Don’t get us wrong, we love biergartens. But we’re at that inevitable part of the Berlin summer – i.e., most of it – where biergarten-friendly weather isn’t always a given. And anyway, whether you’re sitting on a sunlit terrace or perched at a candlelit indoor bar, there are times when only a feisty red, buttery white or crisp rose will do. From trendy natural wine hangouts to ultra-German taverns, here are 11 of our favourites.
Most choice: Freundschaft
The friendship in question is between Willi Schlögl, formerly of scenester hangout Cordobar, and Johannes Schellhorn, ex-sommelier at Nobelhart & Schmutzig. And it’s a productive one: visitors to the Mitte wine bar have a mind-boggling 600 bottles to choose from, mostly from Austria and France, selected for their quality and unique “signature”. Many, but not all, are sustainable and/or biodynamic. Among the 10-15 open wines on offer, you’ll always find one sparkling, one sweet, one rose and plentiful dry options. A small menu of Austrian-leaning bar bites will ensure you “don’t get too drunk too quickly”, in the words of the two friends. Sit around the cosy bar or on the outdoor terrace, which in summer stays sunny till late into the evening.
- Mittelstr. 1, Mitte, Mon-Fri from 18, www.istdeinbesterfreund.com
Best French bottles and Brandenburg bites: Jaja
Original founders Etienne Dodet and Julia Giese may have departed, but the wine at the white-tiled spot on Weichselstraße remains the same: some 200 bottles showcasing tiny, obscure vineyards and ancient, near-extinct grape varieties, mostly from France, all with as little intervention as possible. The menu, too, is still excellent, particularly the dishes made with fruit and veggies from local farmers or Jaja’s own garden plot in Gerswalde.
- Weichselstr. 7, Neukölln, Tue-Sat 18-24, www.jajawein.de
Best newcomer: Bar Normal
The clue is in the name. In a city where natural wine and sharing plates have become, well, the norm, Van Anh Le’s dimly lit Prenzlauer Berg nook stands out for its lack of fancypants airs. The kitchen doesn’t overdo it with luxury ingredients or fussy techniques – in fact, Normal’s first signature dish was a simple plate of Dutch-style bitterballen, fried meat croquettes with mustard sauce. Head there now and you might start with homemade focaccia before moving on to stewed beans, zucchini carpaccio or a bowl of mussels, all washed down with an outrageously good selection of glasses and bottles.
Oderberger Str. 7, Prenzlauer Berg, Mon-Fri 11:30-14:30 (lunch), Wed-Sun 18-23:30, www.ganz-normal.eu
Best bodysnatcher: Liesl Weinwirtschaft
When Liesl, a smoky Wohnzimmerkneipe with cheap beer and a vinyl soundtrack, closed its doors after over a decade in Neukölln, one of its regulars stepped in to take it over. This was no ordinary punter, though: Wolfgang Baumeister is an importer specialised in natural, biodynamic and orange wines from all over southeastern Europe. That’s what you’ll find at Liesl’s new incarnation, along with snack boards full of local pickles and cheese, bread from neighbouring sourdough bakery Taktil, and even Slovenian sardines to match the Malvasia from the Slovenian Butul family.
- Nogatstr. 30, Neukölln, Thu-Sat 18-23
Most Kreuzberg: Ottorink
A visit to Andreas Rink’s Kreuzberg wine bar is always a surprise: every two to three weeks, he completely changes the wine list. What you can usually expect, though, is around 12 open wines, mainly from German regions like the Rheingau, the Mosel and the Palatinate. Rink doesn’t follow any specific principles in his selection, but rather “gives every winemaker a chance” to convince him. Have a glass or two with a hearty meat or cheese charcuterie plate, either indoors or out amidst the Kotti chaos on the terrace.
- Dresdener Str. 124, Kreuzberg, Tue-Thu 18-24, Fri-Sat 18-2, www.ottorink.de
Best bubbles: Bar Bean
Elegant, open-minded and thirsty for discovery: this 40sqm space in Wedding might just be the most exciting wine bar in Berlin right now. It’s definitely one of the best-looking, with near-brutalist rough plaster set against warm oak. Take a seat at the pint-sized bar and dive into the selection of 35(!) open wines, all of them natural – you’re free to ask for a taste or two before you commit. Or go for the equally excellent range of champagne. To eat, there are freshly prepared tapas served by Portuguese owner Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro, also of neighbouring cocktail bar Buck & Breck.
- Brunnenstr. 177, Wedding, Wed-Sat 17-24, www.bean.berlin
Best people-watching: Frau Luna
Ah, Paul-Linke-Ufer, the Côte d‘Azur of Kreuzberg. Opened in 2019 where the Übersee café used to be, Frau Luna proved a perfect match for the canal-side street’s swanky riviera vibe: great wines (from Charlottenburg supplier Viniculture), potent spritzes and beautifully presented spreads of light bites. The open-faced sandwiches, on Albatross sourdough, are especially worth ordering. Have a seat right on the canal or take shelter under the greenhouse-like roof.
- Paul-Lincke-Ufer 44, Kreuzberg, Tue-Sat 17-24, Sun 17-22, www.frauluna-berlin.de
Least pretentious: Salvatore Pulvermacher
If there’s such a thing as a “Berlin wine bar”, you’ll find it here, between Mauerpark and Schönhauser Allee. Nothing chichi about this place – just pure old-school Gemütlichkeit, where the wine, tap beer and whiskey flow freely amid a haze of cigarette smoke. There are just a handful of carefully selected European reds, whites and rosés offered by the glass each night, with bottles available on request; currently being showcased is Moulin Materels, a French Viogner with fresh, delicate fruity aromas.
- Cantianstr. 21, Prenzlauer Berg, Wed-Thu 18-1, Fri 18-2, Sat 20-2, www.salvatorepulvermacher.de
Best winery: Weinverein
Don’t let the relaxed atmosphere fool you: at this pair of bars in Schöneberg and Kreuzberg, wine is very serious business. There’s a long list of eloquently described Rieslings and Burgunder from the Weinverein’s partner winery, Stallmann-Hiestand in Rhineland Palatinate, alongside a handful of offerings from other artisanal wineries in the region, all sold by the glass and reasonably priced. Good quality and transparency is the theme here, which also extends to the food, whether it’s the hearty Landbrot topped with ham, salami or cheese from regional producers, or a vast selection of meaty and vegetarian Flammkuchen.
- Leuthener Str. 5, Schöneberg, daily 17-22; Fidicinstr. 38, Kreuzberg, Mon-Sat 17-22, www.weinverein.berlin
Best for visitors: Lochner Weinwirtschaft
If you’re looking to introduce friends or relatives to the world of German wine – and German food – look no further than Andreas Lochner’s Schöneberg bar and restaurant. There are some 350 bottles to choose from, mostly from Germany and Austria, running the gamut from cheap house wine to high-class rarities. As for the food, it’s “German tapas”, to be ordered individually or as a four- or five-course tasting menu, including dishes like cured salmon, braised ox cheek, Austrian Tafelspitz and, why not, currywurst.
- Eisenacher Str. 86, Schöneberg, Tue-Sat 17:30-24, www.lochner-weinwirtschaft.de
Most Instagrammable: Ora
Taken over by the Michelberger Hotel crew mid-2020, the former apothecary on Oranienplatz oozes atmosphere. Its long wooden bar, festooned with old medicine bottles, now doles out medication of another kind: natural wines from across Europe and South Africa, with some truly exciting discoveries to be had for €30-40 a bottle. You can get a pretty great three-course meal from chef Sam Kindillon, but we won’t blame you for sticking to the bar snacks, like a lovely plate of thin-sliced melon and prosciutto with chilli salt, Fish Klub oysters or toast topped with Roddie Sloan razor clams.
- Oranienplatz 14, Kreuzberg, Tue-Sat 17-24, www.ora.berlin