To the untrained eye Boston might look like the kind of city where the grain, rather than the grape, is king. Bars full of keg-cracking sports nuts; a craft-brewing scene that’s off the charts, sprouting a citywide matrix of beards speckled with ale foam—for sure, these are the signposts of a hop-centric culture.
Look a little closer, however, and you’ll pick up the heady scents of a wine connoisseur revolution. If you swill Boston around in its glass, open it up and let the city caress your palate you’re going to discover a deep well of pleasure that, until now, few knew existed.
From cutting-edge shops that strip away the perceived elitism of wine world to easy-going events and locally-revered restaurants with wine lists that are the envy of New England, if not the entire U.S., Boston scores a world-class wine rating in all departments. OK, you may not overhear a reasoned debate on the flavor notes of a cheeky Pinot Noir or a flirtatious Riesling at Fenway Park or TD Garden too often, but make no mistake: the times they are a changin’.
Masterminded by Boston wine pioneer Daniel Bruce, executive chef at the Boston Harbor Hotel’s Meritage restaurant, the Boston Wine Festival heads into its 29th year. Highlights scheduled between January 12 and the end of March include an Old World/ New World Pinto Dinner, and a star turn from Napa Valley’s Opus One winery.
Apart from, perhaps, the mental image of Janis Joplin chugging rosé straight from the bottle, or Sting on holiday in Tuscany, rock n’ roll and wine are rarely paired. That’s all about to change with the arrival of City Winery, where musicians meet winemakers. January highlights include Talib Kweli and a Ridge Vineyards dinner.
Located near South Station on the fringe of Downtown Crossing—and a grape’s throw from The Greenway—Troquet on South supplements its excellent, modern French menu with a wine list that’s second to none. Owner/sommelier Chris Campbell has hand-picked 50 wines-by-the-glass and adds a range of numbered pairing suggestions. Bravo.
The Bay State’s wines may not get the same exposure as their glamorous western cousins in California and Washington State, but there are plenty of vineyards and wineries well worth checking out, from the bucolic wilds of The Berkshires to the outer reaches of The Cape. Massachusetts Wine Shop at Boston Public Market stocks more than 90 locally produced, handcrafted wines.
Located in a cozy basement in the Back Bay, Bauer Wine & Spirits has been seeking out great value wines for its customers for more than half a century. The shop prides itself on tasting every hand-picked bottle that appears on its shelves, and has a great selection of wines for under $15.
Industrial winemaking, it turns out, can draw on a slew of unexpected and rather shocking ingredients, including dried fish bladders and heavy metals. In reaction, a subculture of real wine—aka natural wine—has emerged. The Wine Bottega in the North End was founded on the conviction that “great natural wine can be extraordinary.”
The super-smart team behind The Urban Grape in the South End has developed a really helpful system they call Progressive Shelving, which sorts wine according to body rather than variety of grape or region. So, both reds and whites are categorized on a scale of one to 10, where one is light and ten is heavy. Clever.
There’s no shortage of reasons to visit the rapidly evolving Fort Point district, and one of the best is Mayhew Wine Shop The team is very friendly and supremely knowledgeable, and not only is there a rolling calendar of casual daily tastings, there’s also a free in-store tasting every Thursday 5-7 pm
The concept behind wine club Upper Glass is simple and extremely refreshing: find wines that taste way more expensive than the price on the bottle. The folks who came up with this scheme have hooked up with sommeliers and wine directors at a bunch of great Boston restaurants, so that they always have expertise on tap. We’ll drink to that.
Famous local brand/wine club Ninety+ Cellars was founded in Boston neighborhood, Brighton, 2009, to cut deals with highly rated wineries and vineyards so that top wines could be sold under the 90+ banner at a fraction of the usual price. It’s all about the value.