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No genre of restaurant may be trickier to pull off in Atlanta than the wine bar. It doesn't quite jibe with our character. In walking cities like New York and San Francisco, where wine bars flourish, they pop up as small, intimate hangouts—boozy versions of coffeehouses—or transform into cheffy showcases that glamorize charcuterie and dote on obscure wine varietals from France and Italy.

In driving cultures like Atlanta, where we tend to hunker down at one establishment for the night, light bites like salumi and cheese plates alongside glasses of Prosecco or Pinot Noir don’t suffice: We require heftier sustenance. Even Inman Park’s tiny Krog Bar, which serves forty to fifty wines by the glass, began in 2005 with a simple menu including chicken liver pâté and finger sandwiches but eventually wove stouter dishes like seared duck and garlic shrimp into the mix as well.

Barcelona Wine Bar

We’re not kidding ourselves. We know the runaway success of this Inman Park outpost of a small, Connecticut-based operation is due more to the sexy rustic-chic decor and menu of fun tapas than to the amazing, eclectic wine list with more than 250 selections.

Barcelona Wine Bar

"Hello, and welcome to Cougar Town," a friend said as we jostled through the crowd at Barcelona Wine Bar. She was eyeing a table of six preternaturally blond girlfriends, clinking sloshy glasses of red wine and shrieking "Happy Birthday" to one of their pack. Scores of other coiffed, forty-something women prowled the central bar, their spiky heels on the wooden floors adding snare-drum rim shots to the growing din of voices.

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