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York – a wine lover’s guide

The wine scene in York is as engrossing as the city itself, offering an ever-evolving mix of bold new ventures and old classics that get better with age, says Sean Dodson who picks 10 of the best wine bars to visit.

York is a small but beautifully compact city, rich in both architecture and culture. Inside its medieval walls you will enjoy a maze of narrow streets, layered with history and filled with great bars, shops and museums. York is easy to like, devilishly hard to leave.

Pairings Wine Bar

Pairings wine bar

Pairings Wine Bar

What we like about it

If you love great wine and want to discover new grapes and styles in a relaxed interior, then Pairings is the smart choice.

Hosted by two sisters, Kate and Kelly Latham, Pairings is all about enjoying new wines and perhaps sampling from a menu of small plates and sharing boards. It’s a supremely relaxed affair, both stylish and comfortable, and fairly priced to boot.

Wine list

Quite simply, ten pages of wine heaven. The list is arranged by style, from ‘light and crisp’ to ‘bold and powerful’, and you can order by the glass, or carafe (500ml) or bottle. Flights — a trio of 3x75ml glasses — are popular and each comes with a theme. Coravin and natural flights are offered too, as are specific flights-with-food.

What to order

All to be commended, of course, but if you fancy a deeper dive then Orbitofrontal Cortex Blankbottle, £50, a blend of eight white grapes from Stellenbosch, is a delicious swoop into luscious fruit. Marlborough’s Gem 2009, £49, is matured on its lees for eight long years and defies your expectations of Sauvignon Blanc — a delicate acidity beautifully underpins a bewitching blossom-filled glow.

  • 28 Castlegate, YO1 9RP
  • Sunday to Thursday 12 – 11pm, Friday to Saturday 11am – 12am
  • pairings.co.uk

Enoteca by L’Uva

Enoteca

What we like about it

This super-cool wine bar — perfect for date nights — is conveniently located next to the main shopping area. As the name suggests, Enoteca specialises in Italian wine and has a fine line in antipasto, plus a wicked wood-fired pizza thrown in for good measure. It sources all of its wines directly from Italy — 95% are exclusive to the UK — so with no intermediary, prices are accessible.

Wine list

The bottle-list offers a great variety, encompassing 14 of Italy’s wine regions on a single, sharply-written sheet. Veneto and Piedmont are the most popular, but it is the wide range of lesser-known regions and rare grape varietals that entice. The main list features 30 bottles, but there’s also a “secret” list with over 200. You can ask for both.

What to order

The Ippolito 1845 from Calabria, derived from a revival of an ancient white grape, Pecorello, is fresh and nicely sour. The Sardinian Cagnulari Isola dei Nuraghi, £35, another revived varietal, has a nose like a struck match and is warm and ever-so moreish. Marika Verdicchio Dei Castell, £42, uses frozen grapes to intensify its floral profile. It is less sweet, but more quaffable, than natural icewine.

2 Many Wines

What we like about it

Talk about a game-changer. Since it opened in September, Cyriaque Lajoinie and Benjy Berluti have styled this former-bookmakers into an attractive wine shop and tasting room, a veritable caviste bar a vin (pictured top). Located just outside the wall, in the city’s trendy Bishopthorpe Road area, the pair have been packing them in, even on school nights. So get there early.

Wine list

There’s an informal sheet of A4 listing 15 of the current faves, with this year’s top-of-the-pops Ferrari Trento, £44.5, the only permanent fixture. It’s a great list, admittedly, full of fresh suggestions, but it is the entire contents of the shop, the hundreds of bottles shelved neatly along one wall, that provides the extended bottle-list. A modest £10 corkage makes any bottle on the premises available for the immediate partaking — if you can get a table.

What to order

The shelves are arranged stylistically — literally colour-coded — wallflower whites at one end; chest-out heavy reds at the other. Pick, say, a Kelly Washington Pinot Blanc, for £29-a-bottle to take home — £39 to drink in-house. If you prefer by-the-glass, Climat No1, a Sauvingon Blanc from Touraine, £8.2 is exceptional. While the Unanime, 2017, £9.5, an easy pick-of-the-reds.

  • 3 Bishopthorpe Road, Y023 1NA
  • 10am-10pm, til 10.30pm Friday and Saturday
  • 2manywines.co.uk

Cave du Couchon

What we like about it

A few doors down from Le Cochon Aveugle — often regarded as one of the finest contemporary restaurants in York — Cave du Couchon is its younger, hipper sibling. Modelled on a pared-down Parisian bar, Cave offers an eclectic range of wines, alongside sourdough pizza, artisan cheese and charcuterie.

Wine list

Cave only stocks wine from small producers and so biodynamics and natural wines dominate. The bottle-list offers an impressive range of grower Champagnes, as well as a preference for delicates. It has Riesling and Pinot Noir in excelsis.

What to order

Wine-by-the-glass is listed on a blackboard, just to the side of the bar. You could savour a rare glass of classic 2003 Château Cissac Haut-Médoc, £24, or opt for a Slovenian Nando Blue Label Rebula, £14, known for its umami texture and citrus notes. The list features a high proportion of female producers — Oregon’s Kelly Fox,’s Mirabai 2019 is a light-to-medium, youthful delight, £96 a bottle, a standout star.

  • 19 Walmgate,YO1 9TX
  • Wednesday to Friday, 5pm – 11pm, Saturday and Sunday, 12 noon – 11pm
  • caveducochon.uk

The Bow Room at the Grays Court Hotel

What we like about it

Grays Court, established 1091, lays claim to being the oldest continually inhabited house in England. Now a hotel with an upscale restaurant, The Bow Room, it offers a six-course taster menu with wines to match. There’s a snug lounge that affords picturesque views of the Minster — it simply glows at night — plus a long gallery attractively panelled in the Jacobean style, perfect for a special glass.

Wine list

The list contains a great many fine wines — yes, please to a bottle of 2012 Pol Roger Winston Churchill, £295 — but it is the addition of rarer finds, grapes from as far afield as Lebanon, Georgia and Sussex, which sets the establishment apart from more traditional grand hotels.

What to order

2018 has proven a great year for the Nebbiolo grape and the Occhetti Langhe by the Prunotto winery in Piedmont is a rare find at £49 a bottle. The Corralillo, an organic Riesling from Chile, is notable for its classic mineral finish. Want to launch the boat? The Brunello di Montalcino from Poggio Antico, £96, offers reasonable value in the fine wine section.

Skosh

Skosh

What we like about it

Skosh is slang Japanese for “a little bit of something”, and the menu of Pacific-influenced small savoury dishes — and eclectic wine list — takes that concept and runs. Demand is so high for its salty octopus and its venison dumplings that there’s a waiting list for tables — two months long.

Wine list

Bottles are available, but the point of Skosh — explains chef-owner Neil Bentinck — is to approach the wine as you would the food, and switch-and-match throughout the session. And so can order by the 125ml glass and, in many cases, a 375mm carafe.

What to order

Take a look at the versatile Domäne Krems Grüner Veltliner, £7/£17.5/£35, as it offers the kind of aromatic zest that pairs well with Asian flavours. A bone-dry Sancerre Sylvain Bailly, £11/£35 excels with elegant crispness. Wine-spotters will be drawn to the limited-edition Constantia, Napoleon Bona Part Four, £6/£28, made from rescued Muscat grapes from Franschhoek — the French Quarter — in the southern Cape. Napoleon loved Constantia so much he drank a bottle every day in exile.

  • 98 Micklegate, Y01 6JX
  • Wednesday to Saturday Noon to 2pm / 5.30 to 10pm.
  • skoshyork.co.uk

Wine Stories

Wine Stories

What we like about it

This delightful Greek Taverna sprang up on Parliament Street, the main shopping street, in late October. Run by a team from Corfu, it has already established a reputation for a casual approach to tried-and-true flavours: oregano, honey, creamy feta — the shrimp katayif is divine — and a drinks list to spirit you away, at least for an hour or two.

Wine list

The list contains 22 wines, all Greek naturally. Familiar wines like Retsina are available, as are more verturesome flavours for those looking for something fresh — expect floral whites and plummy reds. Pricing is reasonable with many bottles under £30.

What to order

There are two very good, modestly-priced, Nemea wines from the north of the Penopolese. The red is a languid drop of ruby pleasure; its paler sibling is a zingly blend of Roditis and Savvatinao, both £21. A sumptuously sweet Vinsanto from the island of SanTorini is a sun-dried rush of raisin, figs and dry fruit, like a Pedro Ximénez with extra legs.

Melton’s Restaurant

What we like about it

Stepping into Melton’s is a comforting experience. The narrow, softly-lit dining room is elegant yet casual, but most remarkable are the murals that hold court on both floors. Rendered in the art nouveau style, or pastiche thereof, they celebrate a scene of prosperous diners saluting the city’s good fortune and timeless charm.

Wine list

Melton’s is 33 next year, and the bottle-list is a wizard’s spell book sprawling deliciously across 17 pages. It’s idiosyncratic, wonderfully so, and evidence of co-owner Lucy Hjort’s decades of experience. Rare finds, including a bottle from the Little Wold vineyard, grown only a few miles down the road — vines do grow this far north —alongside overlooked classics and some real surprises.

What to order

There’s a heavenly-bodied Greco di Tufo, all blissfully aromatic and rich and oily, that offers an alternative to chardonnay. Equally agreeable is the Château Carreyre Margaux 2015, a blast of forest fruit and bramble that softens to the point of sweetness. Like a Bordeaux caught-in-a-tryst with a Rioja.

  • 7 Scarcroft Road, YO23 1ND
  • Wednesday to Saturday (lunch) 12pm-1.45pm; Tuesday to Saturday (dinner) 5.30pm to 9.30pm
  • meltonsrestaurant.co.uk

The Star Inn the City

Starr Inn

What we like about it

If you arrive by train, as many visitors do, then The Star Inn is one of the first landmarks you see as you cross over the River Ouse and into the walled city. The sister restaurant of the Michelin-starred The Star Inn in Harome, which sadly burnt to the ground in November, the Star Inn the City is a large, glass fronted restaurant with a grandstand terrace overlooking the river — affording one of the best views in York.

Wine list

The Star serves both town and country sets and the list is, therefore, a delicate balance between them. There’s a range of reds for the Sunday lunch crowd, but also more adventurous choices, especially the biodynamic and organic inclusions of the menu, for a mid-week urban clientele with a thirst for something new.

What to order

Weingut Klaus Nittnaus is an Austrian blend of Pinot Blanc, Welschriesling and Chardonnay, that has an abundance of minerality with white pepper, stone fruit and citrus on the palate. At £40 it is adventurous without breaking-the-bank. Or you could enjoy a bottle of the lush Malbec Catena Zapata Vista Flores, £42, a mint chocolate-spiked triumph of velvety softness.

  • Lendal Engine House, Museum Street, YO1 7DR
  • Opening hours: Monday to Thursday, 12pm to 9pm. Friday to Sunday, 9.30am to 9pm.
  • starinnthecity.co.uk

Sótano

Sotano

What we like about it.

Sótano began life as a cellar bar, the kind you find in the nocturnal corners of San Sebastian or Barcelona. Lockdown conditions saw it pivot towards a bar and charcuterie with a rooftop terrace — two floors above. Thankfully both remain open.

The wine list

Spanish, obviously. La Rioja, naturally, and an interesting mix of Basque and Rueda vinos blancos. The list is approachable, with bottles starting at £17, with few over £30. Overlook the Sherry-list at your peril. It offers three bottles from the Avear bodega, one of the most prestigious in Andalucia. The highly-rated Amontillado is a snip at £35.

What to order

The Zudugarai Rosé, a Txacoli, a nod to the bar’s Basque roots, is poured theatrically from shoulder height to excite its natural fizz. Luna Beberide, grown in the heart of León and made with the often overlooked Mencia grape, drinks out-of-its-price-point of £24 a bottle. Jose Pariente is a Sauvignon Blanc from the up-and-coming Rueda region in north-west Spain. At £32 it has the best price-to-quality ratio on the whole list.

  • 1 Little Stonegate York, YO1 8AX
  • Wednesday – Sunday 12pm to 11pm. Basement bar: Friday – 5pm to 2am, Saturday – 12pm to 2am
  • sotano.co.uk

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