Denmark is not France or Italy, or even Spain. But it’s still an excellent, if under-the-radar, travel destination for oenophiles.
Today, aficionados around the world are debating the merits of so-called natural wine (a term with no official designation or commonly agreed-upon meaning), but the conversation began in 2003 with the opening of Noma. For its chef, René Redzepi, an ingredient’s origins and cultivation methods mattered, and the same went for wine. Many of Redzepi’s disciples have hung out their own shingles, opening wine-centric restaurants and bars throughout Copenhagen, which makes this an especially ripe time to visit.
Start by the canal in the central historic district of Indre By at Ved Stranden 10, which resembles a cozy living room and serves only wine from Austria. There’s no list or menu, but you’ll eventually get used to that little idiosyncrasy—at many of these spots, one’s order is the product of a conversation with the owner, sommelier, or server. Ved Stranden 10 doesn’t offer much in the way of food, but nearby, at Admiralgade 26, there’s a Japanese-influenced new-Nordic menu (mostly vegetarian), also served in a cozy, stylish living room.
Just a few more steps along the canal, Den Vandrette has plenty of organically sourced small plates (sunflower hummus, harissa, and roasted carrots), served alongside bottles from cult-favorite Spanish producers such as Escoda-Sanahuja. Those looking for a more Parisian experience will enjoy Bar’Vin, which opened in 2012, making it an institution of Copenhagen’s ever evolving restaurant landscape. Bottle-lined walls, bistro tables, and Thonet chairs make this not only a good place to drink but also a solid lunch option. The food skews French, but its tartare, chèvre chaud, and côte de boeuf are dressed up with Danish herbs and fermented vegetables.
There’s no list or menu, but you’ll eventually get used to that little idiosyncrasy.
Those on the hunt for Michelin stars will enjoy Jatak, a fine-dining restaurant whose culinary influences are taken from all over the place. (No offense to New-Nordic cuisine, but a little variety is always nice.) Ark, a vegan restaurant from Australian chef Jason Renwick, relies heavily on mushrooms. (Renwick, in fact, farms them.) This is a good thing, because Ark’s wine pairings include rare, earthy Poulsards and some surprisingly refreshing Chardonnays from Austria that make for an exciting, only-in-Copenhagen meal.
Alouette’s five-course tasting menu earned it a Michelin star in 2018. The building is a former factory, and while the entrance may be covered in graffiti, the dining room is beautifully designed in new Scandi style—smoked-oak tables, navy tiled walls, and expensive ceramics. Sommelier Darragh Nolan is among the most knowledgeable in town. Here, one might discover the occasional bottle from California, but rest assured it’s made by a Danish winemaker.
In Copenhagen, the more casual spots are often the most enjoyable. Roots, a wine bar, tasting room, and bottle shop with several locations around town, is a local favorite; two of the owners, Felix Chamorro, and Leonardo Camboni, are former sommeliers at top-rated restaurants such as Brace, Relæ, and Tabarro. They take a familial interest in strangers, and stimulating conversations about wine (among other things) are guaranteed.
The Ved Stranden 10 team has also opened Lille Blå Vinbar—“little blue wine bar,” with an all-Austrian list—and its cerulean door makes it easy to spot from the street. At Josephine, in the residential Amager East neighborhood, reservations are not accepted, but it’s no problem, because the party is usually spilling out onto the street anyway.
And then there are the all-day cafés—Villette, Friheden, Lunden, and Autopoul—which serve rare bottles from small producers. It’s the Danish answer to the German biergarten, but with more precision and panache. One could spend an entire week, month, or year doing nothing but drinking here, but should a headache eventually set in, don’t worry. The Designmuseum is still here, and open six days a week.
Kyle Beechey is a New York–based writer and photographer. She contributes to Bon Appétit, Departures, and HTSI