One way of getting to know a city is chatting with a hotel concierge. Another is perusing the local paper. But for a true bead on a town and on the personality of its people, visit a wine shop. It isn't just a place to discover affordable alternatives to hotel minibars; it's also a likely source for tips on restaurants, cheese shops and bakeries, not to mention a window onto the culture of the city itself. Recently F&W sought the advice of seven well-traveled journalists, asking them to tell us about their favorite wine shops in the foreign cities they know best.
KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens) Wittenbergplatz; 011-49-30-212-10.
Consulting Authority Stuart Pigott, Berlin-based British wine journalist.
Claim to Fame KaDeWe is Germany's premier luxury de-partment store and reputedly the largest one in Europe. It is famous for its sixth-floor Food Hall (a staggering collection of specialty shops and restaurants), which is generally acknowledged to be the gastronomic center of Berlin.
Stock Options The store carries a first-rate selection from the best wine producers in Germany and also stocks a wide range of California and Oregon wines.
Berry Bros. & Rudd 3 St. James's St.; 011-44-171-396-9600.
Consulting Authority Brian St. Pierre, contributing editor to Decanter, England's leading wine magazine.
Claim to Fame This 300-year-old wine merchant commissioned the creation of a liqueur for King Edward VII called The King's Ginger Liqueur, as well as Cutty Sark, a blended Scotch whiskey specifically aimed at the American market.
Stock Options The shop features an impressive selection of French and German wines, not to mention a large number of bottles from South Africa.
Notable Neighbors It's just across the street from St. James's Palace and the famed food purveyor Fortnum & Mason, and it's around the corner from one of the oldest cheese shops in London, Paxton & Whitfield.
Sedmoy Continent 12/1 Bolshaya Lubyanka; 011-7-095-928-9527.
Consulting Authority Natasha Fairweather, English freelance journalist and literary critic who lived in Moscow for a number of years.
Claim to Fame Fellow shoppers could be KGB agents: the store stands in the shadow of Lubyanka, the KGB's headquarters, and it's only a few blocks away from the Kremlin.
Stock Options Most of the wines are medium-priced shippers' blends (such as Barton & Guestier Blanc de Blancs), but the store does carry some higher-quality French wines, such as the 1988 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage and the 1995 Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé. And for those who feel obliged to drink a native product--or are simply feeling adventurous--the store also carries Georgian and Moldavian wines.
Notable Neighbors Within walking distance of Sedmoy Continent are some of the best tourist hotels in the city, including Metropol, Savoy and Kempinski.
Les Caves Taillevent 199 Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, 8th arrondissement; 011-33-1-45-61-14-09.
Consulting Authority Patricia Wells, F&Wcontributing editor and cookbook author based in Paris.
Claim to Fame The same family that runs the Michelin three-star restaurant Taillevent owns Les Caves Taillevent.
Stock Options Every French wine-producing region, from Alsace to Provence, is represented here.
Notable Neighbors The shop lies in the heart of Paris's haute couture district, close to such design houses as Lacroix, Dior and Saint Laurent. The noted chocolatier La Maison du Chocolat and the coffee and tea emporium Verlet are both within close proximity of Les Caves Taillevent.
Trimani 20 Via Goito; 011-39-6-446-9661.
Consulting Authority Burton Anderson, American wine expert and noted travel writer currently living in Italy.
Claim to Fame Founded in 1821 by Francesco Trimani, this is one of Rome's oldest and most respected wine shops. It's also, Anderson notes, a place where he learned a good deal about Italian wine as a young wine writer just starting out.
Stock Options The store carries bottles from all 20 of Italy's wine-producing regions, with Tuscany, Piedmont and Rome's home region, Latium, the most strongly represented.
Notable Neighbors The Trimanis recently opened a wine bar around the corner from their shop, where customers can enjoy a glass of the family's own red, Torre Ercolana, along with such light food as omelets and pastas.
Tokyu 2-24-1 Dogenzaka; 011-81-3-3477-311.
Consulting Authority Stephen Tanzer, wine columnist for this magazine, author of Food & Wine Magazine's Official Wine Guide 1998 and editor of the International Wine Cellar.
Claim to Fame This is among the largest and best-known department stores in Japan, and it has one of the country's best wine selections.
Stock Options Hard-to-find French and Italian wines from first-rate producers are stored in temperature-controlled cellars, a practice that's not always the rule in Tokyo. The store also has an impressive wine library, which includes more than a hundred vintages of Château d'Yquem.
Notable Neighbors Tokyu is located in the Shibuya section of Tokyo, adjacent to the culturally hip Bunkamura complex, site of the Tokyo Film Festival and home to numerous cafés, bookstores and theaters.
Manulife 55 Bloor St. W.; 416-925-5266.
Consulting Authority Tony Aspler, editor of Wine Tidings magazine and wine columnist for The TorontoStar.
Claim to Fame The store is staffed almost entirely by women, and its pastel colors and light woods were designed to appeal specifically to female customers. (It's been said that Manulife more closely resembles The Gap than it does a traditional retail wine shop.) In fact, it has been so successful that other Ontario wine and liquor stores are pre-paring to follow the Manulife model.
Stock Options There are more than 2,000 labels in the store to choose from, including a significant number of sought-after French wines, such as the 1988 Château d'Yquem and the 1986 Château La Lagune.