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 (with negative Covid test or proof of vaccination in hand, of course), 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 ten of our favourites.
Widest 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 bar bites from chef Stefanie La 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, Wed-Sat from 18, www.istdeinbesterfreund.com
Best food: Jaja
Original founders Etienne Dodet and Julia Giese may have recently decamped to France, 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, all with as little intervention as possible. The menu, too, is still excellent, particularly the vegetarian dishes made with products from local farmers or Jaja’s own garden. There’s one important difference, though: pizza. If new co-owner Hannes Broeckner is making his exuberantly topped neo-Neapolitan pies when you’re there, you’d be a fool not to order one.
Weichselstr. 7, Neukölln, Thu-Sat 17-23, www.jajawein.de
Best newcomer: Shed
At the beginning of 2020, Darius Suski and Łukasz Sołowiej opened this corner bar just a few streets away from their Neukölln pizzeria W. Two lockdowns later, they’re still finding themselves, but they’re already doing a lot right. The wines are exclusively natural, from small-scale vineyards in Germany, France and Italy but also the Czech Republic, Romania and South Africa. Right now, the selection includes a number of citrusy, fresh varietals that taste of pure summer, accompanying an eclectic tapas menu that includes homemade ricotta gnocchi, Italian charcuterie, empanadas and terrific brownies.
Pannierstr. 24, Neukölln, Wed-Sun 18-23, www.1shed.com
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-Sun 12-24, www.frauluna-berlin.de
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-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, Tue-Sat 17-24, www.bean.berlin
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, Thu-Sun from 18, www.salvatorepulvermacher.de
Most personality: Kink
You’ll have to read the Exberliner summer print issue to get our official take on Kink, the flashy restaurant newly perched on Prenzlauer Berg’s Pfefferberg alongside sister café Frank. For now, just know that the wine program here is as big, bold and full of character as the food and the cocktails – where else will you get served by a sommelier whose “wine philosophy” incorporates quotes by Slavoj Zizek? In practical terms, that means a tight selection of reds, whites, rosés and oranges from small European producers, sometimes but not always low-intervention, always with a great story. And whether you sip them under the undulating neon light installation indoors or in the gorgeous garden, the setting can’t be beat.
Schönhauser Allee 176, Prenzlauer Berg, Tue-Sat from 18, www.kink-berlin.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, Wed-Sun 17-24, www.lochner-weinwirtschaft.de