At Barcelona’s Monvínic: Vino Tinto or Vi Negre

Is this the best wine bar in Barcelona?

At Barcelona’s Monvínic: Vino Tinto or Vi Negre

We knew we’d be eating and drinking our way through Barcelona. And, with relatively brief interruptions to take in the mind-bending exhibitions at the Picasso and Miro museums, and to be equally astonished by Gaudi’s and modernisme’s stamp on the city, that’s exactly what we did for a week in October.

(Our week was also broken up by a two-day jaunt to San Sebastian. But we stayed true to our modus operandi as we ate and drank our way through that beguiling Basque city as well.)

We had expected to make a steady diet of tapas and vino tinto (red wine, or vi negre in Catalan), bocadillos and tinto, and, in San Sebastian, pintxos and tinto. What we didn’t expect was to discover a wine bar unlike anything we’ve encountered in northern California and to spend an evening there sipping vino (we stuck to our tinto regimen) drawn from a cellar holding more than 3,500 bottles from around the world.

We were tipped to Monvínic by Jeff Koehler, a food writer (Rice, Pasta, Couscous) and occasional walking-tour guide who lives in Barcelona. Jeff had been spot-on with his recommendations, taking us to the best place to dip churros into chocolate and whipped cream (Granja La Pallaresa), as well as the tiny shop where virtually all the churros are made for the local cafés; making sure we ate lunch at the tiny Pinotxo tapas bar in the La Boqueria on La Rambla; and suggesting we immerse ourselves in the old-school atmosphere and Menorcan gin and tonics at the El Floridita–like bar called Boadas.

Jeff sent me a link to writer Jay McInerney’s 2010 Wall Street Journal blog post, which asked, “The Best Wine Bar in the World?” I’m certainly not the one to give that title to Monvínic. For one thing, the service was uneven: one sommelier provided copious details about the unusual and reasonably priced Spanish reds we sampled by the half-glass; another delivered a different round with nary a word nor smile. However, Monvínic’s sleek interior, novel innovations (you browse the wine list on an iPad-like tablet; you can indulge a passion for vinology in the impressive research library), and wide range of wines and Catalan cuisine (we shared a cheese platter and an elegant cod dish from the wine bar menu; the full-scale restaurant in back seems well worth a visit) added up to another one-of-a-kind experience in a city bursting at seams with them.

C/ Diputació, 249, Barcelona. +34 932 72 61 87,

A northern California native, I received my BA from UCLA and an MA in History from UC Berkeley. I’ve worked as a mountain resort handyman and cook, drugstore clerk, college instructor, child care provider, soda jerk, freelance writer (music, food, travel), music radio host (KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley), and magazine editor--at Acoustic Guitar, Oakland and Alameda Magazines, and currently, AFAR.
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