During the last 10 years or so, the concept of the Wine Bar has gained in popularity, becoming an actual trend with not just the ‘young adult’ crowd, but also a way to unwind and relax for people of the older generations as well. In Malta, many places labelled as ‘wine-bars’ are actually a hybrid of a coffee shop, lounge, pub and entertainment venue, often providing live performances, and a themed decor.

Most such wine bars serve not just alcoholic drinks, but also a sumptuous array of platters, tit-bits, traditional focaccie, and hors d’oeuvres. The atmosphere and style of a wine-bar is important for its success, especially keeping in mind that at present there is a severe and serious competition taking place, since there are a great number of wine bars around. Many of them are actually quite fabulous, however some seem to want to tempt fate with their prices, therefore one must tally everything: atmosphere, service, food, and most of all, of course, the wines on offer, before deciding whether or not the game is worth the candle.

Of course, I haven’t visited ALL the wine-bars in Malta, not yet at least. There are indeed many more I would like to visit in future, however these establishments will definitely not find me an unassuming or unpretentious customer, since I’ve already experienced quite a number of very good wine bars. These 5, in fact, are my favourites so far:

1. Il-Forn Art Gallery & Wine Bar, Birgu (Vittoriosa) – This wine bar has recently closed and been re-opened as a hostel, however I still thought it worth a mention as I will always remember it fondly. As the name itself reveals, the wine bar was not just a venue to enjoy some quality food and tasty wines, but also served as an art gallery. The gallery was free to be enjoyed by the wine bar’s clients, and there was also an adult section at the back which was quite amusing. The food; a mixture of Maltese, Asian, Austrian and Ethnic, was itself a work of art, being very affordable notwithstanding the large portions. Most importantly, the wine list was very organised and the staff was nice and friendly. I definitely recommend other such establishments to take these points as worthwhile guidelines to be followed.

2. Tat-Taraġ Cafe & Wine Bar, Rabat – Located in the centre of the public steps (‘taraġ’ in Maltese) leading to an old water-spout, this wine bar is set on high ground and offers magnificent views of the countryside and villages below. The terrace which forms part of the original stairway, is spacious and accommodates clients with ease. It is the perfect place to sip chilled wine and munch on crispy bruschette on a warm evening. The interior of the wine bar is very tastefully decorated, sporting typical Maltese stone walls adorned with modern paintings, luxuriously framed mirrors, hanging glass and crystal. The items on offer are simply mouth-watering – I recommend the chocolate cake in particular. Gluten free items are available; these may not be apparent on the menu, but one only needs to talk to the staff and they’ll do their best to help. This is their Trip advisor page.

3. Vinium Wine Bar, Mdina – Situated within the same building hosting the popular Fontanella Tea Gardens, this wine bar, found in the ‘silent city’ of Mdina, offers a truly unique al fresco experience. Here, one can enjoy the spectacular view overlooking the Mdina bastions, while tasting anything from Mediterranean tapas, to platters, pizza, and even grilled food. The true speciality of the place however, are its delicious local wines. Prices are not cheap, but the incredible atmosphere is definitely worth it! Truly a place to celebrate special occasions in! Here’s their official page.

4. Legligin, Valletta – Dripping with historical resonance, this very tiny wine bar, situated in the middle of Valletta, encapsulates all that is traditionally medieval and Maltese. Prices are minute and it’s not cheap, yet the food is prepared with such priceless attention and expertise as to leave you wondering whether they actually use the same ingredients available in your kitchen every day. Perfect for a date or romantic evening. The owner himself is fascinating and his love for the preparation of food is as overwhelming as the very good local wine on offer. A real gem! Take a look at the Trip advisor page.

5. Del Borgo Wine Bar, Birgu (Vittoriosa) – Set in a very romantic and historical setting, one ascends the steps to go into an establishment which is centuries old and used to serve as the cellar of the Prince of Wales’ band club. The tapas and food medley of Maltese and Greek antipasti, not to mention my favourite main course entitled ‘Bil-Ġunġlien’, which is basically oven-baked Maltese bread dough stuffed with pork belly meat, rikotta cheese, and other traditional ingredients, compete strongly with the vast selection of wines, for one’s attention. Seriously, not to be missed! Take a peek at the official website.