Goss isn’t your typical standing wine bar. Opened by noted Ginza restaurateur Kimihiko Araya in 2007 to complement his seafood restaurant Kazan next door, it’s more of a wine-tasting gallery: a place to expand your knowledge of viticulture and hone your sommelier skills. With more than 300 labels in stock and 24 available for sampling, you can enjoy an education in the world of fine wine and wow your date without blowing a month’s salary in the process.
Though too small for serious dancing, Goss could almost pass for a nightclub with its sleek black interior. You can seek out a corner stool from which to discuss the merits of the Krug Grand Cuvée if you like, but many customers prefer to hang out between the bar and the backlit wine sampling cabinets, chatting and listening in on the recommendations being doled out by the staff.
We breezed in on a warm evening and settled near the door, starting with a glass of Beaumont des Crayères champagne (¥1,400). As we watched passersby through the narrow window running the length of the wall, we decided on a second round of champagne, Pol Roger (¥1,500), relaxing when we noticed that glasses of bubbly are half-price from 5:30 to 7:30pm.
With high-energy techno pumping in the background, we moved—as cool as Belmondo, we’re sure—to the sampling cabinets. Imported from Italy, the temperature-controlled dispensers use a prepaid card (¥500) that can be charged in ¥2,000 increments, allowing you to take as much or as little as you want. Borsao Classico Tinto Garnacha, for example, is offered in flights of 50ml (¥300), 80ml (¥500) and 120ml (¥700), while the financial-crisis-be-damned Chateau Mouton Rothschild ’97 comes in 20ml (¥2,600), 40ml (¥4,200) and 80ml servings (¥7,600).
We discovered that the medium-sized samples are the best bet, giving a good sense of the wine but leaving ample yen for trying others. In quick succession, we tasted the Momo Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Stump Jump Grenache from Australia, Ricca Kerner from Japan and Terra Noble Carmenere from Chile.
At the same time, we ordered frequently from the à la carte menu: Tasmanian oysters in a wine and cucumber sauce that lightened the sea in them (¥200 each); mixed olives (¥500); grilled cheese, butter vegetables and walnuts (¥900); New Caledonian angel prawns with lobster sauce, cubed potato and spinach (¥1,600); and, best of all, Fukushima roasted pork with potato and olive bread (¥1,200).
As the evening came to a close, we waltzed out to the strains of Serge Gainsbourg, which our dates compared to something from the soundtrack of Sex and the City. Muttering sweet nothings in a husky French baritone while a woman moaned slowly, Serge sounded like a professor lecturing on Rimbaud—but for all we understand of the language, he could just as easily have been explaining the wine in front of us. Clearly, we still have a lot to learn.