04/17/17 10:54am
Photo: Georgia Kral

Photo: Faun

If you’re a wine drinker then you’ve probably heard some bottles described as “natural wines.” On menus around town from casual pizza spots to special occasion restaurants, natural wines have become wine directors’ darlings, as well as favorites with diners. Here’s what you need to know.

But what is natural wine?

It’s debatable, really. In the past 10 years, just what is natural wine has been a heated topic in certain circles. We like what Eric Asimov, The New York Times wine writer, has to say about it: “I have always considered the lack of a definition of natural wine to be a great strength … It’s an ideal, rather than a set of rules.”

Those underlying ideals include making wine with as little intervention from the winemakers as possible. That means limiting the addition of preservatives (sulfur) and flavors, and allowing each harvest–which, as with all crops, changes from year to year based on any number of factors–to sing its own tune. Many big name wines, whether you’re talking Yellow Tail or Veuve Clicquot, are made to be consistent year to year. Each bottle tastes the same. Natural wine vintages can vary wildly, and that is considered a desirable reflection of the growing season.

Natural winemakers also let the naturally-occurring yeasts act as the agents of fermentation, rather than adding other yeasts.

“You can’t be a natural winemaker if you’re using cultivated yeasts,” said Mike Fadem, co-owner of Ops in Bushwick, which pours from a constantly rotating list of natural wines. “If you’re letting it happen on its own naturally people are afraid it’s less control, or you’re less likely to get the exact same thing every year.”

But not knowing exactly what you’re going to get is part of the excitement, he added.


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02/02/15 9:28am

There aren’t many new restaurants opening their doors in New York during this frigid season, but one that did–June Wine Bar, which debuted in Cobble Hill this past week–managed to temporarily make me appreciate winter.

Taking over the Court Street space formerly home to Van Horn Sandwich Shop, the team behind June (which includes Henry Rich of Rucola and Tom Kearney of the Farm on Adderly) have given the space a serious overhaul, with a dimly lit, Paris-in-the-20s look that I think should get an award for feeling appropriately Brooklyn-y without using a single Edison bulb.

June Wine Bar, a newcomer on Court Street (Photo: June Wine Bar)

June Wine Bar is a newcomer on Court Street that recently opened in the space formerly occupied by Van Horn Sandwich. Photo: June Wine Bar

The space is warm and cozy and just a little bit sleek, in every way that a wine bar should be, and of course there’s a very wide selection of bottles, with a solid variety of options by the glass and quartino. The focus is on European wines, with darlings of the natural and biodynamic wine world like Olivier Cousin and Herve Souhaut gracing the list, along with some culty grower Champagnes, a pet nat or two, and a few American selections as well.  However, I was a bit surprised that the food stood out even more than the drinks here. The menu of small plates has a healthy mix of meat- and veggie-centric options, while the assorted ingredients listed are often obscure enough to make even very dedicated foodies head straight to Google. (more…)

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08/04/14 4:19pm


We have a stellar Brooklyn staycation for a lucky reader to win. To start off you’ll get two nights at Urban Cowboy, the gorgeous new B&B in Williamsburg. Think clawfoot bathtub, serious wool blankets, a woodstove, and a backyard hot tub–it’s perfect for an autumn visit, like a trip to the Adirondacks without the drive. You’ll also win a $100 gift certificate to use to dine and drink at The Randolph, plus a case (that’s 12 bottles) of red, white and bubbly from our pals at Wine Awesomeness,which will be waiting in your room for you. Sure, if you win you could save this for the next time your friends or family visit–but you should definitely set them up at your place while you treat yourself to a different side of Brooklyn for a few nights. Enter now. 

07/17/14 12:28pm


Sponsored By Tipsy.

Tipsy is a modern neighborhood wine & spirits shop in Brooklyn. Order online at shoptipsy.com.

Created By BlankSlate

Maybe you’re like us, and buying booze is a last-minute errand you do an hour before your party, between cleaning the apartment and showering. Why not let the experts take over? Brooklyn wine shop Tipsy can choose wine and spirits for your corporate event, wedding, or dinner party. They also host private wine or spirit tastings, with themes like Women Winemakers and One Bourbon, One Whiskey, One Rye, and will even choose snacks that pair nicely with your selection.

12/12/13 8:45am

The selection at Vine Wine in Williamsburg reflects a few different passions. For one, they believe that you should always be able to find a delicious and affordable bottle, and keep a whole $15 and under section stocked with just that. Vine also carries more interesting California wines from young winemakers who are changing the West Coast wine scene, like Donkey and Goat, Massican and Forlorn Hope, than nearly anywhere else in the city. It’s a great place to pick up a large format bottle like a magnum, or even bigger, or a bottle of whiskey or hard-to-find spirit. And, Vine is home to more bubbles than you could ever imagine, and a staff that is passionately devoted to helping you find the right sparkler for the occasion. On Saturday, Dec. 14 they’re hosting their annual free champagne tasting with snacks and bottles of bubbly you’d be crazy not to want to try. Here are a few more gift ideas for the season.

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New California Wine Gift Pack
California wine has changed significantly over the past several years and wine journalist Jon Bonne has written a book profiling the young winemakers who are making fascinating new wines that defy the big, heavily oaked, super fruity California image. This gift pack includes a copy of The New California Wine and a two-pack of bottles featured in the book. $68.95

Haut-Segottes 2006 Bordeaux
Vine’s philosophy is that there is a delicious bottle of wine to enjoy in any price range. However, sometimes you need a gift that will impress even the most old school of wine snobs. This Haut-Segottes 2006 from St. Emillion in Bordeaux is it. An herbaceous blend of Cab Franc and Merlot, it’s drinking well right now or can be stored for years to come. Give it to your boss, your girlfriend’s dad or your francophile friend. $39.95

Wine Bible Gift Pack
The Wine Bible is an indispensable tool for anyone who wants to learn more about wine–pros use it to look up obscure grape varieties and details about growing regions all the time. Combine that with a $25 Vine Gift card (which are available in any amount) and you have a great gift for enthusiastic newcomers to the world of wine. $40

Holiday Survival Six Pack
From office parties to friends’ competing Christmas parties to the New Year’s Eve question (what the hell are we going to do this year?), this is an intense time of year. Grab this six-pack and take one decision off your plate. Filled with Vine staffers’ favorites, it will get you through a long weekend with your insufferable brother-in-law, or work as your go-to for last minute hostess gifts. Peace of mind in a reusable wine tote. $120

Les Capriades Sparkling Rosé Magnum
Good guests bring wine, great guests bring magnums. This large format sparkling rosé is a lovely rose petal pink made from a lush but light blend of Gamay and Cab Franc. Bring this to a gathering of any kind and you will be the hero of the night. $49.95

R. H. Coutier Brut Millesime 2004
Forget Veueve Clicquot, Cristal or any sparkling wine (except maybe Carlos Santana DVX) you’ve heard mentioned in a song. Vine has an amazing selection of bubbles from classic champagnes to wild pet nats and the staff can explain the differences and help you find the perfect bottle.  The family that makes this champagne has lived in Ambonnay, one of the largest Grand Cru villages in the Champagne region, since 1614. It’s a beautiful blend of Pinot Noir (75%) and Chardonnay (25%), perfect for an elegant gift or special occasion. Try it at Vine’s annual champagne tasting on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 3-6pm. $69.95