Sunday, November 24, 2013

Staff Picks for Thanksgiving!

Eric Asimov rightly points out in the New York Times this week that wines for Thanksgiving should be versatile, full of energy, invigorating, lower in alcohol, zesty, fresh and bright. He adds, and we couldn't agree more, that "nothing is worse than running out of wine, except running out of food. Figure a bottle per adult." (Also Julia Childs' rule of thumb.)

"The First Thanksgiving" by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

We asked Tim and Tyler to put together their dream six-packs. (5% off on them while they last. Supplies are limited.)

Domaine Valentin Zusslin Cremant d'Alsace Rose Brut Zero NV
With a long winemaking history dating back to 1691, Domaine Valentin Zusslin knows a thing or two about crafting some serious, and seriously delicious, wines. The brother and sister duo of Marie and Jean-Paul Zusslin oversee the farming, which has been certified biodynamic since 1997, and also the non-interventionist winemaking that follows after the grapes have been painstakingly hand harvested. Their rose Cremant d'Alsace is but one of their many amazing wines. Made from 100% Pinot Noir sourced from their walled-in Clos Liebenberg vineyard, it is pretty close to immaculate. Wild berry fruits abound and a hint of grapefruit lead into an exquisitely delicate experience in the mouth. Would be perfect for a holiday brunch with friends, an aperitif while cooking, or to pair with an assortment of desserts. $32/bottle

Broc Cellars Valdiguie 2012
Haven't heard of Valdiguie? Don't worry, not many other people have either. After having been mistakenly called Napa Gamay for decades, it took a young winemaker by the name of Chris Brockway to set the record straight. Brockway opened the doors to his winery located in Berkeley, CA in 2008 after having released vintages made elsewhere. Since then he has proven that Valdiguie is a grape to be reckoned with. He buys only biodynamically grown grapes from farmers in Solano County and is ardent to employ minimal intervention in the winery. His 2012 Valdiguie is incredibly precise and vivid with ripe red berry fruits and lovely buoyancy that leads into a subtly earthy finish. This wine would feel right at home next to your Thanksgiving feast or served slightly chilled and paired with cheeses and charcuterie. $27/bottle

Remi and Laurence Dufaitre 'L'Air de Rien' 2011
Remi and Laurence have been enthusiastically producing some incredibly pure wines in the Beaujolais since 2001 when they founded their Domaine de Botheland. The domaine now encompasses 12 acres in Saint-Etienne-des-Oullieres and is the only winery that is embracing the natural way of making wines in that region. Their L'air de Rien Beaujolais-Villages cuvee uses Gamay grapes sourced from low-yielding old vines and they are harvested at the height of maturity resulting in a fuller, riper Beaujolais that is tantalizing. Velvety fruit and an underlying minerality make this wine a pleasure to drink with or without food and would make a lovely addition to any occasion this holiday season. $22/bottle

Jean-Marie Berrux 'Le Petit Tetu' 2011
Leaving his job in Paris behind, Jean-Marie Berrux began his journey in the world of wine in 1999. However it wasn't until 2007 when he joined forces with Jean-Pascal Sarnin to create Maison Sarnin-Berrux. For the wines they collaborate on they buy only organically grown grapes and they have now produce nine cuvees labeled under various appellations within Burgundy. In addition to those wines, Jean-Marie makes a special cuvee from his very small plot of Chardonnay vines just outside of Puligny-Montrachet that he maintains himself. Le Petit Tetu, or Little Stubborn One, is incredible: unctuous with a blast of sea-like minerals followed by pear, apple and apricots. It also has a ravishing acidity that almost has this wine begging to be placed on your table this year. $30/bottle

Frank Cornilessen 'Susucaru 5'
After having cultivated a career as a wine merchant in his native Belgium, Cornilessen decided to take the ultimate risk and relocated to the wild and beautiful slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily. His first vintage in 2001 was a scant 500 bottles of naturally made wine: no additives, no sulphur--just pure juice. He now produces around 2500 cases, although he now has his organic certification and a new, almost finished, winery that is being built on his property. The Susucaru rose is a co-fermentation of red and white varietals, most native to the very slopes Cornilessen farms. Rose petals, red berries, wet stones and hints of juniper berry and orange rind coalesce into a wonderfully intense bouquet. It maintains bright, fresh berries throughout and its freshness stays with you long after you've finished your glass. Pop the stopper on this wine and enjoy it with cheeses or various vegetable dishes. $27/bottle 

Domaine du Clos d'Elu 'Les Petites Gorgees' 2012
Many years of touring and working in various wine regions around the world led Thomas Carsin to plant himself in the heart of the Loire Valley in 2008. He has been working to cultivate the land in harmony with nature and has been working to achieve organic certification since 2010. Joined by longtime friend Greg du Bouexic and a team of workers who have deep roots in the region, the domaine has set out to craft some delicious, naturally made wines. Les Petites Gorgees is a red blend of mostly Cabernet Franc with a few other varietals and is thirst quenching, making it perfect for those long, sit-down holiday meals. Dusty berry fruits and dark plums make this wine lush, mouth filling and pleasantly tart. Grab a few bottles on your way to a friend's party or stock up to pair with a Thanksgiving feast. $14/bottle

Causse Marines Gaillac 'Peyrouzelles' 2011

If you've been in the shop recently, you've probably heard me talk about an "in-law wine." It's a bottle which is unapologetically unique but won't, in turn, scare away your plonk-sipping relatives. 
Hailing from Southwest France, The Peyrouzelles is a 30/30/30 blend of Syrah, Duras, and Braucol. Spicy aromas give way to deep fruit; the wine is lively with some granite-tinged elements and a clean, almost-herbal finish. It's funky but balanced and far more approachable than you'd think. Best served with something spicy, and in great quantities.
Switch out everybody at the Thanksgiving table's Malbec for a glass of the Causse Marines and wait for 'em to start preaching the gospel. Tell your in-laws that we have a bottle waiting for them. $19/bottle

Julie Balagny Fleurie 'Carioca' 2011
I prescribe 750ml of Cru Beaujolais to anyone who has ever had to drink bad wine on Thanksgiving. You wouldn't be wrong to start with this bottle from Fleurie by young winemaker Julie Balagny.

This Gamay is about finesse. It's deceptively light; the deep fruit fills the palette so wholly and yet seems so buoyant! It lingers and deepens and tastes a little different with each sip, with a nice zip of acidity to cut through the food.

So sad a realization that the bottle is empty, yet such a relief that you can ask for a case for Christmas!  $28/bottle

Mas Coutelou 'Vin des Amis' 2012 
Our friend Camille imports only enough wines to fill both sides of a piece of paper. She's got a real knack for it, too, as I have yet to have a sub-delicious bottle of hers. She brings in this little devil, a blend of three-quarters Grenache and a quarter of Syrah. It's a little lighter at first, finishing off with a kiss of spice.

I'd like to pair it with something in particular, but the truth is this: you should be drinking this wine from the moment you read this wine until either Grandpa falls asleep, football tears apart the entire family, or Mom begs you to come help with dishes (whichever comes last.)

No, but seriously: this wine is good with everything. Godspeed! $18/bottle

Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie Corbières 'Pas des Louves' 2011
I have to admit, I have a little crush on Corbières. Located within the Languedoc in southern France, this AOC boasts a fair number of -- well -- diamonds in the rough. The story here is quality, character, and affordability.

The four grapes which comprise the 'Pas des Louves' are pressed and vinified together, which makes sense in the glass. Like a perfume, you catch different notes depending on the breath. The wine is alive with farm notes, from floral aromas to a finish full of straw and herbs. It'd be great to start a dinner with this one; it's charming and easygoing, which is more than I can say about some of my relatives. Pass the bottle? $15/bottle

Nicolas Reau 'Attention Chenin Méchant' 2011 
The winemaker was a rugby player before, and I'm as glad as his mother that he changed trades when his did. Reau's wines are expressive, clean, and downright delicious -- not to mention solid examples of wine made naturally.

This Chenin Blanc has an electric feeling to it -- you get some great acidity along with a hint of honey tones. Medium-bodied, it deserves to cut the line as an Official Turkey Pairing. 

If Sancerre is your aunt who tells the same story year after year, this Chenin is your cousin's new boyfriend who seems quiet at first but ends up winning over the entire family with raunchy jokes and has Grandma swooning at the same time. $21/bottle

Jean-Yves Peron 'Cidre des Cimes' 2010-11
We've sold a good share of wines by Peron at the shop, and I think it's safe to say he's a favorite of ours. Here we have a cider made by him in the mountains of eastern France, where he does his magic.

Before anything else, let's talk about the gorgeous gunk in the bottle. (I'm really selling this, aren't I?) Yes, there is sediment. Yes, it dances around a bit. Yes, it's safe. Anyway, this is a pretty serious cider: a heap of acidity, a rush of tiny bubbles, and a rustic sort of feeling that works so very well with food. Forget Champagne and pop a bottle or three of these.

Low in alcohol, this is the kind of bottle that can wander around the Thanksgiving table easily. And if you're one of those cool relatives, you'll let it wander over to the veteran inhabitants of the kids' table without noticing.  $18/bottle
To order click here or call 718-596-7643. To view our full selection come see us at the store. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

La Gramiere! Why La Gramiere.

Amy Lillard and Matt Kling

When we visited London in May to attend the Raw Wine Fair we met up again with Amy from La Gramiere who was showing her wines. We have always admired what she and her husband Matt did. 

Matt and Amy met at the Kermit Lynch retail shop in Berkeley. Amy worked at the store and Matt was a customer. In 2005 they left the Bay Area and moved to a small town in the Southern Rhone 20 minutes outside of Avignon, where they bought 3.75 hectares of vineyards in the Cotes du Rhone, and a small house, and started making wine. 

Well not exactly. Long story short they did make the wine, but not without a lot of sacrifice and a lot of determination. They do almost all of the work themselves, with occasional help from their friends and family at harvest. The grapes are hand-picked, without anything added or taken away. They cultivate without herbicides or pesticides and vinify in concrete vats with naturally occurring yeasts. The result: a true wine of place made mostly of Grenache with a little Syrah and Mourvedre. 

It's lively and fresh, peppery, with supple tannins. Originally imported by Kermit Lynch, Amy told us her wines were currently unavailable in New York. So we wondered how we could do the situation justice and decided to bring them in ourselves! Hence our first Thirst Merchants Selection is born. The La Gramiere Green Label 2011 is just $15/bottle and $13.50/bottle when you buy a case (in store only). 

Going forward we will share some of our other finds with you. We will soon have an e-commerce site up and running. As you may know by dropping by our little store in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, we love those wines that are made in such tiny quantities that essentially if you're not aware that they're currently available you might miss out!

For a limited time, get one of our classic totes FREE when you purchase 6 or more bottles.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Not Too Late

Our wine club offers two exceptional and unusual wines from the Arbois region of the Jura from two of our favorite producers. Arbois was the first place the French gave appellation status in 1936. Each wine, one white and one red, is made from the local red grape Poulsard – in the town of Pupillin they confusingly call it Ploussard. Poulsard is found almost exclusively in the Jura where it’s been grown since at least the 15th century.

The Jura is located between Burgundy and Switzerland. It has a cool climate and is known for producing distinctive wines. The weather here is similar to Burgundy but colder and therefore the harvest happens later.

Domaine de l’Octavin “Cul Rond a la cuisse rose” 2011
This domaine is a collaboration between Alice Bouvot and Charles Dagand. They began with two hectares in 2005 but now have about five hectares of vineyards. They are certified biodynamic and have since 2009 been making all of their wines completely without sulfur, fining or filtration. Their wines have great purity and liveliness. This Poulsard is vinified as a white wine and is from one of their vineyards called “en curon.” It may blow your mind. Proceed with caution.

Philippe Bornard
Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin Ploussard "point barre" 2011
Philippe lives close to Arbois in the village of Pupillin near the Swiss border. He inherited his vineyard from his father but began to make wine himself rather than sell the grapes to others. His winery is located underneath his house, which overlooks the village.

This is not for someone who likes to drink BIG wines. It’s light, delicate, almost translucent, giving off aromas of red currants, citrus, saddle leather, and a touch of cinnamon. It pairs well with just about any food you care to drink with it. Serve it cool.



Monday, July 1, 2013

You Can Change Your Life

Laurent Saillard co-founded ICI, which was one of the first Brooklyn restaurants to focus on natural wines and was part of the wave of restaurants that opened about a decade ago that were referred to as New Brooklyn Cuisine. We used to love going there and spending time with him. He was always eager to share new and interesting wines. He left Brooklyn a few years ago and moved to the Loire to learn how to make the natural wines he'd enjoyed drinking and selling. He began by focusing on working in the vineyard. 

Now Laurent has made his first wine, a very small amount of fresh unsulphured Gamay made using carbonic maceration. Because of our relationship, and because we are one of the few shops that support independent winemakers who make wine fermented naturally without the use of additives, Laurent wanted us to be among the first to taste it. When we did, we were really impressed by its pureness and clarity.

The grapes for La Pause 2012 come from a plot of Gamay planted in 1978 that Laurent rents from Catherine Roussel (Clos Roche Blanche). Noëlla Morantin rented it from 2008 to 2011 but Laurent took it over in November 2011. It's organic since 1991 and they have been doing some biodynamic preparations since 2008. 

Gamay gets a bad rap but it arguably yields the most generous, pleasure-giving wines. Many of you, we know, are fans of Beaujolais from the likes of Lapierre, Foillard, Breton, Thevenet, etc., as well as Gamays from the Loire and California. There may be no other grape that gives more and gets less love. Wines made from Gamay grown right, in the right soils and naturally fermented, yield wines that you can enjoy by themselves but that also belong on the table.

Take a break and enjoy Laurent's La Pause! Put it in your ice chest and bring it along for a picnic, to your barbecue or the beach, or just chill it and enjoy it on your stoop.

Laurent Saillard La Pause 2012 is $20/bottle. For a limited time, order a sixpack and get 10% off ($18/bottle).

Don't get fooled by bigger is better! It's all about the texture and the finish.

To order click here or call 718-596-7643. To view our full selection come see us at the store. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

About As Natural As It Gets

We've long been drawn to the rustic elegance of the wines of the Northern Rhone. Hirotake Ooka is a Japanese winemaker working in the Northern Rhone who understands tradition but is making wines that transcend it. It seems as if he was born to make the wine he does. Wines that are pure, raw, and alive. He was quickly identified as a rising star in the natural wine world and was recently profiled in The New York Times. The wines he makes are about as natural as it gets.

Hirotake has taken a remarkable journey from Tokyo to St. Péray. He left Japan to study enology in Bordeaux because initially he was intrigued by Bordeaux wines. However while there his world was turned upside down when he tasted the brilliant wines of Thierry Allemand of Cornas and realized that he had to go to the Northern Rhone and work with him, which he did as soon as he could.  Now he has chosen to work the steepest, hardest-to-work slopes. Ooka, which ironically means big hill in Japanese, then named his winery Le Grand Colline (big hill in French). 

He makes very limited amounts of a few wines, most of which he exports to Japan or delivers to a few Parisian natural wine bars. We, however, have secured a small quantity of his two most approachable wines, Le Canon rosé and red, which have just arrived. These in fact are the ones that are the best way to get introduced to what he does. Enjoy them on a Brooklyn summer's day or night.

Get them while you can! The 2012 Le Canon rosé is made from a nearly forgotten red version of Muscat called Muscat de Hambourg. It's delightfully tart with pink grapefruit flavors. His 2012 Le Canon red is a seriously gluggable Syrah with dark plum and sour cherry notes. 

Order a sixpack for $97.20 plus tax (10% off!).

Chill your reds.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Emilia's sparkling reds and an orange wine...

The following is our current wine club offering for May/June. If you're interested in getting these kinds of wines on a regular basis, join the club.

We first discovered delicious sparkling reds served chilled while backpacking through Italy. We didn’t have a lot of money then (some things never change) so we mostly picnicked along the way. Sparkling reds are a natural fit with cured meats & Parmigiano but are also at home around the barbecue. So here are three sparkling reds, two from Colli Piacentini ("Hills of Piacenza"), which is the western edge of Emilia-Romagna, a Lambrusco from the province of Parma--and for good measure a stunning orange wine from Colli Piacentini! 

Croci Gutturnio Vino Frizzante 2010 
This traditional naturally sparkling red wine from Colli Piacentini is typical of the area and is composed of 60% Barbera and 40% Bonarda. The soil here is clayey and sandy. This vino frizzante has good structure, is lightly bubbly, with that trademark good acidity that refreshes and goes hand in hand with the local food. This pairs particularly well with a fritto misto. 

Cantine Ceci Lambrusco “La Luna” NV 
Deeply purple in color, Ceci “La Luna” is a fresh, earthy Lambrusco, with notes of dark berries from the province of Parma. Enjoy it with a big bowl of pasta Bolognese. 

Elena Panteleoni runs La Stoppa with Guilio Armani. They’ve worked their heavy silty clay soils organically since the early 90s and have been certified organic since 2008. A minimal intervention approach is taken in the cellar. The wines ferment naturally with their native yeasts. Nothing is added or subtracted from the juice. Sulfur is never added during vinification and only in small doses at bottling. 

La Stoppa Trebbiolo 2010 
A young sparkling red wine, made up of 60% Barbera and 40% Bonarda. It’s La Stoppa’s take on the typical style of the red sparkling wines of the Colli Piacentini. It’s well balanced with a pleasant, bracing acidity. 

La Stoppa Ageno 2008 
The name is a tribute to the founder of La Stoppa, Gian-Marco Ageno, who first believed in the great potential of the area. This may be our favorite orange wine yet. What is an orange wine? It’s a white wine left to sit and ferment on its skins like a red wine, which gives it a depth and color different from any other white wine. The grapes are: Malvasia di Candia Aromatic 60%, Trebbiano 40% and a splash of Ortrugo. The thick-skinned Malvasia brings intense floral aromas and tannins and a suppleness; the Trebbiano and Ortrugo acidity and nerve. It was first made in 2002 with maceration on the skins for 30 days using only indigenous yeasts and without the addition of sulfur. It’s aged for one year in stainless steel and used barrique and then for an additional two years in the bottle. It is not filtered. 

Elena gave a lot of thought about what would be the best way to make wine in her region. “We were just thinking and trying to understand the potential of our area,” she said. “The farmers who make wines for themselves? They make no difference between red and white grapes. They macerate for maybe 10 days. But this is traditional, typical. It’s not modern winemaking.” Serve it with a grand bollito misto.

Click here to order some.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I think that was the day we discovered rosé

Some time ago we were in Berkeley, California at an outdoor event celebrating a Chez Panisse anniversary. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and the street in front of the restaurant was closed to traffic. The vibe was festive and there was a bounty of good food. Each table featured a specific purveyor. 

The staff was grilling meats and shucking oysters; the farmers that had come down for the day were selling their wares. Two dry rosés from Provence were on offer by the glass: a rather dark cassis-colored Tavel from Château de Trinquevedel and a salmon-colored Bandol from Domaine Tempier. 

Some time ago we were in Berkeley, California at an outdoor event celebrating a Chez Panisse anniversary. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and the street in front of the restaurant was closed to traffic. The vibe was festive and there was a bounty of good food. Each table featured a specific purveyor. 

The staff was grilling meats and shucking oysters; the farmers that had come down for the day were selling their wares. Two dry rosés from Provence were on offer by the glass: a rather dark cassis-colored Tavel from Château de Trinquevedel and a salmon-colored Bandol from Domaine Tempier. 
I think that was the day we really discovered rosé. We drink it year-round. 
These are some of the many we stock. 
Bernard Baudry Chinon 2012, $20
Domaine de Fontsainte Corbières 2012, $14
Domaine de l'Ausseil "P'tit Piaf" 2012, $14 
Château de Trinquevedel Tavel 2012, $18
Domaine du Gros' Noré Bandol 2012, $33
Henri Milan "Ma Terre" 2012, $22
Montenidoli Canaiuolo 2012, $22
Donkey & Goat "Isabel's Cuvée" 2012, $23

For a limited time we're offering 15% off a mixed case of twelve rosés when you mention this email offer. 

To order click here or call 718-596-7643. To view our full selection come see us at the store.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013



From its founding in 2006 Thirst’s primary mission has been to sell terroirific wines made by small artisan producers who grow their grapes organically or biodynamically and ferment their wines naturally without additives.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Real flavors beat fake flavors every time.

Long before we opened our wine store in 2006 we were constantly on the lookout for interesting, delicious wines that we could drink that tasted like they came from somewhere specific. We soon learned that finding simple, honest wine is not so simple. It was this persistent thirst for a taste of place that finally drove us to open our shop.

The desire to find these kinds of wines went hand-in-hand with the food we wanted to eat. We don’t eat industrially produced overly processed foods so why would we want to drink wines made that way, which most people don’t realize is the norm -- that most wine, like most food, is made with tons of chemicals primarily to satisfy the bottom line.

Like many of you we choose to eat minimally processed food not just because it tastes better and gives us more pleasure, but also because it makes us feel good once having eaten it. It’s the same with wine and the proof is found in the bottles. A real wine has real flavors that occasionally surprise and challenge us to come to terms with it, to struggle to describe it, because it’s not made with fake flavors. Real flavors beat fake flavors every time.

Of course it would take a lot less effort to sell easily recognized brands but that’s not what we want to do. We don’t want to sell brands. We want to work with people we like that we feel make wines that say something unique in small batches without additives or chemicals that consistently delight and sometimes amaze. Wines that go with food, have a sense of place, and are meant for thirst.

Which is why last month we attended RAW – The Artisan Wine Fair in London. RAW was filled with talented artisanal winemakers from around the world who make, in the words of the organizers, “wines that are pure, kind to the planet, very possibly better for your health, and best of all they’re absolutely delicious.” There we saw a lot of familiar faces and many, many new ones. It was a really exciting two-day event and you’ll be seeing many new things in the store reflecting what struck our fancy. The London food and wine scene at the moment is really exciting. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

London Calling

Back from London, which we visited to attend the Raw Wine Fair, a wine expo featuring natural winemakers from around the world. The fair was exciting and the London wine and food scene is vibrant. Some of the things and places that inspire us...

Day 1