Monvínic is the place to indulge in a broad international parade of wines in Barcelona. This wine bar cum contemporary Spanish restaurant is so popular locally that even parents do not hesitate to bring their buggies in and imbibe in some vino. So what draws these inter-generational bacchanalian symposia and why was Monvínic often included in the best wine bars in the world by many publications and wine critics, including the reputable Jancis Robinson, MW? They do things differently, and here is why it works.

Monvínic

When you swing through the glass door, you will be ushered into an elegant, sleek space that could dub as a bar of a boutique design hotel. Very distinct from either, the ubiquitous crowded and  tapas eateries and the intimidating or too touristy hotel lounges all over Barcelona, this is a serious, yet comfortable space for wine lovers where even families feel at ease bringing their little offsprings. The first time we wined and dined at Monvínic was on my birthday trip to Barcelona when next to us an entire Japanese family was enjoying a meal seated just next to the open kitchen set in the larger restaurant part. There is a semi-private room (sound-wise), that being sandwiched between an outdoor garden area and the main restaurant space by a see-through sliding door includes it more into the entire place. The design is above all focused on connecting and offering different options for customers coming here for varied occasions. Narrow bar seats lining the entrance hall feel chic even for the most demanding after-work meet-ups. Facing them is a private library where the staff can mingle over the accountancy of the business or a small-scale private event can be staged. The reference library is open to the Friends of Monvínic (members) and shelves an “extensive and discerning” collection of wine books, trade magazines, annual guides and recent auction catalogues. Monthly wine tastings enlighten the professionals and anyone eager to learn more about wine. Subscribe to their newsletter for updated info on these.

I like to sit high on one of the chairs lining the bar counter popping my gaze towards the fish tank resembling cooler where the opened sparkling, white and rosé bottles bathe in ice water behind the sommeliers’ work area. Now, let the muse entertain my vinous whims!

Radka Beach at Monvínic

Tablet wine list at MonvínicCheese plate

Monvínic on the global wine bar scene

Monvínic ruminates the Corkbuzz on Manhattan and Vinograf in Prague, but more design-driven, comfortable and offering a broader food menu. It can be dubbed as a subdued version of the excellent Taillevent 110 in Paris that further opened in London, the European capital of wine. There, also the Wine Workshop and Kitchen 28-50 spread its vinous legs, but the affluent city is set to change with the Brexit, so the position of the EU wine epicentre might move elsewhere. Heading East, the House of Roosevelt in Shanghai, with its wow effect would beat it, but again the food is so so. The Sohm Bar of Le Bernardin long-time head sommelier Aldo Sohm currently shakes New York wine-wise, but the food plays a minor note there. Barcelona is on to something.

Isabelle Brunet, the co-founder of the Monvínic project leads her team of sommeliers in a new adventure for wine lovers that she opened together with Sergi Ferrer-Salat in 2008. Flexibility, accent on high local cuisine next to simple tapas and snacks with wide wine scope is the core of their Barcelona .

Spanish croquettes at MonvínicBread and wine at Monvínic

The generous wine list is all digital and the half and full-glass listings change constantly making it fun almost each time you peak when sipping in. Between forty and fifty wines are opened daily. The tablet shows an image of the vineyards or winemaker(s), who made it into the current openings. You can browse by country, type of wine or region. My penchant for biodiversity pushes me to try any new grape varietal that I have not tasted yet, so each time I discover something exciting at Monvínic. Spain, like Italy and Greece has a long history of wine making and the diversity of the grape varietals grown there is mesmerising. Here, I tasted the Spanish Albillo from the Madrid region, Mencía and Godello from Galicia or Listán negro from the Canary Islands.

Spanish rice at Monvínic in Barcelon

The kitchen at Monvínic

The bar nibbles include traditional high quality tapas including the Spanish classics like croquettes, patatas bravas, salted Marcona almonds and of course sliced Jamon Iberico de Bellota. Many plates have been modified, adding a pinch of culinary adventure to the experience. The patatas bravas are served as a potato waffle with the aioli dripped in the hollow chess board pattern with tomato sauce. As fun as this looks though, the classic recipe is better. The single plated croquette was excellent though as was the top ranking acorn-fed Iberic ham served upon request with the house bread with an organic goat’s cheese baked in. Irresistible! The ingredients are sourced mainly from “local producers and harvesters who care for and respect their natural environment and are an essential part of the culture of our country”, writes  Monvínic. Even international favourites like the guac and chips served here are made from the local avocados.

Mediterranean scallops at MonvínicSpanish shrimps

The food at the restaurant is more elaborate, gastronomic style. Three tasting menus or a la carte pickings, weekly specials and large sharing plates prepared by a female chef and “gastronomic director” Ariadna Julian. In winter, sea urchin risotto was bathing in seafood juices, the scallops were cooked to tenderness and the spiced up prawn carpaccio highlighted the famous Catalonian seafood, while in spring courgettes grow into the menu. Sea urchin and the Pullet “brasa“, charcoal grilled blackened chicken are the vices of the chef. Seafood and the Pyrenées produce accompany the daily changing side dishes and vegetables. It is good food, but we prefer the simpler fare served at the bar. This is Barcelona, and great food winks at you everywhere, so I would think twice before coming back to dine here. Before or after dinner glass of wine or tapas at Monvínic is ideal.

Mencia Spanish wine

Rioja wineindigenous Spanish grape varietals

Back to wine, biased locally wherever we travel to, some of our favourite wines there were Spanish since we focused on the Iberian wines but also the Canary islands’ volcanic bottlings of Listan negro from Tenerife were great finds! Mencia from Galicia is more soft, earthy and savoury than its more gripping expression in the Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra regions. The old Bierzo vines farmed bidynamically at Villa de Corullón for top range Moncerbal by Descendientes de J Palacios, while being rather a special birthday treat is a great bet, as was the perfectly decanted 1991 vintage Viña Real Rioja Reserva by CVNE. Monvínic is the best place to enjoy wine in Barcelona. Whether the off the beaten path glass seduces you or betting on a well-known bottle from the world’s best wine regions, you will find something here that Dionysus could only dream about – an ever changing supply of artfully fermented grape juice. Each bottle is unique, so savour it mindfully with pleasure, salut!

Mon & Sat: evening only: 7-10:30pm, Tue-Fri: lunch 1:30-3:30pm; 8-10:30pm; Sun closed

 Diputació 249, Barcelona

+34 93 272 61 87