While Amsterdam may be best known for beer, there are a wide range of wine bars in the Dutch capital serving top-quality wines from all over the world by the glass or bottle. Proost!
The Netherlands – in fact the Benelux region in general – is better known for its beer than its wine. While brewers have been working with hops for decennia, grapevines are grown in very few parts of the country. Some white wines are made in the southern province of Limburg, but their price-quality ratio means that they’re seldom consumed in Amsterdam. There’s even a small vineyard closer to home in Amstelveen, and perhaps global warming will see a rise in Dutch vineyards in the coming years, but for now, most Amsterdammers prefer their wines from warmer climes.
While many visitors see Amsterdam as a party city, full of coffeeshops and nightclubs, there’s plenty to entice those who prefer a quieter evening out as well – especially those who prioritise fine wines and good food. A plethora of sophisticated wine bars have sprung up in the past decade or so, many of which serve a good selection of dishes alongside their wines – from shareable snacking platters through to full-blown multi-course meals. Either way, the wines are the stars of the show, with everything being represented from organic, unfiltered wine to bottles from little known wine-producing countries like Armenia and India. Amsterdam’s wine bars also tend to have a lot of wines available by the glass, which means you can taste a wide range of options in one sitting.
Tucked down a side street in de Pijp, GlouGlou is a favourite wine bar with locals. Serving only “natural wines”, Glou Glou says: “Our winegrowers work without pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers and add no industrial yeast and hardly if any sulphur. Since our wines are not filtered or cleared, they are quite outspoken and can be cloudy”. Although there are dozens of wines on the menu to choose from, the staff will often recommend you something off-menu that’s just come in. Reservations are not possible, so arrive early to avoid a wait or sit at the bar where there’s often an open spot. Simple lunches are available until 3pm, and Mediterranean-style bar snacks are on offer in the evening.
Just around the corner from GlouGlou but often less crowded, you’ll find Paulus – with more modern decor and a living-room feel that makes it the perfect spot to sit and sip for a while. If you can’t decide what you want to drink, owner Paul will serve you a flight of wines (generally European) ranging from three half glasses for €12.50 up to six half glasses for €23.50. Planks of cheeses, Iberico ham, flammkuchen, and bread with hummus or olive tapenade are also available to nibble on in between. If you’re a fan of fortified wines, Paulus has got your name on it: they serve several ports of varying vintages, as well as sherry and Madeira.
De Pijp has a glut of good wine bars, which is why the third on this list is in the same neighbourhood: Boelen is the oldest wine bar in the Netherlands and shows no signs of slowing down. With 35 wines by the glass and over 100 by the bottle, Boelen prides itself on its sommeliers’ ability to pair wines with food. For an afternoon treat, don’t miss Boelen’s “High Wine” arrangement: from 4pm till 6pm daily, you can taste six different wines with paired bites for €35 (or €45 for the luxury version). The sheltered outdoor terrace makes Boelen a great choice for an apéritif in summer (or a sunny day in spring or autumn), too.
Referring to itself as a candy store for grown-ups, Rayleigh & Ramsay eschews the title of wine bar in favour of something more accessible. And with their wine-dispensing machines – each of which holds ten bottles of temperature-controlled, vacuum-sealed wines – their brand of “candy” is certainly easy to access. Visitors simply load up a card with credit and then wander around the bar sampling either a full or a half glass (or even just a small tasting sample) of all the various bottles on tap. It’s a great way to try lots of different wines, some of which you’ll never even have heard of, without having to commit to more than a couple of sips until you know you like it. Prices vary significantly, but you can expect to taste a reasonable variety of wines for around €20 per person. Affordable dinner options are also available at both of Rayleigh & Ramsay’s two locations.
Undoubtedly the most “gastronomic” wine bar on this list, the foodies will love Winehouse SOMM as much for its menu as for its wine list. Off the beaten track in the de Baarsjes neighbourhood, SOMM is a true local find: candlelit and intimate, perfect for a romantic date night. While the wine plays the leading role, you’re recommended to order it together with a four-, five- or six-course chef’s menu that changes depending on the season. You can expect creative dishes with plenty of international influences and some truly excellent produce – all of which pairs perfectly with the wines, of course.
In the always-buzzing Westergasfabriek (the converted, red-brick gas factory buildings in leafy Westerpark), you’ll find the charming Wester Wijnfabriek – which itself used to house the gas metres. With exposed brick walls and copper piping, it’s an atmospheric indoor spot for a glass of wine in winter, while the outdoor terrace that merges into the surrounding park is lovely in summer. Wester Wijnfabriek serves around 15 affordable wines by the glass, with many more available by the bottle. And their hapjes are a cut above the average bar snack: try the excellent rillettes or the Cuban sandwich, while sipping on a pinot noir…
A newer addition to the Oost (east) neighbourhood, Alex + Pinard has already won over its local gastronomes’ hearts. It has a casual, friendly, relaxed vibe that makes sense given its location along the Dapperstraat – home to the colourful Dappermarkt (a market selling food, fabric and much more Tuesday through Saturday). The wine list at Alex + Pinard is shorter than at other wine bars on this list, but the quality is just as high and the prices are a little lower, too. The wines focus on small, artisan producers from Europe, so you’re bound to try something new. If you’re feeling peckish, try the jamón croquettes or the oysters; or for a full meal, order the chef’s menu – a bargain at only €25 for four courses.
Away from the tourists in Oostpoort, you’ll find Blend Coffee & Wine in a pedestrianised area with a waterside terrace. Perfect for escaping the crowds in summer, Blend is one of the few spots where you’ll still find a table in the evening sun. Specialising in coffee as well as wine, you can start with a pick-me-up espresso before moving onto one of the dozen wines by the glass (or order a bottle of bubbles). Although the choice here is not as extensive as many of the other bars on this list, you’re here for the calm, canal-side terrace as much as the drinks.