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Beloved French Wine Bar Opens in New York

Beloved French Wine Bar Opens in New York


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This is the entrance to the popular Racine's wine bar in Paris.

Vive la France! Racines, the extremely popular contemporary wine bar in Paris, has come to New York City. The new Tribeca location of Racines opened yesterday and will be featuring contemporary, market-driven French dishes curated and created by Michelin-starred executive chef Frédéric Duca.

From the press release: “Together, the partners have re-imagined the original Racines Paris — a local favorite, opened in 2007 in the Passage de Panoramas — as a “neo-bistro” in New York, serving beautifully executed, seemingly informal French cooking in a warm and casual environment.”

The restaurant will not only focus on modern French cuisine, but will also have an extensive wine list. In fact, the restaurant’s name pays homage to natural winemaker Claude Courtois and his signature “Racines” blend, which will of course, be served in the restaurant.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi


Think You Know French Cuisine? Meet Modern French Cooking

Modern French chefs have deviated from tradition in wholly surprising — and delicious — ways!

For centuries, French cuisine was highly regimented, strictly codified, and easy to define. Known for a parade of courses from appetizer through main, cheese, and dessert for precise techniques and phenomenal attention payed to sauces for excellent ingredients and no small amount of theatrics, French cooking has long been hailed as perhaps the finest in the world. But there&aposs been a disturbance in the force.

Recently, contemporary French chefs have been deviating from the script and trying out some new and exciting culinary ideas. In fact, these days, many of Paris&apos top chefs hail from Japan, South America, England, or even the U.S., and two finalists for Le Fooding&aposs 2019 "Best Bistro" served up Asian fare rather than French.

If you want to bring some of what&aposs exciting to modern French chefs into your kitchen, check out the following tips and trends.

Simplified, Ingredient-Centered Cooking

These days, visit not just Paris but Copenhagen, New York, or London, and you&aposll find a lot of dishes where star ingredients do most of the talking.

"It&aposs the same thing that&aposs happening everywhere, except that France, as usual, is behind everyone else," explains Edward Delling-Williams, owner of Paris&apos Le Grand Bain.

Following the tenets of the locavore movement, and in contrast to ingredient sourcing driven by the enormous Rungis market just outside the city center, many modern chefs source from quality purveyors like Terroirs d&aposAvenir or directly from farms, while others, like Lo໼ Martin of Martin wine bar and Robert restaurant, grow their own produce outside the city.

"Buying directly from the producer has become indispensable," explains Martin. "A transformation is coming. Outside of Paris, shops selling only local products are developing, and even hypermarkets are selling local."

To show off a stellar ingredient, "you cook it, put it on the plate, and that's it."

With such incredible ingredients, it&aposs no surprise that ultra-simple dishes – sweet baby carrots roasted in butter and served with fresh, whole-milk yogurt fresh anchovies dusted in flour and fried – are on-trend in restaurants like Martin&aposs.

Jason Gouzy, chef-owner of Paris&apos Pantagruel restaurant, agrees that this trend is in full force, particularly in the trendy 10thਊnd 11thਊrrondissements. In these neighborhoods, he says, diners may be served plates containing exquisitely cooked vegetables or fish with no sides, sauces, or embellishments. To show off these "stellar products," he says, "you cook it, put it on the plate, and that&aposs it."

Daniel Rose, the American chef behind Paris&apos La Bourse et La Vie and New York&aposs Le Coucou, calls this ingredient-focused mentality "the engine of all French cooking," noting that contemporary chefs have taken something that was essential to classic French cooking and turned it up a notch with "a much broader definition of what is delicious."

"A basic illustration: The answer to amplifying flavor in the classic register is frequently through cream and butter," he says. "In contemporary French cooking, we open ourselves to new techniques like extraction and concentration and also ask whether or not the product even needs cooking or any additional ingredients to best express its innate qualities."

While classic French cuisine is known for its richness, this new approach means that contemporary fare is a lot lighter and more veggie-forward. It&aposs all about terroir, here: think Proven๺l extra-virgin olive oil, tiny Nyons olives, slate-gray Puy lentils grown in the volcanic soil of the Auvergne, cured Bayonne ham from the Basque region, and of course, the hundreds of excellent French cheeses.

It should go without saying that to recreate this sort of cuisine at home, you&aposll need to start with phenomenal ingredients.

"Whether classic or contemporary, French technique can only do one thing: amplify the innate nature of the product itself," explains Rose. "If the product is mediocre then any French technique applied to it will only make it more mediocre."

To try the same thing at home, combine a French triple-cream cheese like Brillat Savarin with homemade਋lack cherry jam, or braise baby artichokes and drizzle with French butter. Wrap slices of in-season Cavaillon melon with rich, meaty Bayonne ham, or toss together an earthy lentil salad with funky French goat cheese. Roast seasonal carrots with just a hint of five-spice powder, or enjoy grilled fresh cod with homemade garlic mayo made with top-quality, pasture-raised eggs.

French Food with an International Twist

Another trend you&aposll find in Paris restaurants from Le Grand Bain to Septime to Tomy&Co to Le Saint Sstien is French food with an international twist. Thanks to a host of international and well-traveled chefs, as well as chefs who have become inspired by the presence of top cooks from across the globe, today, lacto-ferments from Scandinavia meet Mexican mole, Korean gochujang, and Chinese XO sauce on Parisian plates.

"In contemporary French cooking," says Rose, "the vision of French cooking is broadened by the influence of what we have learned about the way other cultures define and amplify deliciousness as well as all of the thought and commentary on good food and cooking in general."

At Le Grand Bain, says Delling-Williams, the team often marries typically French ingredients and flavor profiles with Asian techniques and ingredients, using seaweed and algae to add flavor and texture to dishes or even adapting, say, a Thai cabbage salad with peanuts, fish sauce, and maltose by using French Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage, a lemon-butter emulsion, and crushed hazelnut praline, as Delling-Williams did at Au Passage nearly ten years ago.

"Everyone was like, that&aposs so amazing!" he recalls. "And essentially all I&aposd done was taken this Thai salad and just turned all the ingredients into something that everyone would kind of recognize."

Gouzy has taken similar liberties with local cuisine, taking inspiration from both his travels and from the multi-cultural landscape of modern Paris to create dishes like a Turkish-influenced shawarma — a staple Parisian street food — made with French veal sweetbreads and bບrnaise sauce.

French cuisine – just like all cuisines, just like language – has evolved.

For Gouzy and Delling-Williams, this time of change is long overdue.

"People are saying, well, we&aposre losing this old, traditional style of French cuisine," says Delling-Williams, "but you&aposre only talking about French cuisine of a certain era, that was defined by certain books and certain people."

"But French cuisine — just like all cuisines, just like language — has evolved," he continues. "And it&aposs taken a long time to get there."

To try the same thing at home, start with an essential French technique — like਋ບrnaise sauce — and add your own international spin, like using cilantro in place of tarragon. The same can be done by flavoring steak tartare with Thai flavors (lemongrass, cilantro, fish sauce, and ginger in place of capers, parsley, mustard, and sherry vinegar) or adding an unexpected spice, like star anise or ginger, to a classic stew like veal blanquette or� bourguignon. You can even add a Southern flair to਌lassic hollandaise with a kick of cayenne. Let your imagination — and your palate — be your guide!

Classic French Revitalized

Of course, there&aposs still room for classic French cuisine in Paris. In fact, to hear Gouzy tell it, it&aposs well overdue for a makeover. The secret to keeping it modern? Taking advantage of age-old recipes and techniques and revitalizing them for a new generation.

"We have millions and millions of ways of cooking depending on the region or influences from border countries or immigration," says Gouzy. "France has evolved. We need to modernize, but we can&apost forget where we come from."

"French food is never going to go away," says Delling-Williams. "The one thing that I would like more than anything is for more places to come back and do it properly."

Indeed, this is starting to become a local trend, with spots like Bouillon Pigalle, Brasserie Rochechouart, A l&aposEpi d&aposOr, or Rose&aposs La Bourse et La Vie revisiting what a classic French bistro should be. These restaurants are featuring old stalwarts like French onion soup, rum babas, and more with good-quality ingredients and time-honored French techniques. Even Martin is bringing some of these classics back, with winter dishes like veal blanquettes and stews or fish with beurre blanc sauce appearing alongside simpler plates. And you can do the same at home. Taking the time to perfect਌oq au vin,ਏrench onion soup, or quiche Lorraine is a true pleasure from which you can reap the rewards.

Classic French restaurant dining isn&apost just about the food and flavors — it&aposs also about the experience. In a classic French restaurant, sole meuniere is deboned by a practiced waiter tableside, and crêpes suzette are often flamb in front of your eyes. Gouzy has returned to these old-school theatrics, updating them for a new generation. And you can do the same at home! Consider flambéing਌rêpes suzette or steak au poivre to the delight of your friends and family.

For Gouzy, revitalizing these classics is a wonderful way to pay homage to France&aposs illustrious culinary past. "We can&apost rest on our laurels and our ancestors," he says. "We have to keep that taste of nostalgia… even if we&aposre nostalgic for things we&aposve never tasted!"


The 1789

When it comes to French history, what could be more important than the French Revolution? It makes sense that there should be a drink named after it. The 1789 (the year the Revolution commenced) is a cocktail created by a Parisian bartender as a way to commemorate and celebrate the history-changing event. This is the perfect cocktail for those who enjoy drinks on the sweeter side, as the recipe calls for white wine, whiskey, and Lillet, a sweet and citrus flavored French aperitif.


French Vineyards: A Spirited New Guide

JUST before you reach Margaux, as you drive north from Bordeaux into the wine country of the Médoc, you pass through the tiny hamlet of Cantenac, the site of Alexis Lichine's famous Chateau Prieuré‐Lichine. Just before Cantenac is the equally tiny town of Labarde. Mr. Lichine also owns few vines there.

Now roadside signs have never apWine Talk pealed to the conservative French wine establishment. Consequently, the rules insist that no such signs can be erected anywhere but in the commune where the wine is made. Even so, when a particularly attractive billboard spot became available in Labarde, Mr. Lichine grabbed it and announced in large characters that his place was just a few kilometers ahead. The sign, which is still there, enraged his wine‐making neighbors— to his immense enjoyment.

This little incident typifies Alexis Lichine's long‐running love‐hate relationship with the French, an affair that has lasted now for more than half a century. The relationship is also the underlying theme in his newest book, “Alexis Lichine's Guide to the Wines and Vineyards of France” (Alfred A. Knopf, 449 pages, ‘ $15) and is what, more than anything else, sets it apart and above anything else printed in English on the subject of French wines.

In this country, Mr. Lichine inhabits imperial digs overlooking Fifth Avenue. Despite a world‐class cook and enough room for the band of the Garde Républicaine, he considers himself only half alive because he is not at his beloved Prieuré, the 16th‐century abbey he turned into a Bordeaux showplace in the 50's and 60's.

But, when he is there, he enjoys nothing more than striding dramatically up and down his living room or pounding the dining room table while he excoriates the real and imagined shortcomings of La Belle France. In this, by the way, he is not much different than his fellow wine maker a few miles north in Pauillac, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who battled the establishment for 50 years to get his beloved Mouton declared a First Menuel Bidermenas

Alexis Lichine outside his chateau in Bordeaux

Wine Talk Growth. Of course, when they are together, Mr. Lichine and Mr. Rothschild, old friends though they may be, often fight with each other.

Says Mr. Lichine in his new book: “Although my friendship with Philippe has been tempestuous — he threatened to sue me once, though to this day I am not sure why— I regard him, in spite of our disagreements, as undoubtedly the Médoc's greatest asset, a man of enormous culture, taste and charm.”

Which gives an idea of just what sort of book this is: an intensely personal wine pilgrimage from one end of Francé to another, filled with information that goes far beyond the usual wine knowledge, ruminations on the wine business, anecdotes from thé past, finely etched observations on wine people and, probably inevitably, a healthy dollop of blatant self‐promotion. But the self‐abnegation has never been a Lichine strong point.

By now most wine enthusiasts know that Mr. Lichine does not do the paragraph‐by‐paragraph writing of his books. “The Wines of France,” the original version of the present volume, which went through five editions and more than a dozen revisions — the fifth edition alone was reprinted four times — was done in close collaboration with William Massee. The monumental Lichine Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits was put together by a team of specialists headed by William Fifield. The present volume was done with Samuel Perkins, a young wine enthusiast late of Harvard University, with a strong assist from Michael Demarest, a veteran hand at Time magazine. It would be a grievous error, however, to assume that Mr. Lichine is a figurehead in these activities. He outlines the project, line by line. He reads every word, demands endless revisions, questions every figure and quibbles over the least significant accent grave. And, when he deems it necessary, which• is often, he sits down and writes exactly what he thinks should be said.

Here he is, for example, on the two Chateaux Beauséjour in St. Emilion:

“By contrast, Chateau BeauséjourBecot — not to be confused with the much lesser Beauséjour‐Duffau‐Lagarrosse — has achieved distinction through the efforts of its new owner, Michel Becot. In the late 60's Becot took the vineyard over from the late, eccentric Docteur Jean Fagouet, who had a tendency to make wine in the same dismal manner that has now become traditional at the other Beauséjour.” So much for “the other Beauséjour.”

But then, ragging the locals has been a Lichine hallmark almost since his first days in the wine trade. Early on, he learned, as most Frenchmen have never learned, the American attitude toward wine and, for almost four decades, he has worked to open the American market, with its vast potential, to the French producers. Even now, he is filled with despair — conveyed in eloquent word and gesture — when the Bordeaux trade sends a delegation to this country on a promotional junket, and only one or two of the group speaks English. Of Bordeaux, his adopted city, he writes: “The city fathers show little awareness of their once, present and future fame as the world's great wine capital. From the Chamber of Commerce to city hall to the all‐encompassing wine association of Bordeaux, the C.I.V.B. (Comité Inteprofessionel des Vins de Bordeaux), the Establishment appears to lack enthusiasm and pride for its wines and their renown — the wines on which the city is literally built.”

The new book, as did his previous tomes, includes Mr. Lichine's proposed revision of the famous 1855 classification of the wines of Bordeaux. The list, fixed like a fly in amber, designates the first through fifth levels of quality among the best‐known wine‐producing chateaus. Almost everyone in Bordeaux agrees that the 124‐year‐old list is obsolete, but no one wants to touch off the furor that would result from any downgrading. No one, that is, but Alexis Lichine, and, possibly, his whilom friend, Philippe de Rothschild, who wanted only one change — Mouton from second to first — and got it in 1973. That the Bordeaux trade will never accept his classification does not prevent Mr. Lichine from proposing it every chance he gets.

The new book devotes much more space than the original “Wines of France” did to the lesser‐known vineyards such as the Languedoc‐RoussilIon, the Côtes du Ventoux, Bergerac, Cdhors, Jurançon and. Corsica., It so happens that Alexis Lachine & Company, which Mr. Lichine represents but no longer owns, recently began to promote wines from these regions as substitutes for more expensive .bottles from traditional sources.

This brings up the inevitable conflict between selling wine and writing about it. The best that can be said is that much of the better wine writing always has been done by people in the trade, from André Simon to Allen Sichel to Gerald Asher to Mr. Lichine to Frank Schoonniaker. To their credit, none have ever hidden this dual role. The jacket notes to the current book begin: “Alexis Lichine is a wine grower and a wine merchant.”

Perhaps the most interesting new feature is the addition of restaurant and hotel recommendations for the wine‐growing regions. There are a few barbs here and there, but, sensibly, Mr. Lichine mostly confines himself to places worth visiting and ignores the lesser lights. For someone planning a wine region trip, the book is invaluable. It draws on places he has known over the years and still finds worth a visit. Most of them are in other guides, but here they are directly associated with the wine areas most people want to see. There are dozen of simple, clean inns with inexpensive rooms — just the kind travelers hope to find but rarely do.

The Lichine guide will not replace your Michelin because'you won't want to spend all your time in the wine country. But while you are in the vineyards, there can be no better companion.


Sebastien Auvet And The Art Of The French Wine Bar

We’re sitting inside the West Village location of Sebastien Auvet’s Vin Sur Vingt, the first of his three New York City wine bars, balancing on stools in the far corner of the bar, shouting over the din of music and voices. If Auvet seems oddly content, he should be. In this instant, he’s achieved his ultimate goal: to create a French wine bar in Manhattan that evokes Paris but eschews overt Frenchiness.

“I’d like people to discover something new,” he says later in our conversation, summing up his mission with Vin Sur Vingt, which has grown from the original location where we’re seated to three wine bars, including a roomier space in the emerging NoMad neighborhood and an enclave in the sprawling Food Hall at the Plaza in midtown. In the end, Auvet says, he wanted to create the opposite effect of what most people would think, namely: “A French wine bar in New York? Oh, my God,” he says. “It could scare people. It scares me.”

Of course, it’s a funny sentiment coming from a guy whose English is as heavily accented as any Frenchman who picked up the language only after migrating across the Atlantic, as Auvet did as a 27-year-old. He landed in New York City, where he began working at a series of French restaurants and clubs, tasting every wine he came across and picking the brains of sommeliers and wine distributors. By the time he scored a front-of-house gig at David Bouley in 2011, Auvet was on his way to putting all his hard-earned knowledge to use. Just as Jay Z “ain’t passed the bar” but knows the law enough not to submit to an unwarranted search (see: 󈭓 Problems”), Auvet sidestepped any sommelier exams and instead relied on his instincts.

In 2012, Auvet opened the first Vin Sur Vingt, which references a French wine-rating system — vingt sur vingt is 󈬄 out of 20,” or a perfect score. For this emerging wine bar owner, the name also hinted at how many wines he’d offer by the glass: 20 reds and 20 whites. The menu has since grown, but the core idea remains, which is that Vin Sur Vingt should offer the widest possible range of French wines by the glass.

Vin Sur Vingt is something else altogether: A fervently French wine bar that feels more New York than Paris.

“There are a lot of wine bars that say they are wine bars, but only have like 10 wines by the glass. That’s not really a wine bar. In my philosophy, you need at least 20 or 30 by the glass. We carry 50 or 60 wines by the glass here. I want people to have different options. We have two or three different styles from the Loire Valley, for instance. It’s not just Sancerre,” he says. Vin Sur Vingt offers cheese, bread, charcuterie, light snacks — but mostly leaves serving food to restaurants. This is a wine bar, he says repeatedly.

Now 40, Auvet seems content with his progress, though he has an entrepreneur’s knack for suggesting that he needs to push harder. “We’ve had a really great response. I don’t want to say we’re successful, because our goal is to make people discover French wine but also to have people understand the concept of the wine bar.”

I have to give Auvet credit for this. The cave à vins in France is a great service to wine drinkers, whether of the somm level or the more casual variety. It’s a different experience than going to a restaurant and ordering a nice bottle of wine with dinner. The emphasis is on wine first, conversation second and ambience third — and that’s it. They tend to be great date spots, or places to stop in on the way to somewhere else. And surprisingly in New York City, a city that has everything, they’re few and far between, and were almost non-existent when Auvet opened in the Village in 2012.

In the ensuing few years, wine bars have begun popping up all over the city. Some specialize in natural wines, that on-trend movement of fermented grapes put into bottles with as little human interference as possible. Others focus on wine education or pairing small bites with wine. But Vin Sur Vingt is something else altogether: A fervently French wine bar that feels more New York than Paris. (Incidentally, Auvet does carry natural wine and is particularly focused on biodynamic and organic wines, but he chooses wines more from his heart than his head.) He says that while French wine bars in France strive to dictate wine trends — “I know everything. I’m French,” he sniffs, sarcastically — he aims to serve New Yorkers, who are more curious and open-minded about finding new wines.

As he sips a Pouillac during our conversation, I ask Auvet if he has a favorite winemaker at the moment, and his answer is telling. “Julien Montagnon from Domaine Lombard. He does some whites, some reds — he’s a crazy winemaker. What I like about him is that he’s young and he understands the market.”

The same could be said for Auvet, whose singular vision has led to three wine bars that are rapidly becoming neighborhood fixtures in three very different neighborhoods. I ask him if he’s considering opening other locations or whether he’d take the concept to another U.S. market. He seems intrigued, enthused even. He mentions Pittsburgh, then Detroit. “I can see [opening in] Detroit in five years. Detroit is going to be big!”

That’s a good idea, I say, telling him that we’ve covered all of my questions.

“Great,” Auvet responds, smiling. “More wine!”

Vin Sur Vingt
201 11th St.
New York, NY 10014
212-924-4442
vinsur20.com (for all three locations)


Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef’s Table

Under rough whorls of golden batter, the cheeks were more tender and juicy than chicken-fried steak ever is. I ate them with a fine sauce of button mushrooms and Marsala, not too sweet. The romesco sauce — unorthodox, with more spicy red oil than usual — was very good with a whole porgy or the broiled steak of steelhead trout that replaced it. Honest-to-goodness gravy, rounded and meaty-tasting, is what you want with the heroic slab of roast beef. The beef was thoroughly rosy except at the edges, where it had a salty, crunchy, herb-flecked crust.

The rotisserie chicken tasted like rotisserie chicken.

With so few voices in the room, you almost always hear the music, which is soft and sounds as if it were coming from a tube radio that is still picking up an AM show that was broadcast a couple of years before the Beatles played Shea Stadium. It’s all big bands and crooners singing sweet words that are sad underneath, like “I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places.” (The only place he’ll be seeing her is in his head.)

Cheap nostalgia hands you a fake past to make you smile. True nostalgia is mixed with pain because it conjures a past that was real and isn’t coming back. The nostalgia Ms. Redding and Mr. Danzer bring to Mr. Donahue’s is the second kind. Every detail shows their longing for the bygone world of Mr. Danzer’s grandfather Frank Donahue. He was a detective. His police cap sits on a shelf.

For dessert, there is a root-beer float, if that’s what you want. Me, I’ll probably keep ordering the banana pudding forever, or until this mirage on Mott Street goes under and joins the past.

Just west of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, Ruffian Wine Bar & Chef’s Table has more seats but not much more space. There’s barely enough room to squeeze your way to an empty stool at the concrete counter. The ones who are really in a tight spot, though, are the two chefs, Josh Ochoa and Andy Alexandre.

Jammed behind one end of the counter, they arrange cheeses with house-made jam, warm some marinated olives that are as smoky as bacon, toast sliced baguettes for a knockout tomato chutney, plate some crisp, young radishes with bagna cauda, spread out sliced cross sections of fennel bulbs marinated simply and deliciously with sherry vinegar and fennel seeds, and plunge an immersion blender into batters that will go into the tiny convection oven and emerge as three-inch soufflés.

The cheese soufflé, almost like a tower of soft scrambled eggs, makes a lush spread for toast darkened with a swirl of balsamic vinegar. The last time I went, it had been replaced by an equally good one with crab.

I expected to like the beef tartare, but its sherry vinegar dressing made it too soupy and sour. I had no expectations of lentil salad, but it’s one of the best things on the menu. A variety of lentils and other legumes are firm, separate, not at all mushy, seasoned with dried chiles and curry leaves, swirled with yogurt sauce, and sprinkled with crisp threads of sev, the chickpea-flour snacks. Suddenly, dull old lentil salad is an exciting Indian street festival. (Mr. Ochoa and Mr. Alexandre met Patrick Cournot, an owner and a sommelier at Ruffian, when they all worked at Tabla.)

There is usually a savory pie, either a big and imposing thing to be carved into wedges, or a small turnover filled let’s say with a well-seasoned mince of rabbit meat.

The profiteroles are odd and overelaborated, with an acidic cream of mandarin oranges. The chocolate soufflé is better, if you have time to wait. In this kitchen, the only way to cook is one dish at a time.

But of course you have time you’re here to drink wine from a list that evidences Mr. Cournot’s open-minded curiosity. Like every other wine bar in town, Ruffian stocks some stars of the natural wine movement. It’s also picking up on the Georgian signals coming out of the Caucasus. But other choices show an independence from the latest trends, like a violet-scented pinot noir from Chile.

Elena Hull Cournot, Mr. Cournot’s wife, has given this tight alley a surprisingly light, almost airy design, although the detail I remember most is the portrait of a horse on the back wall. She painted it with it a garland of orange flowers around its neck, like a lei. It has kind eyes and a nonjudgmental expression, fine traits in a portrait that hangs in a bar. A friend who has a lot of horse sense said, “The horse looks wise.”


New York’s Best New Wine Bar Lives in Brooklyn

When June—a self-proclaimed “natural wine bar”—opened last month in Brooklyn’s leafy Cobble Hill area, I found myself wondering exactly what that term signifies.

Lest readers fear that I’m about to rehash an old and tired debate, I’m not referring to the supposed ambiguity surrounding the phrase “natural wine,” which, despite the constant semantic bickering that accompanies efforts to define it, encompasses a pretty straightforward set of parameters.

A more subtle development, however, has been the category’s wider trajectory from a fringe movement to an increasingly established part of the drinking culture. Now that most of the country’s serious beverage programs feature some assortment of natural wines and many top producers have been elevated to cult status among a new wave of sommeliers, the timing seems right to take a closer look at what it means to identify as a “natural wine bar” today, particularly in a city like New York.

In many ways, June—the latest effort from Farm on Adderly’s Tom Kearney and Henry Rick of Rucola and Fitzcarraldo, with help from wine consultant Nick Gorevic—is engaging with that very same issue.

The title of a recent PUNCH article posed the broader question of “What Is a Wine Bar?” But the fact remains that the prototypical natural wine bar developed within a specific historical context, arriving as part of the movement’s greater reaction to the industrialization of the French wine industry. Particularly in Paris, where the scene emerged in the early 1990s, pioneering spots like L’Ange Vin, La Crèmerie and Le Verre Volé functioned as a kind of cultural hub around which the values of the natural ethos took shape and found an audience— almost like galleries exhibiting the work of new artists.

Today, a decade or two after it first invaded New York, natural wine no longer seems quite so controversial. To the contrary, its values inherently align with those of an entire generation of drinkers—myself included—whose taste developed alongside its road to ascendancy. For us, natural wine was always a given we can’t remember a time when winemakers like Marcel Lapierre or Thierry Puzelat weren’t already iconic names.

Compounding this casual neighborhood vibe is the affordable bottle program, which, despite a strong French focus, extends far beyond the familiar Gallic borders to corners of the world we don’t typically associate with natural wine. In this way, June provides a cultural snapshot that reflects the movement’s powerful evolution into a global phenomenon.

“At this point, people aren’t unaware of natural wine,” Tom Kearney explains. “Actually, the city is full of it. It is probably in more restaurants than it’s not—we’re not trying to be transgressive.”

True as this may be, unlike Paris, where the natural wine bar formula has become ubiquitous and even at times formulaic, it’s still uncommon for New York destinations to focus exclusively on the category. “There are very few people who are doing an entirely natural list,” explains Nick Gorevic. “You could count them on two hands. Of course, there’s The Ten Bells. You also have Racines and Rouge Tomate and places like Diner in the Andrew Tarlow empire, but those aren’t really wine bars.”

To be fair, it’s becoming rather difficult to distinguish between the categories of wine bar and restaurant these days, particularly when many addresses—Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, Buvette or the various Corkbuzz locations, just to name a few—pay equal attention to the food coming out of the kitchen and the wine being poured in the glass. A similar hybrid is on display at June, where you could easily bypass the marble-topped bar and tuck yourself into one of the elegant red leather booths to enjoy a proper meal courtesy of Kearny’s thoughtful small-plate dinner menu. On the other hand, this holds true of many so-called natural wine bars in France, which more often than not operate as passionately wine-focused restaurants or caves à manger.

While June draws inspiration from those Parisian forebears—“it’s themed to be French,” as Gorevic says—the feel of the place reads quintessentially Brooklyn, albeit not in a clichéd or kitschy way. “We didn’t want to follow the ‘cookie cutter’ model of only using reclaimed barn wood,” Kearney explains. Designed by the Haslegrave brothers of hOmE—the design firm many credit for ushering in a new evolution of the Brooklyn aesthetic—the space conjures turn-of-the-century Paris by way of Court Street, adeptly catering to a sophisticated “adult Brooklyn” crowd.

Compounding this casual neighborhood vibe is the affordable bottle program, which, despite a strong French focus, extends far beyond the familiar Gallic borders to corners of the world we don’t typically associate with natural wine. In this way, June provides a cultural snapshot that reflects the movement’s powerful evolution into a global phenomenon.

Leaving aside the comprehensive selections from France’s major natural hotspots, like Beaujolais and the Loire, or Italian efforts from the likes of Sicily’s Arianna Occhipinti, the list showcases the latest developments in Spain, Germany, Austria and even Moravia, a little-known region in the Czech Republic. Add to this a deep section dedicated to California wines inspired by the non-interventionist canon, plus a smattering of like-minded New York State producers, and the list amounts to a vibrant testament to the unprecedented breadth and scope of today’s worldwide natural wine community.

WHAT TO DRINK

“Natural” is more of a philosophical orientation than a concrete style, and it’s true that wines of very different aesthetic registers often fall under that same banner. With a handful of exceptions, including the funkier Loire wines of Olivier Cousin or the polarizing expressions of Etna’s volcanic soils from Frank Cornelissen, June generally steers clear of the more avant-garde side of the natural spectrum.

“We wanted a 100 percent natural list,” Gorevic explains, “but initially we gravitated towards clean, pristinely made wines that could fit into classic slots that people without much exposure to natural wines would appreciate.” Since the space opened, however, he reports that customers have been “asking for weirder stuff, like more Jura or orange wine,” so the situation might change.

This tension manifests in the by-the-glass program, which features wines like the crisp yet honeyed Cour-Cheverny from Philippe Tessier or the crowd-pleasing chianti from Poggiosecco ($9 each). Interestingly, however, the sparkling options in this category consist entirely of pétillant naturel, known as “pét-nat” among acolytes, which has become a hallmark of France’s natural repertoire. Over recent years, the buzz surrounding this cloudy, gently fizzy, cider-like style has generated a wave of domestic imitators, including the surprising “Morphos Pet Nat” from Maine’s low-tech Oyster River Winegrowers ($8 per glass).

If you’re tempted to stick to the classics of the French canon, it’s for good reason, as June offers discerning drinkers the opportunity to cherry pick bottles from cult producers whose wines have become highly allocated. Take, for instance, the range of offerings from Beaujolais legend Yvon Métras, which have become notoriously impossible to find in the U.S. Not only does the list feature two vintages of his pale, almost rosé-like Beaujolais (the 2013 and 2012 at $70 and $83 respectively), but his densely concentrated Fleurie “Vielles Vignes” is available in both a standard-sized bottle ($113 for the 2012 vintage) and in magnum ($193 for the 2013).

One of the list’s core strengths, on the other hand, is its international diversity. Whether it’s the light-bodied “Elizabeth’s Vineyard” cabernet franc from the Finger Lakes’ Eminence Road ($48) or the brawny “Shake Ridge” Mourvèdre from California’s Dirty and Rowdy Family Wines ($74), the domestic scene receives plenty of attention, as does Spain, whose natural wine renaissance took place considerably later than France or Italy. Try the smoky “Tinto” from Canary Islands producer Frontón de Oro ($40) or the “Pagos de Xoan” Albariño from Galicia’s Benito Santos ($39) for value-driven options, or a terrific grüner veltliner from Austria’s up-and-coming Arndorfer estate ($40).

It seems fitting, on some level, that this natural wine melting pot should find a new home in New York, offering striking evidence of just how far the movement has come since the city first embraced it over a decade ago.

“It would not have been possible to put together this kind of a list even five or six years ago,” Gorevic says. “I’d say that 35 percent of the wines weren’t brought into the country yet. It wouldn’t have been nearly as diverse.”

Zachary Sussman

Zachary Sussman is a Brooklyn-based wine writer whose work has appeared in Saveur, Wine & Spirits, The World of Fine Wine, Food & Wine and The Wall Street Journal Magazine, among many others. He was selected as the 2016 Champagne Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer of the Year and is the author of the forthcoming The Essential Wine Book from Ten Speed Press (October 2020).


These French Pizzettes Bring Paris to You

Entertaining and travel might be off the table for the moment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience a taste of each from the comfort of your home. Cookbooks naturally transport readers around the globe, thanks to stunning photographs and worldly recipes, so for those who are eager to ship themselves straight to Paris, you’ll want to get your hands on Camille Fourmont’s “ La Buvette: Recipes & Wine Notes from Paris ,” written in tandem with recipe developer Kate Leahy .

La Buvette: Recipes and Wine Notes from Paris, $19.32 on Amazon

As the one-woman troop behind the Paris natural wine bar La Buvette , Camille attaches the French wine, culture, and food sprung from her bar straight into her cookbook-cum-notebook. She provides an intimate look into the operation of her cult-beloved wine bar, from her process of selecting wine labels to how all the cooking gets done in the teeny kitchen. Fifty recipes are scattered throughout, too, designed as grazing platters rather than full-fledged dishes (Camille runs a wine bar, after all, and food is thus developed as a way to accent what you’re sipping). With a glass of your own favorite wine in hand, you’ll tuck into Camille’s famed giant beans daubed with citrus zest, bright tomato and berry salads, and red-wine poached pears.

So even though airline tickets have been canceled and parties have merely been limited to the members of your household, there are still plenty of creative ways to entertain. Grab this book, pick out a few of your favorite bottles of wine, and then test out Camille’s recipe for pizzettes in three styles. The mini pizzas are small enough that you can easily toss back three but won’t overwhelm your appetite if you’re planning on eating dinner later (although we certainly respect a wine-and-pizzette-for-dinner kind of evening).

PentaBeauty Pizza Stone, $46.99 on Amazon

This pizzette dough comes together with standard ingredients—yeast, water, honey, flour, and salt—before it’s rolled into small, plump discs and slipped into the oven. Camille offers three toppings (lemon, ricotta cheese, and black olive with anchovies), but really the dough can serve as a vehicle for your preferred pizza toppings (or, more likely, whatever’s in the fridge). What’s necessary, though, is the uncorking of a bottle of wine, enjoyed in the backyard, which is as close as you can get to the outdoor cafés of Paris. It might feel and taste a little different, but these days it comes pretty darn close.

Reprinted from La Buvette. Copyright © 2020 by CAMILLE FOURMONT AND KATE LEAHY. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Marcus Nilsson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House.

Pizzettes in Three Styles Recipe

Notes: If your oven can get as hot as 550°F, you can bake the pizzettes at that temperature for a crispier finish. Monitor the pan as it bakes so the parchment paper doesn’t burn. If you are buying ricotta made in small batches and packed in baskets, it may not need to be drained as much as regular ricotta sold in plastic tubs.


All-French Wine List from Le Coucou Team Coming Soon to New Café in New York

La Mercerie, a project by restaurateur Stephen Starr's group, is now open in New York City. Since its debut in December, the café has been serving a selection of coffee, pastries and cocktails, but Wine Spectator got a glimpse of La Mercerie's full food-and-beverage program, which will kick off at the end of this month.

Daniel Rose, chef-partner at Starr's Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Le Coucou, is overseeing the wine program with Starr group wine director Erik Segelbaum. With around 60 bottlings and 11 options by the glass, the all-French wine list will feature selections from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne, the Loire and more.

"We built a list suitable for a café: wines [that] are approachable and interesting, great with food and easy to drink on their own," Rose and Segelbaum said in a joint statement to Wine Spectator. "The fully French wine list mixes less-traditional regions and varietals with the best of classic French terroir and producers."

The food menu, created by chef Marie-Aude Rose (Daniel's wife), showcases French comfort foods, including freshly baked brioche, turnovers and tarts, sandwiches, egg-focused dishes, and an assortment of soups.

But La Mercerie offers more than just food and beverages. Located inside SoHo furniture store Roman and Williams Guild—the upscale interior-design firm that outfitted Le Coucou—the restaurant is a "try before you buy" concept when it comes to the furnishings. Guests can purchase the plates on which their orders are served, the tables at which they dine, the aprons worn by the staff, and pretty much anything else on display.—L.W.

Now Open in Las Vegas: Pronto by Giada De Laurentiis

After telling Wine Spectator about her plans to open a second restaurant in Las Vegas last fall, celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis officially opened Pronto by Giada, a fast-casual restaurant and wine bar in Caesars Palace, last week.

Taking a page from her Best of Award of Excellence winner Giada, Pronto offers Italian fare with a California twist. Guests can walk up to the counter for breakfast dishes, paninis, salads, Italian desserts and coffee.

The centerpiece of the eatery is the wine bar, which offers selections from Italy, California and France, and a separate food menu with bar snacks such as goat cheese–stuffed peppers, grilled artichokes and Italian meats and cheeses.

The wine list, overseen by Caesars Palace wine director Phil Park, offers a helpful tool for newcomers to Italian wines: tasting notes to accompany each listing and an explanation of the Italian grape varieties—including Garganega, Arneis, Vermentino and Sangiovese—printed along the bottom. In addition to the 40 selections available both by the glass and by the bottle, the beverage program also includes six different wine flights, beer and cocktails.—L.W.

A Fun Wine List at David Chang's New Los Angeles Venture, Majordomo

Chef and restaurateur David Chang opened his first Los Angeles restaurant, Majordomo, Jan. 23. Chang's global Momofuku Group owns 19 restaurants, including Restaurant Award winners Momofuku Ko, Momofuku Má Pêche and Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York City.

Executive chef Jude Parra-Sickels serves California-inspired Korean dishes. Overseen by Richard Hargreave, the wine program offers 150 selections that will rotate regularly, with 16 available by the glass and several magnums.

"We need wines that are light on the palate to work with the flavors rather than compete with them," Hargreave told Wine Spectator via email. He's drawn to "next-generation" winemakers, like Liquid Farm and Tyler Winery from California, because they make wines with less extraction, and use less new oak and preservatives.

The list also features a handful of classic producers from around the world to give guests a range of style and price options. "Momofuku has always been about 'high and low,' and I love the idea of one table drinking old [Jean-Louis] Chave Hermitage out of a Zalto glass, and the table next to them having a pitcher of Hite beer," Hargreave said.—J.H.

Morimoto Asia Waikiki Opens in Hawaii

Internationally renowned Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto opens his new restaurant, Morimoto Asia Waikiki, today at the new Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Located on the hotel's second floor, the 10,800-square-foot restaurant has a main dining room, outdoor patios, a private dining room with views of the ocean, and a glass-enclosed exhibition kitchen. The chef currently has three Restaurant Award winners, and the Oahu restaurant marks Morimoto's second Morimoto Asia location.

The Pan-Asian menu is complemented by the beverage program, which offers 30 wines by the bottle and nine by the glass, cocktails, and a selection of 28 sakes featuring Morimoto's own brand, made in partnership with Japan's Fukumitsuya Brewery.

"Morimoto Asia Waikiki's beverage menu was designed with balance in mind," Morimoto told Wine Spectator via a translator. "The wine-list selections were driven by pairing great wines from around the world from a modest-sized wine list with my broad menu, a real challenge!"—V.S.

Ruth's Chris Steak House Wine-Dinner Series Returns

Next month, Ruth's Chris Steak House will kick off its second annual TasteMaker Dinner series, celebrating leaders in the wine industry. The steak-house chain, which has 105 Restaurant Award–winning locations, will host six wine-pairing dinners with five-course menus to accompany the wines of each "TasteMaker" featured for the evening.

"We developed the dinners by partnering with some of our guests' most loved wineries, winemakers, and types of wine," said Ruth's Chris senior manager of brand development Kelly Hendriksen.

The series will start March 1 with the popular The Prisoner Wine Company. The pairings will include falafel and roasted pumpkin with the Blindfold white (a blend of Chardonnay, Rhône varieties and other grapes) and French onion soup with the Thorn Merlot, among others.


Best Wine Bars and Wineries in New York

There are a lot of wineries in New York City. However, looking for a decent one where you can enjoy excellent wines, good food, friendly service, and an intimate atmosphere can be a challenge.

Whether you are looking for a romantic spot or a great place to drink with friends, you would want a spot that doesn’t only serve good wine but also provides a perfect ambiance that makes the entire experience enjoyable.

On this list, you’ll find places where you’ll sip your next best wine experience in New York. Read on.

Rooftop Reds

Roof Reds is a winery located at 299 Sands St building 275 in Brooklyn. It’s the perfect place to watch Brooklyn’s fantastic sunset with a glass wine.

This place provides unforgettable local scenery and fantastic wines from its urban rooftop vineyard. It’s perfect for afternoon dates or early-night wine sipping with friends.

You may also want to check out their weekly activities to socialize and enjoy your wine choice while getting along with the crowd.

The Four Horsemen

The Four Horsemen is a cozy Williamsburg wine bar located at 295 Grand St. in Brooklyn.

The famous lead singer of LCD Sound System, James Murphy, owned this bar. You may expect that this wine bar is loud and grand, but it is a perfect combination of Scandinavian and Japanese aesthetic and with a modern yet sophisticated vibe.

Enjoy wines from their well-curated list with Horseman’s fantastic cheese platters, oysters or homemade bread, and gnocchi.

The bar is also perfect for late-night wine drinking and is often the to-go place of hipster wine-lovers in New York.

Ruffian Wine Bar and Chef’s Table

Ruffian is a cozy bar that offers an elaborate 250 wine choices that include natural wines like orange. They also provide plenty of Greek, Hungarian, and Croatian wines.

You’ll surely find something new to taste every time you visit Ruffian. Complete your wine experience by pairing it with their well-curated menu.

The place is a perfect reflection of the artistic and relaxing atmosphere. It is a must-visit place for a night out with friends, casual dates, or pre-gaming nights. Visit Ruffian at 125 E 7th St, New York.

Vanguard Wine Bar

Vanguard is a French wine bar located at the upper west side, 189 Amsterdam Ave. It has an open layout and a fun atmosphere that’s perfect for groups of friends.

You can enjoy great cheese and meat platters, open bar, live music, friendly crowd, and, of course, a great selection of French Wine.

Before going, you may want to refresh yourself with some fantastic French wine options. Check out Sokolin’s Dom Perignon Wine Selection online.

Dom Perignon is one of the best luxury French wines you can taste. A vintage of Dom can give you a hedonistic experience that you won’t forget.

Have and Meyer Chetteria

Have and Meyer is an Italian wine bar in 103 Havemeyer St in Brooklyn. It is perhaps the most Italian wine bar in New York that only features a purely Italian wine list.

You’ll enjoy its chic and rustic atmosphere with several Italian antiques all over the place. You can also take a sip of orange and natural wines with Italian dishes at a reasonable price.

Don’t miss their regular meet-the-wine-grower events where you can enjoy contests. You’ll also meet local growers and perhaps learn a thing or two about natural wines.

Red Hook Winery

Red Hook Winery serves as a must-visit place for any wine lover. You’ll find this winery at 175 Van Dyke St in Brooklyn.

You’ll enjoy sipping your wine by the pier while looking at a one of a kind view of the Statue of Liberty. You can also opt for a wine tour or enjoy their cheese platters in their tasting room.

This winery is also perfect for romantic dates where you can intimately celebrate an anniversary or birthday. The Statue of Liberty is also an ideal backdrop for a proposal.

June Wine Bar

June’s brick-walled war bar and relaxing back patio decked with string lights located at 231 Court St in Brooklyn.

The wine bar’s friendly atmosphere is perfect for the first days and night out with friends. It can be overly packed, but it’s also an ideal reason to meet new friends around the city.

It offers more than 170 choices of fantastic natural wines, which include some unusual red, rosé, and oranges that perfectly pair with their artisanal menu.

If you’re looking for a popular choice, ask for their weekly favorites and pair it with their roasted trout. You’ll engage your palate for a fantastic experience.

Roberta’s Pizza

Roberta’s proves that pizza can go well with wine. Their traditional wood-fired pizza goes well with their natural wine list that includes orange and California wines.

This place is perfect for catching up with friends while sharing a pizza. You’ll surely start the night early and end late because of the cozy atmosphere. Time is irrelevant when you’re having fun with friends in a chill place.

You’ll also enjoy your wine and pizza in their outdoor tiki bar and rooftop garden. The place is sometimes crowded, but it’s proof that it is one of the best in New York. You can visit Roberta’s at 261 Moore St in Brooklyn.

Finding a spot to enjoy and drink requires a thorough search. You might miss the perfect spot by limiting your go-to places in New York .

Give yourself a chance to explore and try out the bars and wineries from this list. Your perfect wine bar might just be sitting a few blocks away, waiting to be discovered.


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