In Canada, Quebec is about as close as you will come to France, and that is definitely the case with the wines that are available in the province. There’s no shortage of French wines at the SAQ (the provincially operated liquor distributor); but thanks to private import licenses for restaurants, the options at independent eateries are a lot more varied. In Montreal, there are no better spots to check out than these restaurants and wine bars.
The only thing that can make Candide's chef John Winter Russell’s food better is when it’s accompanied by sommelier Emily Campeau’s wine pairings. They’re nothing you can find at the SAQ, but everything you wish you could. From Quebec wines you had no idea existed, to the best of new wines coming out of the old world, there’s something to sip on for all palates.
Buvette Chez Simone
If the packed terrasse come 5 p.m. every day is any indication, Buvette Chez Simone on Parc is a popular choice with the after work crowd. It has a wide selection of wines by the glass, and in case you need to get some food into you, there are a number of options for charcuterie and Quebec cheese to choose from.
This St. Henri spot is all about wine, especially local and natural wines that focus on respecting the terroir, from the time the grapes are picked to when the wine ends up in your glass. Its wine club hosts monthly meetings where you get to go eat great food, drink great wine, and most importantly, celebrate it with people who share a common interest.
One of the city's top wine bars, Pullman has a helpful system that allows you to taste just about as much as you want. Order wines by the glass in various sizes, or go for a tasting flight and try a selection of some of their favourites. There are a few two-ounce trios to choose from if you can’t make up your mind on a single glass. Last we checked, the trio options even include a selection of wines from Slovenia: not something you get to try every day.
Le Vin Papillon
At Le Vin Papillon, the no. 1 rule is to let go of all control and put your fate in the hands of the experts. Tell them what you like – red or white, sweet or dry, fruity or oaky–and let them choose a wine to pair with the food you’re going to eat along with it according to your personal taste. Just be sure to take plenty of pics of each bottle so you can remember what you drank because you’re going to want to get your hands on some of them again!
The little brother to Lawrence next door on St. Laurent, Larrys is all about small plates and wines to accompany them. Prices by the bottle are incredibly reasonable with lots of options under $60, so come with a friend and share! Don’t ignore the food. Drink while you nibble on everything from terrines and rillettes to stewed eggplant and lentils.
Looking to entertain a crowd? Les Fillettes should definitely be on your list, not just for the food, but for its crazy selection of great wines. It has an usually large selection of magnums (as well as a private room) so if you know your group will be having more than two regular bottles of great wine, you can do that easily here. If you’d rather scale it down a notch, there are plenty of options for regular-sized bottles of wine too, with a heavy emphasis on varietals from France.
Although not the most budget friendly option on this list, this Laurier spot should be on your radar for when you want to splurge. It has about 40 wines by the glass, so you don't have to commit to an entire bottle if you don’t want to. Also, it offers tastings on Tuesdays if you’d like to learn more about wine.