Barcelona has just about everything: beautiful beaches, beautiful people, more terraces and balconies than inhabitants, street festivals and unbelievable restaurants. Advising a friend what to do during their stay in the city is a near Herculean task, if only because the list becomes so long, so quickly. And if you’re a wine-lover visiting Barcelona, you may never leave.
In recent years, Barcelona’s wine scene has sky-rocketed, and has done so with a particular focus on Catalonian wine—perhaps a region that doesn’t come up in conversation so often as ‘Rioja’ or ‘Ribera del Duero,’ but is a serious heavy-weight in Spain nonetheless.
For the curious traveler looking to touch on the best wine experiences during their time in Spain’s second city, we offer to you five Barcelona wine bars you shouldn’t pass up (and which your trip designer would be happy to incorporate into your custom itinerary when traveling with Journy).
Just a bit south of the Arc de Triomf nestled in the narrow pathways of the El Born neighborhood of Barcelona is Bodega Maestrazgo. Maestrazgo looks to have popped straight out of a time capsule, sporting massive, fully-functioning oak barrels at the entrance, exposed brick and ancient wood shelving cluttered with dusty bottles lining its walls. Given the rustic interior, it may come as no surprise that Bodega Maestrazgo sprang up all the way back in 1952. Maestrazgo aims to invite an open learning experience into their atmosphere. The staff is warm and knowledgeable, but will never belittle a guest for a perceived lack of wine knowledge.
Among the seemingly endless shelves of Maestrazgo, you’ll find hundreds (the site claims even thousands) of unique labels from some of Spain’s hippest wine producers. There's a celebration of Catalan wines and vignerons, such as Domenech Vidal and Josep Foraster. But you’ll also find an abundance of Spanish wines from the likes of Galician wine-star Raul Perez and even larger bodegas such as Rioja’s Lopez de Heredia—all at very reasonable mark-ups.
And if you just wanted to stop by for a bottle to take home, don’t worry; Maestrazgo functions as a retail wine shop as well.
In the back of the bodega, Maestrazgo hosts guided wine tastings for larger groups and offers a large selection of wines by the glass—as well as tapas. It’s absolutely worth grabbing a selection of cheese and jamón, sipping on a glass or two and simply taking in the atmosphere.
No doubt, Maestrazgo is a fantastic location for a casual glass with friends or an elegant date aimed to impress.
If you didn’t know any better, you might mistake Can Cisa - Bar Brutal for an equally long-standing bodega, also in El Born. You wouldn’t exactly be incorrect, either.
Can Cisa opened on Carrer de la Princesa back in 1949, but eventually changed hands in 2013 when it was taken over by brothers Max and Stefano Colombo. In a way, the interior of Bar Brutal might perfectly sum up what it has to offer—a forceful fusion of old and new. Scattered among the rafters are ancient, dusty barrels of vermút and brandy. But lining the shelves are modern, industrial tidbits of decor like severed mannequin hands and paper mache animal heads (presumably the work of brother Stefano, a celebrated designer).
The menu celebrates ‘natural wine’—a term used to describe wine that features no foreign yeast, sulfites or additives of any type, and minimal human intervention. While you might call this a much older way of making wine—as our ancestors probably couldn’t get their hands on too many sulfites or refined clarification methods—the celebration of natural wine is a much newer trend.
Inside the walls of Bar Brutal, you’ll find a bottle wine list the size of a book. While their focus does lay within Catalonia with local wines, they have no shortage of excellent wines from France, Italy and even America. Most bottles are very affordable, with few exceeding the 30-euro mark.
The ambience and approachable vibe won't turn away casual diners, either. The wine selection is extensive, affordable and interesting, and there is always plenty of bar space for a quick pop-in.
The food menu is across the board delicious, if not a little pricey. There are a few can't-miss items tucked in there that you might easily overlook. The porchetta sandwich is absolutely to die for, and goes for only 7.50 euro. Call it the classiest egg McMuffin you’ve ever had—a tender English muffin topped with slices of silky house-made porchetta, drizzled with a savory mustard-like sauce made from anchovies and capers.
Another easy-to-miss food item is an eight-euro pairing of fino sherry and Comté cheese. While I refuse to stop singing praises for sherry, it is not a popular drink in Barcelona. To see it available for cheap—and alongside delicious cheese to boot? This is a done deal in the world of gastronomy.
ELDISET’s unique name derives from the Catalan ‘Disset Graus,’ meaning 17 degrees—considered the perfect temperature to serve red wine. And the dimly-lit interior of ELDISET, lined with rich wood surrounding its hulking bar display, might be one of the perfect spots to drink it.
ELDISET showcases 60 bottles and 15-20 glasses on its menu—every one of them from the Catalonia (or Catalunya) wine region. And if you’re an orange wine drinker, you’ll be happy to know that ELDISET typically features at least one glass of it on the menu.
Much like our previous mentions, the bottle prices are all fairly reasonable, with most falling between 20 euro and 40 euro. However, if you’re in for something a bit more upscale, you can frequently find Catalonian hard-hitters like Clos Mogador and Teixar at a minimal mark-up (sometimes even below retail cost!).
ELDISET may stand out just a bit more than the others when it comes to its culinary experience. The menu is made up of modernized tapas often straying from traditional Spanish fare. The varying tostadas, in particular, are bound to leave quite an impression. An absolute stand-out is the anchovy, feta and avocado cream on toast. The cured jamón portions are immense, and it may be the only time you’ll encounter a cheese plate with too much cheese (never a bad thing).
Also nestled in El Born directly next to the notable Passeig del Born, ELDISET makes for a fantastic destination if you’re searching for the location where great a great food and wine culture meet.
4. La Catalista
La Catalista just sprang up in El Born within the last few months, and it has received quite a bit of trendy buzz. The model at La Catalista turns the wining and dining experience on its head, offering food suggestions for whichever wine you chose, as opposed to the other way around. In this way, the wine is allowed to step forward more as the commanding force in your experience, as opposed to existing only to compliment the flavors of your meal.
The menu at La Catalista features 15 glasses of truly great wine—all from Catalonia—and all complete with a hand-crafted food-pairing. For wine, you’ll find interesting picks such as a 1988 Brut Nature Reserva Cava, a Chardonnay from Penedes aged in French and Hungarian oak and a non D.O. Sumoll Massis del Garraf.
Which is not to say the food takes a backseat in the equation. Laila Bazahm heads up the kitchen at La Catalista, and she brings with her quite a reputation. Those familiar with the Barcelona food scene might recognize her from the highly acclaimed Hawker 45.
At Hawker 45, Bazahm eschewed traditions, combining Asian cuisine with Latin American components. And at La Catalista, Bazahm’s unusual methods strike again.
Food pairings include a brûléed foie gras with shallot jam, a root vegetable flatbread with labne (unstrained yogurt) and black garlic, and a chicken po’ boy with buffalo cream cheese and shropshire crumbles.
La Catalista might be a new spot, but it’s making big waves already. Keep your eyes on it.
5. Zona d’Ombra
Our only feature to exist outside the El Born neighborhood, Zona d’Ombra is nestled in the winding, archaic streets of Gotico. Zona d’Ombra has gotten plenty of attention with travel guides and travelers alike, but it’s just tucked away enough to remain a bit of a secret.
Zona d’Ombra has the largest wine by the glass list of all the bars we’ve mentioned, sporting an impressive 30 glasses on any given day. If you’re unsatisfied with their glass selection, grab a bottle from one of the shelves lining the back of the bar and crack it open. Zona d’Ombra claims to offer over 300 unique selections, so the odds of you finding something you like are squarely in your favor.
And much like Maestrazgo, Zona d’Ombra doubles as a retail wine shop as well—great for a quick stop on the way home.
While Zona d’Ombra focuses on Catalonia, you’ll find bottles from Rioja, Galicia, Cadiz and even Las Canarias and Mallorca. Most of their bottles fall under 25 euros, but if you’re looking to have a big night out, you can spring for an Artadi Pagos Viejos all the way up to Vega Sicilia.
Zona d’Ombra is more bar than restaurant, though it does offer some small portions to snack on. Expect to find cured jamón, cheeses and anchovies—all the greatest hits. As a delightful little side note, Zona d’Ombra is one of the only bars in Barcelona that will present you with some complimentary jamón and breadsticks with your glass of wine. Though it might seem hard to believe, pincho service is a rarity in Barcelona. This little detail is sure to transport your heart to Madrid, if only for a moment.
A final and important detail about Zona d’Ombra is that it’s the only bar on this list to show off a lovely terrace. At a mere four tables, it's not large, but in Barcelona, a good terrace goes a long way. Enjoy a chilled glass of white wine in the cool evening breeze surrounded by buildings that have stood for centuries. It doesn’t get much better.
Can't get enough of España? Believe us—this hardly scratches the surface. For more inspiration, hear what Spanish chef Elena Arzak had to say about Basque cuisine. And if you're thinking about a springtime trip, don't miss these five festivals.