Thanks to a generation of young sommeliers and committed retailers, the capital of beer has become a new hot spot for wine-lovers. On the Isar, you can discover the best wines in the world in a wonderfully relaxed way. We show you the best places to go.
The mother of all Munich wine bars and with its 28 years of age a classic in every respect. It is run by the Munich hotelier and restaurateur family Geisel, whose ancestor Anna Geisel established one of the first wine taverns in the beer city of Munich in the 1920s.
If you enter the Vinothek from the pedestrian area between Karlsplatz-Stachus (square) and the Central Station and watch restaurant manager Robert Zeller pouring a vintage Bordeaux or carefully cutting his San-Daniele ham slice by slice on his red Berkel slicer and arranging it on a plate, you'll immediately see how much this old-school maître d' values what he has, and his guests. This relaxed, friendly service is one of the main reasons that people immediately feel at home here. Beneath its vaulted ceiling, the Vinothek itself has around ten seats right by the bar, with the remainder split between about 12 tables across the wood-panelled Bavarian Alpine-style snug – it's a laid-back place.
It's also an ideal spot for travellers: for a glass of wine, a light Mediterranean meal or the excellent home-made pasta before or after a long train journey. The wine menu offers all the main types, with more than 700 entries ranging from big German Rieslings, established Austrian Veltliners from the Wachau and Sauvignon Blancs from Steiermark, to Bordeaux, Burgundies and classical Italian wines from Piemont and Tuscany. What's special about this place: many of the wines have a remarkable vintage. And: almost every day, Robert Zeller opens a special magnum and other sought-after wines which he then serves by the glass.
Tip: Ask for a vintage Bordeaux, and share a bottle with friends. For around 100 euro, you can get wines aged for more than 20 years that have been laid down in perfect conditions. Served with a plate of San Daniele ham.
Geisels Vinothek, Schützenstrasse 11
The whole huge world of wine brought together in a lounge in the heart of Munich. In truth, the Grapes wine bar is of course not a lounge, but rather a small bar and, from 6.30 am, the breakfast room for the Hotel Cortiina on the Ledererstrasse, close to the Hofbräuhaus (beer hall). But somehow, the two Austrian sommeliers Stefan Grabler and Markus Hirschler manage, with charm, invective and 'the good stuff', night after night to transform the discreetly lighted seating area into a proper lounge for wine lovers.
The unbelievably rapidly growing selection – there are currently just under 1,300 different wines covering every style, grape and region – reflects the pair's restless passion and their innate sense of today's most exciting wine styles and winemakers. The wines, ranging from easy-drinking to complex, offer everything to set hearts racing; each with its own character and finesse. Whether it's a Chardonnay from a small vineyard in Burgundy, which is a good indication of everything a premium local wine can be in an affordable quality.
Or orange wines that are created according to nature. Whichever it is, you can count on Grapes to serve wines that surprise. And you can bury any long-held misconception that only bone-dry wines are enjoyable. For example, a Kabinett wine by Matthias Knebel from the steep slopes of the Moselle terraces demonstrates how well sweet and sour can go together.
Grabler and Hirschler regularly bring their favourite winemakers to the city for their monthly winegrowers' evenings. It's an opportunity to drink your way through their Œuvre and understand the signature characteristics of a winemaker. All this in exceptionally comfortable seats, just like you'd find in a real lounge.
Tip: Ask for a glass of the white cuvée Trenzado from Tenerife that cleverly combines enamel, minerals and an earthy texture – and encapsulates the whole island in a single sip.
Grapes Weinbar, Ledererstrasse 8a
Tantris is the city's most spectacular restaurant. Not just because of the bright orange carpets on the ceiling, and because words such as: AFFENDURST (raging thirst), WEINSELIG (merry with wine) und DIONYSISCH (Dionysian) glare out visibly from afar in gold above guests' heads; but also, and actually only, because of its wine menu.
Like a chronicle, it tells the story of the passion of the Eichbauer family and their sommeliers dating back almost five decades. The restaurant owes the treasures in its Schwabing cellar to its founder Fritz Eichbauer who, in 1971, started his epicurean adventure with an unbelievable 35,000 bottles. From the outset, he fostered personal contact with the best international winegrowers and even today, Tantris sommeliers travel the world to discover the most exciting wines of tomorrow.
Just recently, says head sommelier Nicolas Spanier, he met the Loire winemaker Eric Morgat who is based closed to Angers, and whose wines he now imports exclusively for Tantris. For a first delicious insight into this world of wine, he recommends the wine accompaniment to the five-course menu. For 125 euro, you will be served five wines, some of which have matured for up to 20 years. Not the cheapest, but it's a good investment in your own drinking culture, because these wines will serve as key landmarks in expanding your personal wine horizon. And insiders know: the refills here are fortunately generous.
Tip: Three years ago, the founder's son and now managing director Felix Eichbauer even acquired his own Tuscan vineyard, Podere Salicutti in Montalcino, which he runs with his wife Sabine. Their three vineyards – Brunello Piaggione, Sorgente and Teatro – are on the one hand powerful, but at the same time full of finesse and elegance. They are always included in the wine accompaniment at Tantris, and are occasionally also available by the glass.
Tantris, Johann-Fichte-Strasse 7
The sommeliers at the Mural restaurant are the city's natural wine specialists. Now, Wolfgang Hingerl and Maximilian Hildebrandt have opened a bar at Maxvorstadt where they are demonstrating that the trend for natural, unsprayed, unfiltered and non-sulphurised wines reached Munich some time ago. These generally organically produced wines are enriching the wine scene in particular when, as here, they are expertly and sensitively selected to find the best examples. This new world is conveyed calmly at Bar Mural.
It becomes clear that sommelier and barkeeper Maximilian Hildebrandt's understanding of wine isn't purely theoretical when, in a quiet moment, he talks about his experience harvesting grapes in Montalcino. He knows how important it is for complex wines in particular to bring only the best grapes to the press and the cellar. His passion for well-crafted wines with character is palpable. He believes that natural wines reveal their origin, or so-called terroir, in a very particular way by revealing all the influences that together define the character of the wine, such as the soil, climate, and even the wine-grower's personality. The many unconventional wines at Mural reflect this idea.
On the open shelves behind the bar, all the wines are visibly displayed as a sort of living wine menu. The long, puristic copper counter, the bar stools and the exposed ventilation pipes make Mural a contemporary urban bar that, with its great sound system, at weekends becomes a wine club that stays open late (officially to 1.00am, but often later).
Tip: A good introduction to the world of natural wine is the Ex Vero III (2012) magnum from the Verlitsch winery, which is served here by the glass for 9 euro.
Bar Mural, Theresienstrasse 1
The Pfälzer Weinstube has had its home right on the Odeonsplatz (square), opposite the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshal's Hall), since the 1950s. Generations of Munich opera and theatre-goers have enjoyed a large glass of wine here following a performance. The term 'stube' – or snug – couldn't be more of an understatement: the spaces here in the baroque part of the residence are halls. There is space for a total of 450 guests. The large four-columned hall on the ground floor immediately as you enter easily holds is own with the large brasseries in Paris in terms of size. The room height: just under eight metres. And yet it is probably the city's most egalitarian wine spot, with every cross-section of society passing through its doors. Almost like in the beer garden.
Served by the glass, the simple wine is ordered by number. Number 5a, for example, is a straightforward Riesling for 4.60 euro for a large glass. The winner of the Goldene Kammerpreismünze (regional wine award) is described as "racy" and "fully fermented", which sounds like it's more of an acquired tastes than it really is. A decent Riesling. Oh, and by the way: no one at the Pfälzer Weinstube has ever complained about the amount of wine that's poured. The simple glasses may lack style, but they are filled to the brim.
All the wines, as the name suggests, come from the Palatinate region. The Landesverband der Pfälzer in Bayern (regional association of Palatinates in Bavaria) maintains the bar as a reminder of the historical connection between beer-drinking Bavaria and the wine-loving Palatinate. The association selects the bottles of wine that appear on the menu, ensuring regular variety; they are often from award-winning but little-known wineries that present their wines here. But they are all solid wines and – as the menu puts it – "good", in the sense that "the wine displays the properties typical of its grape and origin". Most of all though, it's an old Munich tradition to end the night over a few glasses at this hugely historical spot.
Tip: The tarte flambée is the perfect accompaniment to all the wines. If your culinary tastes are more courageous, try specially imported Palatinate specialities like Saumagen (pig's stomach).
Pfälzer Residenz Weinstube, Residenzstrasse 1