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City guide to Amsterdam for wine lovers

While Amsterdam may not be renowned for its domestic wine selection, it nonetheless captivates keen wine lovers with its vibrant array of wine and culinary offerings.

The Netherlands might not be synonymous with wine culture: both its northerly latitude and the fact that much of the country is below sea level make it a little difficult to grow vines (although the southernmost regions are increasingly home to many of the same grapes as Germany). But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of satisfied wine lovers in Amsterdam, the country’s vibrant capital.

Amsterdam punches well above its weight in many respects. While the city’s population is still less than a million, it counts around 180 nationalities among its inhabitants and up to a whopping 20 million visitors per year. All of this means that a trip to Amsterdam doesn’t stop at a bike ride through the city’s UNESCO World Heritage canal belt or a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. Amsterdam’s cosmopolitan culture comes across in its thousands of restaurants and bars, featuring everything from Dutch pancakes to authentic Japanese ramen, and from heady bock beers to fascinating wines from all over the world. In fact, it’s perhaps the very absence of a strong domestic wine culture that has made Amsterdam’s wine bars the eclectic mix they are today. You’ll find some specialising in natural wines, others in sparkling wines and others still in lesser-known wine regions.

Like many cities in northern Europe, Amsterdam comes alive in summer – with its long, light evenings, dozens of green spaces and sprawling café terraces. But summer also brings a glut of tourists, making the city busier and more crowded than it is during the colder months. And what could be lovelier than cosying up in a softly lit wine bar in December with a rich, ripe glass of red? As the Dutch would say: gezellig.

Paskamer

Lutmastraat 132
Mon – Fri 16:00 – 00:00; Sat & Sun 15:00 – 00:00

Tucked away off the beaten path in the De Pijp neighbourhood, Paskamer offers around 50 wines by the glass and hundreds by the bottle. The staff are extremely knowledgeable, with many having studied at the Amsterdam Wine Academy, which is run by the same duo as Paskamer. Entrepreneurs Fransje van Santen and Wouter Aalst don’t stop at wine, though. Book a table in the evening and you’ll be treated to a range of shareable dishes, each of which can be expertly paired with the wines on offer that day. Think smoky octopus with spicy mayo served with a minerally Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) from Pfalz. Or sesame and horseradish marinated salmon with an Alsace Pinot Blanc carrying just a touch of residual sweetness.

Image: Tapas served at Oocker. Credit: Vicky Hampton

Oocker

Frederiksplein 29h
Mon, Tue & Thu 15:00 – 23:00; Fri & Sat 15:00 – 00:00; Sun 15:00 – 22:00

At the end of fashionable Utrechtsestraat, Oocker occupies a narrow space that’s typical of Dutch architecture – transformed into not only a cosy bar but also a little sun trap of a terrace. Oocker’s list of around 350 wines is diverse, coming from all over the world and at many different price points. But the quality and thoughtfulness behind each bottle is undeniable. From a smooth Jura Crémant to a minerally Dão white blend to a buttery Argentinian Chardonnay, every recommendation is spot on. During the afternoon, Oocker offers a limited menu of upscale snacks (such as Ibérico ham croquettes or burrata bruschetta), but in the evening a more extensive menu of hot dishes is available. The bone marrow is a particular treat, especially with a full-bodied red!

Rayleigh & Ramsay

Van Woustraat 97; Van Noordtstraat 28
Mon – Thu 15.00 – 01.00; Fri & Sat 12.00 – 02.00; Sun 12.00 – 23.00

Rayleigh & Ramsay describes itself as a candy store for adults, and as soon as you walk into one of its two locations you can see why. More than 100 wines are available by the glass, half glass and tasting sample from a dozen or so wine dispensing machines. The blanket system is used to ensure the open wines are perfectly preserved, and each machine is kept at exactly the right temperature for the wines it holds. What’s more, there are information cards above each bottle, so you can go full wine nerd. It’s a fantastic way to taste wines you might otherwise never get to try – whether that’s a pricy Puligny Montrachet (a half glass will set you back just a few euros, while a full bottle would be unaffordable for many) or an experimental Canadian wine that you’ve never heard of.

Image: Rayleigh & Ramsay. Credit: Vicky Hampton

Bottleshop

Wibautstraat 130
Wed & Thu 18:00 – 00:00; Fri 17:00 – 02:00; Sat 17:00 – 1:00; Sun 13:00 – 18:00

The trend for natural wines has hit Amsterdam hard in the last couple of years, so it’s no surprise that one of Amsterdam’s hottest new additions in 2023 was a natural wine bar. Bottleshop is east of the river, occupying a black & white-striped, ultra-modern building on the up-and-coming Wibautstraat. Even if you’re not 100% convinced by natural wines, Bottleshop’s fruity, farmyard-y French Gamay and juicy, low-extraction Cabernet Franc may well have you converted. Add some pungent, unpasteurised French cheeses, or even just a wedge of sourdough bread with creamy salted butter, and you’ve got a low-intervention match made in heaven.

GlouGlou

Tweede van der Helststraat 3
Mon – Fri 15:00 – 00:00; Sat & Sun 14:00 – 0:00

Staying in the natural wine theme, GlouGlou was perhaps the first wine bar in Amsterdam to really embrace the trend (and before it was trendy). GlouGlou is small and homely, in keeping with its location in de Pijp neighbourhood, with dark wooden walls and a hotchpotch of tables crammed inside and out. There is a wine list, but it’s generally more exciting (and better value) to go off menu and order a few glasses of whatever surprise bottles have been opened that day. In addition to being organic, the wines are made without industrial yeast or filtration – so they skew cloudy and funky. GlouGlou also puts on an annual Beaujolais Nouveau party, which is fun if you happen to be in Amsterdam on the third Thursday in November!

Image: Bar Pif. Credit: Vicky Hampton

Bar Pif

Tweede Tuindwarsstraat 10
Mon, Tue & Thu 17.00 – 00.00; Fri & Sat 16.00 – 01.00; Sun 16.00 – 23.00

No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without visiting the maze of narrow cobbled streets and canals that is the Jordaan. And when it’s time for a pit stop, you’ll find Bar Pif: Dutch canal house on the outside, Parisian bistro on the inside. The wine list is also made up primarily of natural wines, but many of them are a little more accessible to traditional wine lovers. If hipster rosé field blends and skin contact orange wines are not your thing, you’ll find more traditional Champagnes and Barolos, too. Meanwhile, there’s a menu of internationally inspired sharing plates to choose from: think French oeuf mayonnaise but with a mushroom XO sauce.

4850

Camperstraat 48-50
Dinner Thu – Sun from 18:00; coffee & buns Mon – Sun 9:00 – 15:00

It’s hard to say whether 4850 is more of a restaurant, a wine bar or a coffee house. In the daytime, it does an excellent line in flat whites and pillowy cinnamon buns. But in the evening, it transforms into a casual-yet-quality eatery that’s known for its extensive wine selection as much as its Nordic-inspired menu. Owner Daniel Schein’s wine list focuses on France – in particular Burgundy, Jura, Champagne and the Loire Valley – but with around 700 bottles on offer it’s fair to say the rest of the world is also well represented. The à la carte food menu is short but well-curated, using local ingredients with a nod to Schein’s Nordic heritage.

Bubbles & Wines

Nes 37
Tue – Sat 15:00 – 0:00, Sun 15:00 – 22:00

Bubbles & Wines may be last in this list, but it’s by no means least. In fact, when it opened almost 20 years ago, it was one of the only credible wine bars in Amsterdam – arguably paving the way for all the others and single-handedly raising the profile of wines in Amsterdam. As its name suggests, Bubbles & Wines specialises in Champagne and sparkling wines, plus a wide range of Old World and New World still wines. Its location just off Dam square inevitably invites tourists, but plenty of locals are loyal to this Amsterdam wine stalwart as well. If you can’t decide what to drink, the ‘High Wines’ arrangement comes highly recommended: six or eight half glasses of wine in a range of styles, with paired bites. The Parmesan with truffle honey and Rioja rosado is inspired.


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