Welcome to a new SommSelect blog series we’re calling Where To Drink Wine, in which we ask our intrepid sommelier friends to recommend the best wine-drinking places they’ve encountered during their travels. Today we welcome sommelier and writer Erin Rickenbacker, who runs the all-Spanish wine program at San Francisco’s Bellota—itself an excellent place to drink wine, especially on Monday nights, when Erin creates tasting flights from her exceptionally deep list. Having lived in Spain for a spell and worked a few harvests there besides, Erin lives and breathes Spanish wine—check out her favorite Barcelona haunts below and stay tuned for more city and regional guides here on the SommSelect blog. — David Lynch, Editorial Director
Erin Rickenbacker’s Barcelona Hit List
Kokotxas de bacalao (cod cheeks), tartar de tomate con erizos (tomato tartar with uni) and guisantitos y jamón de bellota (fresh green peas with bellota) are only a few examples of the dishes being pumped out of this family-owned breakfast and lunch spot on the Passeig Zona Franca. Blink and you could miss it: Granja Elena is an inconspicuous restaurant sitting way off the beaten path of the more populated Barri Gòtic and Las Ramblas. The wine selection is nothing short of amazing. The sommelier, Patri, pairs fresh, vibrant wines to match every dish. Grab a bottle or have Patri splash you with an epic pairing as each dish comes out. And make a reservation—this is a popular place with the locals.
Bar del Pla
Bar del Pla sits in El Born, a cool part of town with graffiti on garage doors and shops for both hipsters and fashion queens alike. It’s got a lively, classic Spanish vibe, and unlike most bars and restaurants in Barcelona, it’s open all day. The staff is quick to remember you, and will taste you on cool wines should you emit the slightest emanations of wine geekiness. The wine list is divided by color, by region, and by scale of ‘naturalness.’ The mushroom dish is not to be missed, and a Catalan wine choice is always appreciated. It’s super close to the Museu Picasso, so grabbing a glass at Bar del Pla both before and after museum time is an obvious choice.
L’Ànima del Vi
L’Ànima del Vi is a tiny, decidedly French, very natural wine bar in the middle of El Born. To some it may seem stuffy, the antithesis of the loud, vibrant Spanish wine bars typically packed with young adults and overflowing with “gin-tonics.” But it is what it is, I suppose: a dark little wine bar with delicious, focused tapas and natural wines that may or may not change your opinion on the ol’ sulfur debate. The owner and his wife will most likely be speaking French but fear not. Pretend you’re Hemingway, grab a glass of wine and hit that paté like it’s the thing to do.
Sit on the bar side, order the brains, and prepare to be floored by Gresca. Dishes are traditional Catalan with bright, slick execution. The natural wine list is impressive, and you are encouraged to either explore or be guided by one of their talented sommeliers. Dishes like leeks with pickled peppers and duck meatballs overdeliver for the less adventurous. I’m more the type for the sweetbreads, or the veal brains with butter and lemon. Whatever your choice, you will not be disappointed. Pro tip: There are two sides/entrances to Gresca, one leads to white tablecloths and the other to Bar Gresca, an annex to the main dining room built a few years ago. Pick your poison, but I find the bar side to be more relaxed, approachable, and conducive to real talks with the sommeliers.
Bodega Bonavista is a killer wine shop and deli in Gràcia—a favorite neighborhood of mine in Barcelona. Gràcia is filled with tiny side streets lined with restaurants, shops, and wine bars, each street leading you to a plaza stacked with young locals talking about the fate of Catalonia and drinking ‘til the wee hours of the morning. Bodega Bonavista is an excellent fit for the neighborhood, and captures the old school bodega vibe with over 300 reasonably priced wines from all over the world (though mostly from Catalonia). You can drink in or take out, and wines should be paired with their selection of amazing cheeses and tinned fish. Staff is super knowledgeable and very approachable. I suggest you grab a bottle and a snack and make your way up to the Bunkers (see above) for a Catalan sunset.