4 best Tokyo wine bars
This Tokyo wine bar specializes in California wines -- the bottle collection is dramatically displayed in its cave-like entrance -- so come ready for lots of big Cabs and crisp Chardonnays. Suitable for a smart-casual lunch, the interior features undulating counters with views of the kitchen, and even a few precious patches of Tokyo green, which, at least for a pleasant hour or two here, might as well qualify as 'wine country.'
Vinoteca: Tokyo Midtown Garden Terrace 2F, 9-7-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, tel. +81 (0) 3 5647 8301, 11am-3pm, 5pm-10:30pm
Tsubaki's larger-than-life owner/sommelier has created an intimate den in the style of 'flea-market eccentric,' and stocked it mainly with French wines. These include hard-to-find and mature wines, which are kept on hand for more demanding customers. Carefully paired with the wine list, the classic French menu is updated daily.
Tsubaki: Kihara Bldg. 1F, 4-11-9 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, tel. +81 (0) 3 5485 1410, 7pm-5am
A short walk from Tsubaki is Elevage, a Tokyo wine bar aimed at the 'I'm serious about my wine' brigade. This is the type of place where you can order Chateau Y'quem by the glass. It's not the type of place for those who go blank when confronted with an extensive and tricky to read wine list. With just a few tables and a counter that facilitates discussion with Elevage's passionate owner, you may even spot swotty regulars taking notes as they sip.
Elevage: Hachiman Bldg. 2F, 4-2-13 Nishi-Azabu, Minato-ku, tel. +81 (0) 3 6419 3889, 7pm-1am, closed Sun
4. Rigoletto Wine and Bar
With some 2000 bottles on hand -- most sold at reasonable prices -- this buzzy Tokyo wine bar exudes a 'work hard, play harder' energy, perfect for downing multiple bottles with groups. Rigoletto's dramatic interior and centerpiece cellar provide an exciting backdrop for post-work drinks. It also serves some of the best Mediterranean-style tapas in Tokyo.
Rigoletto: New Marunouchi Blg 7F, 1-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, tel. +81 (0) 3 6270 0520, 11am–4am Mon–Sat, 11am–11pm Sun and Holidays.