Thursday, November 13, 2014

New & Improved

Please visit our exciting new website. This blog is no longer being maintained. Thank you for your continued support.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Living Wines Week!

We cordially invite you to a full week of free tastings that illustrate what we do here at Thirst. It starts tomorrow, Saturday March 1st at 5pm, with a class in which we'll pour pure, energetic wines that taste of the places they come from. We've also invited similar-minded friends in the wine world to pour wines they represent (see schedule below). 

What are Living Wines? 
Come see and taste for yourself. They're wines made with care in the vineyard by individuals who farm organically and/or biodynamically and who naturally ferment their wines with nothing added or taken away except, perhaps, a homeopathic dose of sulfur. These are the opposite of mass-produced wines that are commonly made with potentially hundreds of different additives and chemicals and often engineered with lab yeasts. We want to demonstrate the difference. Our goal is to bring you wines that are alive and give pleasure. 

Saturday, 3/1, 5-7pm: Launch with Staff and A Thirst Merchant Selection or few
Sunday, 3/2 5-7pm: Byron Bates, Goatboy Selections
Monday, 3/3, 6-8pm: Kreso Petrekovic, Zev Rovine Selections
Tuesday, 3/4, 6-8pm: Maya Pedersen, Louis/Dressner Selections
Wednesday, 3/5, 6-8pm: Steven Plant, David Bowler Wine
Thursday, 3/6, 6-8pm: Chris Terrell, Terrell Wines
Friday, 3/7, 6-8pm: FINALE! (with a couple of surprises)

Tyler on why he likes working at our shop: 

We sell the type of wine I like to drink.

There is no shortage of descriptors for the bottles which line our shelves, each suggesting a unifying theme for a wild, nuanced world of wine. At the end of the day, what matters is that the glass we fill contains a living, honest liquid which was extracted from the ground with both consideration and trust. I don't know if there's truly a word for that. To be honest, I'm not sure there needs to be. 

The kinds of wine we sell - and, in turn, I drink - are the kinds of wine which interrupt a thought. They create a pause in conversation, they confront us, and we're forced to react. "How is this just grape juice?" We pour these wines, we take a sip, and then we look at the glass. "This is so freaking good." Of course, there's a lot more to it. Through our tastings this week, I hope that we can create a discussion about what exactly that is. We can talk about soil and sulfur and governmental regulations and fermentation and packaging and grapes and all of that. That stuff is really important. Until then, we can keep things simple. 

I'm proud to sell wine which aren't afraid to make a statement. There is an energy in these bottles, and I have yet to find the right word for it. For now, I'll settle with "ours."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Thirst Merchants Selection

This month we highlight a few of the wines we bring in directly. These are hand-made wines from quite small, independent, artisanal winemakers we discovered and whose wines we're especially proud to represent as “A Thirst Merchants Selection.” 

The wines of Camille & Mathias Marquet and Francois Saint-Lo are honest, limited, small-batch -- so if you find that you really like them, BUY MORE before they disappear! This is the first time they are available in the US.

Mathias Marquet

Chateau Lestignac, located in the Southwest of France in Bergerac, was almost sold when Camille and Mathias Marquet convinced their family to let them take it over. Their first vintage was 2008 and they immediately began by farming organically. They’re now certified organic by Ecocert and also apply biodynamic treatments.  

After just one vintage of trying to listen to the advice of an oenologist, Camille and Matthias realized that they simply needed to trust their own instincts. The result: true Thirst wines with great purity and freshness but also deeply reflective of their terroir. As Mathias has eloquently put it: “Ce qui nous intéresse, c’est que le vin ait une personnalité.” [What interests us is wine that has a personality.] Their wines demonstrate that distinctive and profound wines can be made in lesser-known areas like Bergerac. 

LESTIGNAC Les Abeilles des Collinettes 2012 
Made from 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon, this fantastic white wine is lively on the palate with a chalky limestone minerality, pleasing citrus notes, and mouthwatering crispness. $18/bottle.

LESTIGNAC Le Rouge et Le Noir 2012 
This vivid natural smoky red is a true wine of pleasure. It’s composed of 95% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot from grapes grown on clay soil. $18/bottle.

Francois Saint-Lo

Francois Saint-Lo is a young winemaker whose first vintage was 2012. He was born in Normandy and his family was not involved with winemaking. However, he became passionately interested in working the vines and making wine and apprenticed with Olivier Cousin, among others. He has managed to buy a piece of land in the Anjou region of the Loire Valley with troglodyte caves, get a few hectares of vines, and immediately turn out stellar wines. Later this year we will also have his Chenin Blanc, Grolleau, Gamay as well as white and rose pet-nats. Francois’ wines achieve an elegant balance and a taste of place that gives us a feeling of deja vu. Tasting his wines we are reminded why we fell in love with the Loire in the first place. 

FRANCOIS SAINT-LO On L’Aime Nature 2012 
We discovered Francois last year when we tasted samples of his wines at the Raw Wine Fair in London that had not yet finished fermenting and immediately committed to bringing in his wines. 2012 is his first vintage. His patience and gentleness is reflected in the stunning purity of his wines. His Cabernet Franc has a liveliness on the palate, there's a beautiful honesty to it, and gentle tannins. Aaron Ayscough in his excellent blog, Not Drinking Poison in Paris, describes it as "shimmeringly elegant, a real see-through dress of a red wine." $22/bottle.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Eruptions: Chiara Vigo and Frank Cornelissen

JANUARY WINE CLUB OFFERING! Sign up now to get the following two wines for $50.

Etna, Oh Etna, or Raw and Rawer
This month we take you to Sicily by offering you two red wines that are informed by the eruptions of the volcano that is Mount Etna. These distinctive wines, made from grapes grown in volcanic soil, are made with a deep respect for tradition by two strong personalities who bring a fresh perspective to this ancient winegrowing region: Frank Cornelissen, a Belgian who moved to Sicily to make wine, and Chiara Vigo who returned from her studies, in Bologna, Venice and Paris, to make wine at home.
Frank Cornelissen at The Raw Wine Fair in 2013

Frank Cornelissen makes his wine high up on the slopes of Mount Etna. He chose this location first and foremost because he feels Etna is a great terroir for the indigenous Nerello Mascalese grape; that in this place he could make wine that rivals the best Burgundies and Barolos. Frank in fact feels that Nerello possesses the fruit of Pinot Noir and the dry tannins of Nebbiolo. A sort of Zen Master, Frank believes that we can never fully understand nature and all of its complexities and paradoxes. He doesn't use any chemical additions or treatments. He practices polyculture on his 15-hectare estate, growing olives for oil, buckwheat and fruit in addition to the grapes for his wine. 

Grapes are harvested by hand, from mid-October to early November, in order to get the ripest fruit. They then undergo meticulous selection and any unripe or damaged grapes are discarded. In the cellar, the winemaking is completely natural, with no yeasts, sulfites or chemicals added to the wines. The wines are then fermented with their skins in small neutral tubs to insure stable temperatures. After fermentation, the wines are pressed and stored in neutral vessels, big tanks for the early-bottled wines and epoxy-lined anforas buried in volcanic rock for the more tannic wines. 

Contadino is Frank’s homage to the farmer wines of the area. It’s a field-blend of 70-80% Nerello Mascalese with all kinds of local varietals from his old-vine vineyards: Alicante Bouschet, Minella Nera, Uva Francesa, Sangiovese, Minella Bianco and Insolia. It’s a dangerously drinkable wine that has the character of Etna: fragrant, profound, tannic but fruity.

Chiara Vigo
Chiara Vigo is the winemaker at her family’s estate, Fattorie Romeo del Castello. She was a small child in 1981 when Mount Etna erupted. Her parents sent her away to safety but they stayed to monitor the situation. They watched as the lava flow headed directly for their house; then it miraculously shifted and went toward the river instead, destroying a substantial amount of their property but not the full-on tragedy it could have been.

Chemicals have never been used here and Chiara continues to work in the manner of her ancestors. Salvo Foti, an influential Sicilian winemaker, has been a mentor. He encouraged her to take over winemaking duties from him, impressing upon her how special her vineyards are, and reminding her that she was born to be the winemaker at Fattorie Romeo Del Castello.

Allegracore is the name of the parcel the grapes come from and it means happy heart. The wine is primarily Nerello Mascalese aged in stainless steel. It has depth and also a certain elegance. The tannins are there but gentle on the palate.

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.