidden gem in the Lower Garden District, The Tasting Room (or TTR) provides a relaxed environment to sip ample wines from Italy, Spain, and France. Enjoy the dog-friendly back courtyard (open rain or shine) and the small plate and cheese offerings. Happy hour is from 4-7 p.m. daily and features $5 glasses of red, white, and sparkling wine. Their new Aperitivo program runs Tuesday through Thursday from 4-6 p.m and is based on an Italian ritual of meeting up with friends for a social, pre-dinner drink and bite. Ten bucks gets a glass of wine and a plate of small bites created by the chef.
300 Gravier St.
Open 7 days a week – at 11:30 a.m. Mon-Sat, and at 11 a.m. Sun
This old-school soft leather and dark wood bar speaks to all things of wealth, but you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy one of the 600-plus wines in the Polo Club’s Lounge’s collection. The bar menu is well known for its crab cakes, and also offers gumbo, fried oysters, and a blue crab remoulade sandwich. They also host live jazz five nights a week and offer an extensive menu of classic and original cocktails.
715 St. Charles Avenue
Open Mon-Fri at 11:30, and Saturday at 5 p.m.
A family-run, small local chain based in Lafayette (it has a third location in Metairie as well), Marcello’s offers a classic Italian dining experience in the Warehouse District well complemented by its formidable wine list. Choose a bottle of wine to go with the marsala pork cheek or chicken cacciatore by browsing the open shelves, which house the restaurant’s entire wine collection. The folks at Marcello’s pride themselves on offering wine well below the usual restaurant markup.
720 Orleans St.
Open 7 days a week at 4 p.m.
Mad respect for a place that offers a complimentary glass of bacon for their two happy hours — 4-6 p.m. and 10 p.m.-midnight. They also have reduced prices on wine and cocktails, but come on, anyone can do that. The Orleans Grapevine can’t decide if it’s a wine bar or a restaurant, and it does both very well with a great wine list, well-priced flights, and hearty entrees like rack of lamb, seared scallops, and filet mignon. It’s steps away from Bourbon Street and can feel like a French Quarter oasis that you never want to leave. And why would you need to?
1036 N. Rampart St.
Open Wed-Sun at 4 p.m.
If you like your wine sparkling, this spot on North Rampart delivers. Sip bubbly by the glass (there are 18 different by-the-glass sparkling wines to choose from), or buy a whole bottle (choose from 90 different kinds). Should you attend with someone who prefers still, Effervescence has you covered with 9 still wines by the glass and 25 bottles. A variety of light bites are a perfect, posh complement.
2805 St Claude Ave.
Open Tues-Sun at noon
On St. Claude right at the Marigny/Bywater border, this family-friendly, neighborhood wine shop/wine bar supports local businesses, artists, and entrepreneurs by providing space to promote their endeavors. Even better, there’s some terrific wine to try by the glass or take home while you’re at it. Free wine tastings every Wednesdays and a killer $10-or-less wine section in the back.