There’s no place like Edinburgh at New Year. While New York’s Time Square and Sydney’s Harbour Bridge might come close, there’s nothing to match the turning of the year in the nation that invented ‘Hogmanay’.
This year, Hogmanay will be particularly special in Edinburgh. After two years of Covid restrictions, the city is once more welcoming the world to its famous open-air party on Princes Street, complete with fireworks over its mediaeval castle, and plenty of live music in the days running up to the big day, and into the early days of January.
Millions of people will watch the festivities on television screens around the world but, for those lucky enough to make it to Edinburgh for New Year’s Eve, ‘Auld Reekie’ as it’s affectionately known will be offering Scottish hospitality at its best.
While Scotland’s capital city may be famous for its whisky bars, Edinburgh’s wine bars can become oases of calm for a moment or two of peace or provide exciting venues for even more exciting wines amid all those sights and sounds at Hogmanay. As the city comes back to life following the pandemic’s restrictions on hospitality, a mix of old and new venues stand ready to offer visitors ‘ceud mìle fàilte’ – a hundred thousand welcomes in Gaelic.
A selection of Edinburgh’s wine bars
A Wee Taste might be the new kid on the block, but it’s already had a big impact. History teacher Karly Zagorac began running food and drink tours around the city in 2019 and now has her own permanent base from which to serve wines and grazing boards featuring local produce. Don’t be put off by the garishly Instagram-able pink paint – A Wee Taste has serious wine credentials, with bottles supplied by Livingston-based Wine Importers, plus beers and spirits from Drinkmonger, the bottle shop arm of specialist merchant Royal Mile Whiskies.
36 Leven Street, Bruntsfield, EH3 9LJ
+44 (0) 131 228 2734
The very definition of a ‘hidden gem’, as you might well need a map and compass to find stubby wee Merchant Street beneath the Old Town. It’s worth the hunt though. Buried in the cellar beneath a sprawling Old Town skyscraper, it may feel like an odd choice on a long summer’s night, but its extensive range will more than hold your attention. Whether you’re an adventurous explorer or a budding Wine & Spirit Education Trust student, its wine flights are a real highlight and offer incredible value to boot.
5 Merchant Street, EH1 2QD
+44 (0) 131 225 1770
If the smell of fresh seafood doesn’t lure you inside Ecco Vino on windy Cockburn Street then the wine list definitely will. A favourite when winemakers come to visit Edinburgh, its list is cleverly segmented into styles rather than countries, with plenty of wines by the glass, and some big names at affordable prices. Although that seafood is the star of the show, it’s worth pursuing its blackboard options too, especially the extra light Pinsa Romana pizzas.
19 Cockburn Street, EH1 1BP
+44 (0) 131 225 1441
Head down the hill from the New Town and you’ll arrive in the upmarket enclave of Stockbridge and neighbouring Comely Bank, home to two of Edinburgh’s most exciting wine bars, one being Good Brothers. It’s gone through several incarnations over the years – especially while trying out a range of cuisines – but its current combination of wine bar and eclectic bottle shop is by far its best. I also credit co-owner Graeme Sutherland with introducing me to the delights of aged gouda. Look out for its newer sibling, Little Rascal, in Corstorphine, and its Winekraft shop too.
4-6 Dean Street, Stockbridge, EH4 1LW
+44 (0) 131 315 3311
Once home to a Polish church, Le Di-Vin’s mock-Tudor facade houses one of Edinburgh’s best French wine bars. Whether you want Bordeaux or Burgundy, Loire or Rhône, there’s an assortment that won’t break the bank. But what’s most impressive is its carefully-selected range of international interlopers from as far afield as South Africa and South America. Its accompanying dishes are satisfying too – especially when paired with a game of ‘spot the celebrity’ in among the historical figures painted onto a mural on the wall. For something more substantial, head upstairs to La P’tite Folie.
9 Randolph Place, EH3 7TE
+44 (0) 131 538 1815
At the forefront of Edinburgh’s growing number of neighbourhood wine bars outside the city centre, Mistral follows the well-established model of combining a wine bar with a bottle shop and is well worth the walk from the city centre to the edge of the Port of Leith. Its simple green exterior and white-tiled interior bely its complex wines, with an emphasis on low-intervention bottles. Teaming up with Kip Preidys and Giada Betti to run pasta nights under their Aemilia brand brings something different to the table.
10-12 Bonnington Road, Leith, EH6 5JD
+44 (0) 131 554 0801
Perched on top of the Market Street Hotel, Edinburgh’s Champagne bar has one of the best views in the city, gazing north from the medieval Old Town towards the Georgian New Town. Bubbles are the order of the day and, while all the big crowd-pleasing brands are present and correct, there’s still room on the lengthy list for a grower Champagne or two, along with some more interesting cuvées. Look out for its events too, run by Instagram star @bellespick, aka Isobel Salamon.
6 Market Street, EH1 1DE
+44 (0) 131 322 9229
Stockbridge’s other top wine bar is only a hop, skip and energetic jump away from Good Brothers, yet totally different in style, making the two an enjoyable pairing for an evening’s stroll. More bar than pub, S&G is a great place to find English wine by the glass and treats from further afield too. Its selection of bottles is matched only by its collection of records, waiting to be given a spin on the turntable. It’s recently branched out to Edinburgh’s seaside at Portobello too.
26 Hamilton Place, Stockbridge, EH3 5AU
+44 (0) 131 629 6280
When Spry opened, it felt like a wee bit of London’s Shoreditch had been picked up by a UFO and transported eight hours north. Several years and a pandemic later, the natural wine bar has earned its spurs and then some. Its latest range of small plates to accompany its imaginative selection of bottles is a winning combination, and its refreshing stripped-back vibe is the ideal contrast to the nearby £1 billion St James Quarter upmarket shopping centre.
1 Haddington Place, EH7 4AE
+44 (0) 131 557 0005
Home to a selection of Scottish tapas – including the legendary haggis bon bons – Bon Vivant is the beating heart of a wider group of bars, including whisky specialist The Devil’s Advocate, aperitivo outlet Lady Libertine, and the Mexican-themed El Cartel chain. Yet the original is still the best, in no small part due to its broad wine list, including some sensational sparklers. Make sure you pop next door to The Bon Vivant’s Companion bottle shop too for a treat to take back home.
55-57 Thistle Street, EH2 1DY
+44 (0) 131 225 3275
Weave your way through a shop filled with the most amazing cheeses and meats and you’ll find Valvona & Crolla’s café and wine bar tucked away at the back of its delicatessen. Billed as Scotland’s oldest wine merchant, V&C was founded in 1934 and holds a royal warrant from the late Queen. As well as its range of wines by the glass – including some of its own label stars – guests can also pay just £8 corkage to pop open any of the wines from its bottle shop, which can lead to all kind of Italianate fun.
19 Elm Row, EH7 4AA
+44 (0) 131 556 6066
An Edinburgh stalwart, Whighams opened back in 1983, in a wine cellar that traces its origins to 1766. Its vaulted brick-ceilinged booths are the ideal cosy covens to share a bottle with friends, while its range has expanded in recent years from its French core to embrace both European and New World delights, including those by Scottish Master of Wine Norrel Robertson and adopted Scottish MW Giles Cooke. The Sunday night jazz sessions are legendary, while its food selection is also top drawer.
13 Hope St, EH2 4EL
+44 (0) 131 225 8674