Wine Tips for Tokyo

I loved our trip to Tokyo last week. The city lights, culture and exquisite food. We had a very mixed week when it comes to culinary experiences: traditional to modern, fine dining to street food; the Japanese master them all. One thing that came to me as a surprise though was the blooming wine-scene. I don’t know if we were just lucky, but seems that having a decent glass of wine is not that hard at all. Here is a short list of my favorites:

The Ahiru Store is a bar in Shibuya specializing in natural wines. They have a selection of around seven to ten wines by the glass as well as a larger list by bottle. Prices vary from around 400 to 1200 yen (5 to 10 EUR). The shop is very small, so it is not so easy to fit in. But the staff tries their best to arrange seating. For us they brought out a table and placed it just outside of the door (the weather was good, so no problem). You can also reserve a table, so perhaps that is a wise thing to do. We came ten minutes before opening and we were the last party to fit “in”. The Ahiru Store also serves small plates of food: bread, charcuterie and such. We were on our way for dinner, otherwise we would have tried out some of the food as well. The bread looked amazing! The only downside, which you will easily run into in Japan, is that the staff do not speak good enough English to really discuss the wines. So we chose our glasses by gut feeling.

Come early if you want to fit into the Ahiru Store
Come early if you want to fit into the Ahiru Store

Bouteille, is a pocket sized wine bar in Shibuya. It is located just next to the tracks, in a dark alley with similar sized small beer hangouts. When I say pocket sized, I mean really tiny. You can barely fit ten people in. We stumbled upon this place just by accident. We were on our way to a camera store, when we noticed it and decided to pop in. They had one champagne by the glass, three whites and four reds from around the world. Not an exciting selection, but not bad either. We went for the bubbly as we were curious. We had never heard of Marie Hangze Champagne before and the glass price was only 1000 yen (7 EUR). The wine was nothing spectacular, but very good for the price. The best thing about Bouteille is not the selection of wines though; it is the cozy feeling of being cramped in to the smallest wine bar ever. The bartender was not very talkative, probably due to the language barrier again. However, she was very friendly and I think if we would have had more time to try out different wines, we could have chatted her up a bit. This being a spontaneous wine-stop, we only had time for one glass.

The cozy Bouteille
The cozy Bouteille

L’Effervescense is a two Michelin-star restaurant in the cute area of Omote-Sando. The ambiance is neat but relaxed and the cuisine Japanese with a French twist. When booking the restaurant, we did not expect to be ordering wine. We had the expectation of the wines being slightly out of our price range as well as the list being more to the direction of big brand bubblies. How wrong we were, on both aspects. When I saw the champagne list of this place, I was blown away. Jacques Selosse, Benoit Lahaye, Léclapart and Vouette & Sobree are only a few names from the list. Prices started from 10 000 yen for a bottle. For the cheaper range it seemed to be double the store price. But for the more expensive ones, they had perhaps added only around 5 000-10 000 yen. Perhaps they had a fixed margin. Whatever the case, I do not recall ever seeing such a perfect list of my favorite champagnes ever before. Go and have a look yourself, here is the link. We almost went for a bottle, but decided against it after realizing it was barely noon. The champagne by the glass was a Lahaye blanc de noirs and cost only around 2000 yen (14 EUR).  Service at the restaurant was wonderful and so was the food.

Champagne for lunch
Champagne for lunch

Love all three of these places and will definitely go again when next time in Tokyo (whenever that is)

xx Soile

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