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During the past year or so, the city has witnessed a wine-bar explosion that caters to the refined tastes of the nouveau riche. But is the craze destined to go the way of the NASDAQ?

At IL POSTOACCANTO (190 East 2nd Street, 228-3562)—sister bar of the popular East Village eatery Il Baggato—the focus is on, you guessed it, Italian wines, whether by the glass, quarter- or half-carafe, or bottle. The full-bodied Chianti Classico (La Sala ’98, $36 bottle) and olive-hinted Barbera d’ Alba (Bric La Ginestra ’97, $36 bottle) paired nicely with a salami-and-cheese plate ($14), but best of all was the atmosphere: the hunk of cured beef laid out behind the L-shaped bar, the careful inspection of every glass for spots, the stamped-tin ceiling and the grapevines that hug it, and the fresh-cut flowers and candelabras that grace the long communal table. Unfortunately, there’s no beer—not even a single Peroni—to be found.

The Lilliputian BAR DEMI (125 1/2 East 17th Street, 260-0900), with its seven tiny glass tables, offers a wider variety of libations (fancy imported beers, champagne, and, of course, wine), but you can’t smoke here until after 11 p.m., and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a seat if your party is greater than two. The Australian Shiraz (Frankland Estate ’98, $22 1/2-bottle), with its tannic bite, offset the pâté-like pork rillette, hearty duck prosciutto, and crisp beef bourguignon rolls that arrived on an impressive three-tier tower ($18), while a glass of sherry ($7) and an array of chocolate truffles, verbena crème brûlées, and tea cakes ($12) were decadent nightcaps. But even though passersby gawk through the window at all the enticing samplings, the place has an inescapable ladies-who-lunch feel.

Far from stodgy, trendy RHONE (63 Gansevoort Street, 367-844) puts the MePa in the Meatpacking District with its creative use of plywood and Plexiglas. The large, open-faced square bar trills with fashionable lookers, so grab an adjacent table and sink into your mod aqua lounge chair while you sip on a delicate, rather pinkish Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Domaine de Marcoux ’97, $9 glass) or a more full-blown Gigondas (Domaine du Cayron ’97, $9 glass). The appetizer list is limited, but a ripe-and-rinded cheese plate ($16) and duck-confit terrine ($11) were very trés Fronch. Only problem is, you somehow leave feeling dirty, like Paris Hilton spending a king’s ransom on a python Dior saddlebag.

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