Over the past few years, a standout landscape of wine lists has been bubbling up across New York City’s buzzy Lower East Side and this past summer, it exploded. “The wine scene on the Lower East Side hasn’t all of sudden emerged out of nowhere, so much as it has vastly and rapidly expanded since the early days of Ten Bells,” says Eben Lillie, owner of Skin Contact, an intimate wine bar on Orchard Street with boundary pushing bottles.
Ten Bells, the neighborhood’s longstanding natural wine and tapas bar, was ahead of the curve when it opened its doors back in 2008, and the others have slowly trickled in since. From a resident’s perspective, though, it feels like it happened overnight. Now, you can’t walk a block without finding a great place to pop in for a quick glass at the bar, or a bottle to linger over with friends—and you won’t find any other neighborhood with as many carefully chosen lists in the entire city. Whether it’s a familiar, juicy red you’re craving or the joy of discovering something totally new, there’s no better place to drink wine in the New York City right now. (It doesn’t hurt that the LES, for short, is also home to super-cool Nine Orchard hotel, set on the huddle of bars, restaurants, and shops known as Dimes Square.)
Whether you’re looking for Parisian-inspired wine bars to full restaurants with considered bottle lists, to even a movie theater with a wine program, read on for the best New York City wine bars in the Lower East Side.
Le Dive is one of the newest ventures from Jon Neidich and Golden Age Hospitality, responsible for other downtown hotspots like Acme and The Nines. From the moment it opened, it had the same buzzy see-and-be-seen vibe that Neidich is known for.
Le Dive aims to recreate that classic Parisian tabac experience: a lively space with a long zinc bar, neon tube lights, and cafe tables topped with glasses of wine and simple jambon beurre. In warmer months, if you can snag a sidewalk table, order a bottle and a mushroom pâté or steak tartar, you could almost be tricked into thinking you’re on Canal St. Martin. Wine-list wise, it’s a crowd pleasing selection of mostly European producers and relatively affordable, with glasses starting at $13 and bottles at $42. There are few better places to take in the Dimes Square scene.
The most intimate of the bunch, tucked in an unassuming block of Broome Street mostly known for laundromats and bodegas, Gem Wine is the casual little sibling of new-Nordic tasting menu restaurant Gem, located just around the corner. The bar comes from self-proclaimed former teen chef Fynn McGarry, who staged at restaurants like Noma and Eleven Madison Park. His sister, Paris McGarry, is responsible for the wine program.
Keeping it very French, you won’t find a wine list here, just a wall of bottles and four by-the-glass options—there’s red, white, orange, or sparkling, alongside a great selection of bottles from hot young producers. If you aren’t an expert, don’t worry—the servers are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and happy to help (another fail-proof method here is to order anything French). Gem Wine doesn’t take reservations, but the bar can get packed with a line forming as soon as the doors open at 5 p.m. It’s worth the wait. Once you’re seated, order a snack from the ever-rotating menu of artful small plates like grilled chicories with bagna cauda, or a boiled artichoke with gribiche.
One of the newest additions to the Lower East Side wine scene is Parcelle, a formerly online-only wine retailer that set up roots with a tiny Division Street bar this past summer. Run by sommelier Grant Reynolds, the bar offers not only great wine (with everything from natural Chardonnays from young Canadian vintners, to classic old world Barolos from Italy). On Thursday evenings they hold weekly wine classes that you can—and should—book in advance, though walk-ins are welcome. The space feels like the world’s chicest living room, with Panton chairs and plush De Sede couches. Lean back, split a bottle from the extensive list with a friend, and order from a menu of elevated bar snacks like whipped lemon ricotta, crudité, and the crowd-pleasing fried chicken sandwich. (For those craving a proper meal, there’s also a small dinner menu and a few actual tables.)
Skin Contact was opened in 2020 by New York wine veteran, Eben Lillie, whose father was one of the founders of Tribeca’s Chamber Street Wines and a pioneer in the stateside natural/low intervention wine movement. Lillie grew up in his father’s shop, and that background of expertise shines in this new space, which he runs alongside business partner Stefanie Djie on Orchard Street.