Sami-Jo Adelman consoles herself in Amsterdam's best wine bars and restaurants. See this guide to all the entries in our travel writing competition that have been published so far.
I’ve been in mourning this month. Since 5 July to be exact. Yes, mourning. The man with whom I should have been betrothed got married to another woman. Instagram told me so.
My ex-future-husband wasn’t aware that we were supposed to be espoused. In fact, he doesn’t know I exist. Nevertheless, it really is a tragedy as I had our wine-filled matrimony on his estate in Magrè (Margreid) all planned. Now that my aspiration to marry into a well-established wine family has been utterly shattered, I must turn to other means to assert my influence in the wine realm. And so, with a heavy heart and glass of Bourgogne Aligoté in hand, I shall divulge the liquescent secrets of my city – Amsterdam.
Let’s be honest – Amsterdam and wine are two words that rarely find themselves shaking hands in the same sentence. Amsterdam and canals. Amsterdam and bikes. Amsterdam and marijuana. These are more familiar acquaintances. Yet in the last five years the hospitality scene has evolved to accommodate the thirst and expectations of a growing international community that desire more from the food and wine scene. Naturally, I am one of them.
Alex + Pinard Located close to the famed local Brouwerij’t IJ brewery that sits inside a windmill (also a must-visit), this easy-going spot focuses on small artisanal producers when it comes to both wine and food. The concise menu of small sharing plates has a modern European bent and the evolving wine list offers interesting options by the glass, with many natural wines and skin-contact drops on offer. The waiters are knowledgeable and friendly and really take your preferences into consideration, which is surprisingly rare in Amsterdam.
The duo (Carl Parkin and Sanna Burggraaf) who own Alex + Pinard also have a wine shop in the Jordaan called Rebel Wines, selling mostly ‘natural, funky, rock-n-roll sort of stuff.’ They host a weekly three-hour tasting, Natural Born Sippers, on Thursday evenings for eight euros. The team opens up a selection of natural wines to try, centred on a specific grape variety or winemaker.
4850 This chic café-cum-restaurant takes you from breakfast to dinner in Scandinavian style. Opt for a cinnamon bun and Kochere filter from La Cabra in the morning and kick onto a three-, four- or five- course set dinner menu after 6pm with an optional wine pairing. Swedish owner, sommelier and barista Daniel Schien is equally passionate about both coffee and wine. His time with the likes of Di Pijp stalwart Scandinavian Embassy and fine dining restaurant BAK definitely shows. With its clean and elegant décor, impressive glass- encased wine wall and Synesso ‘dream machine’, this locale is for coffee and wine lovers alike.
Jordaan (and just outside)
Café de Klepel The Prinsentraat institution with its easily recognisable yellow and white striped awning sheltering the terrace is one that requires a reservation in advance. The kitchen serves up a three- or four- course French bistro-style dinner menu which can be paired with approximately 30 different French wines by the glass or one of 300 different terroir-driven bottles from mostly organic or biodynamic vineyards on the list. If you aren’t able to nab a dinner booking inside the intimate space, then head there early between 6 and 7pm and pull up a seat at the bar for a glass of wine or champagne with some charcuterie or cheese (no reservation required).
Terre Lente Entering Terre Lente (which means ‘Slow Land’ in Italian) is like walking into a nonna’s heartfelt embrace. The sense of warmth that envelops you is palpable. This delicatessen is a hangout for the local Italian community who come here to chiacchiere with owner Luigi Pucciano (pictured above right) over espresso or a piece of his homemade focaccia. As someone who spent years living in the land of Sangiovese and Parmigiano, this familial sensation is beyond comforting. The spacious interior has a living-room feel and the colour palette screams southern Italy. In addition to the extensive Calabrese food assortment (think ‘Nduja, giant green olives, marmalades and dried pasta), there is a vast selection of Italian wines, mostly from Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia with some Piedmont staples thrown in for good measure. Luigi has fostered relationships with local winemakers from his region such as Sergio Arcuri and Dino Briglio Nigro of L'Acino Vini who are working hard with local varieties like Gaglioppo and Magliocco. Drop by for a bicchiere di vino at lunchtime from Wednesday to Saturday or pick up a bottle to take home.
Bar Parry This cosy spot in the nine streets is the younger brother of famed restaurant Balthazar’s Keuken and is perfect for a small bite and a few glasses of wine (mostly Italian and French drops) with a close friend or date. The casual spot heaves on a Friday evening with a hip Jordaan crowd that spills out onto the pavement when the weather is balmy (a rare treat in Amsterdam). The selection of wines on offer comes from De Wijnwinkel, the Runstraat wine shop that has been in business since 1986 and already has a 20-year partnership with Balthazar’s. On occasion the shop has bottles open to sample, and every Saturday they host a drop-in tasting or more formal portfolio sampling, which are announced via @wijnwinkel on Instagram.
Shiraz Jardin Des Vins Fabulous-looking wait staff and an even more fabulous-looking space that combines traditional French and Middle Eastern décor. Gaggles of girls, groups of gentlemen and adoring couples fill every nook and cranny of the tavern. Perched on lounge chairs or at the bar, they indulge in delicious hot and cold sharing plates paired with an international wine assortment. The taste of each wine is visualised by 15 symbols located at the front of the wine menu, which really helps when making a selection, especially if your mate or date is a novice. Really enjoyed that glass of I Muri Negroamaro or bottle of Barossa Valley Shiraz? Or was that date just better than expected? Then walk into the adjacent Shiraz Boutique des Vins to take a bottle of wine home for post-dinner sipping.
Glou Glou Wood-panelled walls adorned with Toulouse-Lautrec-inspired posters and wooden furnishings lend a decidedly European feel to Glou Glou, which is intimate and familiar. This popular De Pijp destination serves up a delightful all-natural wine selection with accompanying small bites (cold cuts and cheese). All the wines are on sale in the little shop behind the bar for 15 euros a bottle less than the bar price. The team also own Bar Centraal on Ten Katestraat, which is the more spacious and modish younger sister, with better service and a modern European food menu that is inventive and appetising. Start at Glou Glou for a tipple to soak up the neighbourhood ambience and then head to Bar Centraal for dinner.
Wijnbar Paulus The living room meets school classroom interior makes for a fun spot to grab a drink with friends or a casual date. Wines by the glass are listed on the blackboard and, if feeling more adventurous, opt for a wine flight devised by Paul, the master himself. Paul has been in the business for a long time and can get really nerdy about wine. Want to discuss developing appellations in the New World, or the state of the Portuguese wine industry? Paul’s your guy.
Not Only Tinto Situated opposite Sarphati Park, Not Only Tinto is a beautiful wine shop specialising in Argentine wines. Owned and operated by Diego Gomez Abuin, this rugged gauchoesque Argentine will have you swooning over Atamisque Malbec and Colomé Torrontes in no time at all. With a selection of over 150 varieties of wine hailing from Mendoza, San Juan, Patagonia and Cafayate, this is the place to brush up on your Argentine wine knowledge. Diego holds regular tasting events in the shop focused around a local grape variety or producer, and the downstairs tasting room can also be booked for private wine gatherings.
Rayleigh and Ramsay Offering over 100 open wine bottles ‘on tap’, R&R dubs itself ‘a candy store for adults’. Lord Rayleigh and William Ramsay were late nineteenth century chemists who discovered the first noble gas argon. The R&R wine dispensers use it to seal off the bottles from oxygen so that the wines remain in top condition. Thanks to these scientists, modern-day patrons can now sample some incredibly prestigious wines. Hello Châteauneuf-du-Pape! Grab a wine pass from the bar, top it up (be careful as it depletes very quickly), and then start tasting. The wines are available per sip (25 ml), half glass (75 ml) or whole glass (150 ml) via the dispensers.
OK, time to stop mourning. The month is over. Well, that glass of Bourgogne Aligoté turned into three. Looks like I need to stock up on wine again. You’ll definitely know where to find me now.