Friday, 6 January 2017

We went to 5 natural wine bars in New York and drank 13 wines. Here are my notes


December 27, 21.30, New York. 

Have been drinking all day except at lunch when we were eating — Katz’s — but first we did Brooklyn and very first: Diner. Perched at counter, coats off, global warming shock warm remember this is December. Chicken soup for our souls and a white Burgundy I’m promised don’t taste classic but does. Fresh, clean, whatever. Free re-fill of $16 glass like it’s coffee for that diner feelin’ or flirting. Both good. Next is litre bottle orange “Vino Bianco” 2015 by Cantina Giardino (Coda di Volpe + Greco fermented on the skins for 10 days then aged in chestnut casks) which is sage and honeysuckle and apricot. Very easy, a little toasty and 100% juicy. Did I mention litre bottle?

Next up: next door. This is the first of two pairs of bars we visited serving only natural wines next to each other. This is civilisation. Step into Marlow & Sons or step into upstate New York rustic cabin wine bar with all natural list (does this exist???), pine boughs hanging, smelling, gloom-lit and candlelight and the difference is the same. This is how it feels here, ‘here’ being New York not upstate. This is civilisation. Taste-sips down the list and we think ‘how cool’ they have their own ‘Marlow’ wine. This is every year from someone different and this year an unfiltered, fragrant, slightly oxidised 2015 Romorantin by Hervé Vilimade all canary yellow wax topped 1.5l of it with label drawn by Andrew Tarlow, cookbook writer Dinner at the Long Table and owner. Order a dozen Bird Island oysters that taste like Rhode Island big gulp of the Atlantic and drink juicy, slightly spicy Grolleau (“Grappe Full” 2015 by Adrien Baloche from the Auvergne). Small, tart wild-picked cherries. Smashable

Lunch break.

It’s 16.30 not yet 17.00 so it’s the Ten Bells via Chambers Street Wines and we’re kids in a candy store when kids still liked candy more than their iPhones. We are three and we buy a 2012 “Saulétas" Sancerre (bright, sweet and deep, thank you always Sèbastian Riffault); “Calico” 2015 by Vignenvie Collective (earthy, citrusy but lacking anything bright), a 50 strong collective preserving vines in Charnay, Beaujolais; Mariam Iosebidze's 2015 "Tavkevri" (a girl!!) from Georgia (notes) and "Torre Nova" 2015 by Del Prete (notes). Guy helping us is called Eban. Eben tells us to go to a place called Dirty Bird. Eben prints out wine list for Dirty Bird. 

Time for Ten Bells and for sitting. Wrap around bar wrapped round Sev Perru is full at 18.00 so we sit in the corner where the empty magnums are kept. Could be worse. Place is dark with corners and candlelight. I taste the “Ploussard de l’ami ami Karl” 2015 (Domaine de la Pinte) and decide instead (sorry Karl) on “Cardamine" 2014 by Les Herbes Folles (Grenache) which is flamboyant: jammy (cherry), luscious and Grenache intense-spicy. A black eye bruiser for sure. To my right sips an aromatic, flinty 2015 Georgian qvevri orange, “Kisi” from Do Ré Mi, and on my left Domaine Binner's 2014 Gewurztraiminer Pinot Gris which tastes like roses. Then lastly a glass of something American  for the road (“Jambalaia” 2015 by La Clarine Farm: 59 % Mourvedre, 21 % Marsanne, 15% Grenache + Syrah) that was zippy, zesty, crisp and juicy and remarkable for the way it honest to god smelled like Florida red grapefruit  and tasted 'French' despite being from California. And then we go to Contra.

Contra. Contra is next to Wildair making this the second pair of couples. Wildair looks like to drink you must also eat so we sit at the hallway bar of Contra and are greeted by a fierce cocktail shaking lady that talks a soft ‘y’all’. Colour scheme is grey or shades of silver and concept clean, minimal, cool, cocktails. Mostly cocktails actually and why not when a Negroni costs the same ($16) as my (stemless) glass of resinous green twist nervy “Gamay Aunis” 2015 (Jean-Christophe Garnier, Gamay). Friend to my left is drinking “La Pierre aux Chiens" 2015, a tobacco leaf sweet leather raspberry Pinot Noir by Christian Venier, and on my right “Matassa Blanc” 2014, Domaine Matassa (Grenache Gris, Maccabeu): Sicilian lemons plus skin + pith.

As I said we skipped Wildair because we had Dirty Bird which is to say a whole free range organic rotisserie chicken with hot sauce and hotter mayonnaise, three sides, a wonderful waitress and two awesome bottles of wine ("Mauvais Temps" by Nicolas Carmarans and "La Gravotte", Clos du Tue Boeuf) each at $60 which is to say CHEAP which is the whole concept: chicken and cheap natural wine. Talk about civilisation (but read about it, and the wines, here).


In short:

Vino Bianco 2015, Cantina Giardino, Campania — sage, honeysuckle, apricot
Romorantin 2015, Hervé Vilimade, Cour-Cheverny — unfiltered, fragrant, slightly oxidised
Grappe Full 2015, Adrien Baloche, Auvergne — tart wild-picked cherries
Saulétas Sancerre 2012, Sébastian Riffault, Loire — bright, sweet, deep
Calico 2015, Vignenvie Collective, Charnay — earthy, citrusy, lacking something bright 
Tavkeri 2015, Mariam Iosebidze, Georgia — teeth-suck tart, herbs
Torre Nova 2015, Del Prete, Salento — Haribo cherries
Ploussard de l’ami ami Karl 2015, Domaine de la Pinte, Jura — blood orange, rhubarb, pepper
Cardamine 2014, Les Herbes Folles, Languedoc — jammy (cherry), luscious, Grenache intense-spicy
Kisi 2015, Do Ré Mi, Samegrelo, Georgia — aromatic, flinty, apricots
Jambalaia 2015, La Clarine Farm, Sierra foothills, USA — zip, zest, ruby red grapefruit
Gamay Aunis 2015, Jean-Christophe Garnier, Anjou — resinous, green twist, nervy
La Pierre aux Chiens 2015, Christian Venier, Touraine — tobacco leaf, sweet leather, raspberry
Matassa Blanc 2014, Domaine Matassa, Roussillon — Sicilian lemons, skin, pith
Mauvais Temps 2015, Nicolas Carmarans, Aveyron — smoke, spice, animal musk
La Gravotte 2015, Clos du Tue Boeuf, Loire — spring rain on soil, smashed pomegranate, cooling herbs  


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