With a focus on young producers and several new bars, the Norwegian capital is an ideal destination for wine lovers. Local sommelier Francesco Marzola reveals his favourite places in the city to sample the best wine.
“The wine scene in Oslo, and in Norway in general, is growing a lot: new places are opening everywhere and the customers are getting more interested and knowledgeable,” says Francesco Marzola, wine director of Park Hotel Vossevangen and winner of the Best Sommelier of Norway, 2020. Wine lovers in the city now have more options than ever, with a variety of excellent wine bars, several wine-focused restaurants and even some natural wine bars to enjoy. “Due to the fact we have a state monopoly on wine, it is really easy to get highly sought-after wines too,” says Marzola. “There are also more and more sommeliers coming out of the sommelier schools here in Norway. The majority are quite young, so there tends to be a big focus on young wine producers as well.” Here is an overview of Oslo’s best wine bars.
Wine Bar, Wine, Snacks
“This is one of the newest wine bars in Oslo,” says Marzola. “It’s modern, with a big wine list, good variation and a huge selection by the glass.” With an enviable location on Munch Brygge pier, Vin Bjørvika is close to the Opera. It is also right next to the new Munch Museum and is open until midnight every day (except Sunday), making it an ideal spot to call in for a glass after a day at the art museum. “There isn’t a fully equipped kitchen,” Marzola says, “but they do offer cheese, ham and snacks too”.
There is nowhere more historic to raise a glass in Oslo than the legendary Grand Cafe & Vinkjeller. The cafe opened its doors in 1874, and has played host to a variety of famous creatives over the years: playwright Henrik Ibsen is known to have eaten lunch in the cafe here every day, while artist Edvard Munch once offered to swap a painting for 100 steak dinners. Located in the Grand Hotel in the middle of Oslo’s main street Karl Johans Gate, the Grand Café’s wine bar is downstairs in the basement and offers 16,000 bottles. “It’s just a stone’s throw from Parliament and the Royal Palace,” Marzola says, “and is one of the best wine cellars in Oslo, with a really big wine list and a good selection by the glass. You can also dine in an elegant space with a view over the wine cellar.”
“This is one of the first places in the city to fully focus on natural wines,” says Marzola. “If you love this type of wine, this is the place to go in Oslo.” A wine bar and bistro serving modern Nordic cuisine in the Tøyen neighbourhood, Brutus has an impressive wine list featuring a good selection by the glass with many up-and-coming producers. The sommeliers will also encourage you to tour their cellar to choose your wine, rather than using a traditional wine list. “The kitchen prepares lots of small dishes that reflect the style of the bar and plates that match the wines very well too,” says Marzola.
It’s not easy to find this tucked-away wine bar near the Akerselva River, but it’s worth the effort. Named after the Slavic god of hospitality, the wine bar is hidden inside a white manor house. The bar’s history dates back to 1220, when it was a mill connected to the monastery. “It’s an old farm in the middle of Oslo called Nedre Fosse Gård,” says Marzola. The building also houses a cocktail bar in the basement, a brewery and a restaurant, with the wine bar feeling more like a private club. There are more than 500 different wines on display, and almost everything can be ordered by the glass. Be sure to accompany your drink with one of their cheese platters to snack on. “The wine list has a focus on organic producers, and a good selection from France and Italy, as well as South Africa,” Marzola says. Seafood fans should go on Fridays after 4pm when fresh oysters are served with the wine.
Opened in 1991, Dr. Kneipps Vinbar is Oslo’s oldest wine bar. This intimate space is popular with Oslo’s residents and is located within the traditional restaurant, Markveien Mat & Vinhus. “Since 1991, the philosophy hasn’t changed that much,” says Marzola. “There’s a very laid-back and cosy atmosphere. It has a big selection of well-priced wine with a focus on France and Italy. It also offers classic Scandinavian plates that really match the wine well.” With some rare older vintages and plenty of choice, this is the perfect spot for a glass or two; be sure to go when it opens to beat the after-work crowds. Note that they do not accept bookings in the wine bar, so its first come first served. If you stay to eat, don’t miss the restaurant’s famous baked cheesecake.
“This bar is decorated as if it is a private home, so the space feels more like a house party at a friend’s place,” says Marzola of this relaxed bar in the very centre of Oslo on Youngs gate. Head through the bar Håndslag, and up the stairs to find this stylish spot. The laid-back space is decorated with pink walls, artfully arranged plants and a bar tucked behind grand velvet curtains. Open until 3am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, it also serves cocktails, but the wine list is full of crowd-pleasers. “It has a good selection of classics as well as a big focus on South Africa and the USA,” says Marzola.
From the outside, you wouldn’t know that the restaurant, Einer, is also home to a bar. However, once inside you’ll find their intimate wine bar decorated with Moroccan lamps and bare brick walls. “This is a fairly new place in the basement of the restaurant,” says Marzola. “It’s in the middle of Oslo right behind the Parliament.” Head into the backyard and down into the old potato cellar to enter. Let knowledgeable sommeliers guide you through the excellent selection on offer, including a wide range of natural wines. “There’s a real focus on American wines, as well as the classical region too,” Marzola says.
Brasserie, Restaurant, Wine Bar, Northern European, Danish, $$$
Tucked between new office buildings in the eastern part of Oslo city centre, this bright-yellow listed building houses a cosy wine bar by the entrance on the first floor. Vintage Kitchen has an extensive wine list featuring mainly traditional producers, and some more experimental offerings. “The kitchen has a strong Danish influence, due to the fact the owner is from there,” explains Marzola. “In the bar there’s a really nice selection of wine that is fairly priced. You can also get some really tasty small dishes and Danish open sandwiches.”
“This is a fairly new spot, with a really relaxed concept of great wines, great prices and great pizza,” says Marzola. Located on Henrik Ibsen’s gate, this friendly, informal bar offers a carefully curated wine list that won’t break the bank. The bar also has sparkling wine, rosé and a range of beers and ales on the menu. “There’s a huge selection of wines, with a focus on classical areas such as France, but there’s also a big selection from California as well,” Marzola says.