In a beer-dominated market, wine is slowly gaining momentum among the locals and tourists in Rio de Janeiro, leading to a rise in wine bars that are not only selling international wines, but pushing locally-produced ones to the forefront. Culture Trip rounds up some of Rio’s best wine bars that are perfect for a classic wine and cheese night.
Named after the cheese from the Serra da Canastra region, the bar Canastra serves only Brazilian wines, showcasing their incredible diversity. The bar’s cozy indoor space and tables scattered outside fill up quickly, yet the limited seating poses no problem to guests who pour out onto the street and repurpose walls as tables and places to lean against. Oyster Tuesday is the most popular night with people arriving 30 minutes before opening to wait for fresh oysters and Canastra’s famous rosé wine.
Aptly named Winehouse, this bar serves a popular selection of imported and national wines, the latter something that owner Dominic Perry wants to bring to the forefront of wine drinking in Rio. One of the most popular choices of wine on the menu is the Brut Champenoise – a light, rounded, sparkling wine that comes from a small winery in the south of Brazil. The bar offers intimate indoor seating or casual outdoor tables to enjoy a well-stocked wine cellar and excellent snacks such as the cheese board or the homemade guacamole.
A contemporary blend of delicatessen, bar, bakery and restaurant, Le Dépanneur is a modern venue with outdoor wooden decking that leaves a fresh, rustic feel. Serving authentic French bread and croissants, it is an ideal place to stop for a satisfying brunch, yet its evening offerings are just as excellent with a range of diverse wines and a wonderful meat and cheese board that easily serves up to three people.
The next door Botanical Garden creates a serene setting for this French-style venue. The wide windows, rustic food counter and rickety wooden tables add to the farmhouse feel of La Bicyclette, momentarily transporting guests to the countryside in the south of France. A casual mix of bakery and bar, there are plenty of delicious fresh nibbles on the menu to complement the extensive wine list. The French wines are among some of the best on offer and it’s hard to imagine a more tranquil environment than drinking a cool glass of sparkling wine with a jungly backdrop.
The name of the bar translates to “black sheep”, a possible link to its title as the first bar in Brazil to exclusively sell champagne. Happy hour at Ovelha Negra becomes a bustling crowd of people dropping in for an after-work drink, mixed with tourists and regulars. The menu is centered around an impressive range of imported and national champagne, and sprinkled with carefully created snacks that help to soak up the smooth bubbly. Be sure to arrive early – the venue is incredibly small, and after 8PM it’s almost nigh-on impossible to get inside the bar.
The soft lighting, exposed brickwork and lavish chandelier swinging above the tables set the scene for the nights of sparkling wine, French cheese and oysters that the Charleston Bubble Lounge is famous for. The venue is themed by the cabarets that hosted the Charleston dance popular in the 1920s. There is a range of cocktails and beer on the menu, but skip those in favour of the smooth champagnes on offer and settle down to enjoy the live jazz band.
Venga embraces the creativity and diversity of Spanish gastronomy with its wide range of authentic tapas. Eating here is a true Mediterranean experience, evidenced by the classic chorizo or the perfectly created bruschettas. For those looking for a wine that is a bit more fiesty and fruity, Venga has three dangerously moreish Sangrias on offer – red wine, white wine and rosé sangrias – all expertly mixed with soda and a generous helping of fruits.