Wine is a good match for Charleston. My friends and I often like to steal away for a glass or two; our favorite haunt is Bin 152. The big glasses poured there by Patrick or Fannie (a French-accented beauty) just seem to lubricate good conversation. And the excellent cheese and charcuterie plates, along with the lively crowd, always add to our good time.
There are all kinds of wine bars in this town. Some of Charleston’s oldest establishments have centuries-old cellars lined with cool, dusty bottles; others have trap doors in the kitchen floors that lead to the stash. Wine tastings are held all over the city, too, and these range from upscale Champagne and Burgundy-sampling events held at the annual BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival to the informal gatherings at the Wine Shop of Charleston, held near the Ashley River marina every Friday afternoon for $5. Here are some city picks for getting your wine on.
From the outside, this King Street bar often looks like it’s closed. There are no overhead lights here, no bright signs or TV screens—just a room of low-lit wooden tables and chairs. The vibe is Parisian, the conversation is lively, and before you commit to a whole glass of white Burgundy or a Williamette Valley Pinot Noir, the friendly bartenders will always give you a taste.
Though it’s best known for its seasonal, locally sourced cuisine, the wine program of this beloved downtown restaurant has also won serious accolades. The expansive wine list here includes not just great choices from all the best Old- and New-World wine-producing regions, but from unusual locales like Slovenia and Santorini.
Social Restaurant + Wine Bar
Pouring dozens of wines by the glass for just $4 to $6.50, it’s no wonder that this terrific wine bar, helmed by master sommelier Brad Ball, is abuzz nearly every night of the week. His wine cellar is a stunner—filled with some 4,000 bottles—and the bar snacks like crispy shrimp spring rolls are also excellent.
More than 1,300 wine labels fill the cellar in this Charleston Place restaurant, including many rare vintage wines arranged in the mahogany cabinets in the Vintner’s Room. Take the sommelier’s suggestions, enjoy the live jazz performers and chef Michelle Weaver’s scrumptious Southern dishes, and raise a toast with the gorgeous glassware.
I like the almost-secret feel of this place. After arriving via an alley, I’m greeted by the bartender who pours me a fat glass of red. Then I settle in at the brick and walnut wood bar and gaze at the two-story wall lined with wine bottles: France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal, North America. It’s a perfect, contemplative way to unwind.