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Eat and Drink

Natural wine bars on the rise in NYC

Ruffian Wine Bar in the East Village serves

Ruffian Wine Bar in the East Village serves primarily natural French wines. Stetson Robbins, a wine importer, samples wines with owner Patrick Cournot on May 3, 2016. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

New York City wine bars are going au natural.

Already prevalent in London and Paris, the natural wine movement is quickly gaining devotees here, with new bars specializing in the vino.

If your wine collection is limited to Trader Joe’s “two-buck chuck” and house-warming gifts, you might be wondering what, exactly, natural wine means.

Generally, a natural wine is made with minimal intervention from the farm to the cellar, from using organic grapes to avoiding additives like foreign yeasts and sulfur during the winemaking process.

“Natural wine is a continuum, with the most extreme examples having zero sulfur [added] whatsoever and no additives at all,” says Nick Gorevic, wine consultant for June, a wine bar in Brooklyn.

Since opening last year, the dark-wood and marble-accented spot has become a hangout for the natural wine crowd, as well as a place for locals to learn. To appeal to both crowds, June has a number of bottles under $50 and all glass pours are under $15.

“It’s cool to see your everyday person becoming a part of the movement,” says June general manager Nick Tilly. “People are gaining more of an interest in where their drinks come from, not just their food.”

The year-old Four Horsemen in Williamsburg is another celebrated natural wine bar. Notably co-owned by LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy, the vibe is unpretentious, the minimalist decor is decidedly Scandinavian and the surprisingly affordable wine list offers glasses between $10 and $18 and has several bottles in the mid-$30 price range.

“The great thing about natural wine is that it’s relatively new and there are new winemakers popping up every year,” says Four Horsemen wine consultant Justin Chearno, who looks for wines that have been made organically “at minimum,” are fermented with naturally-occurring yeast and only use sulfur at bottling, if at all.

Other popular places to enjoy natural wine include Marlow & Sons in Williamsburg, Racines NY in TriBeCa, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in SoHo, Wildair on the Lower East Side and newcomers Le Botaniste on the Upper East Side and Ruffian in the East Village.

Ruffian serves primarily natural French wines from “small producers that care deeply about their vineyard’s health, ferment using ambient yeasts and avoid excessively filtering or sulfur,” says Ruffian owner and sommelier Patrick Cournot. “These choices lead to wines that have developed their own personality, rather than wines that are scientifically designed to taste a certain way.”

The bar buys in small batches, so the wine list changes frequently. The food menu changes daily, too, focusing on Southern French cuisine with Indian and East Asian flavors that, naturally, pairs well with the wine selection.

“Our food has the vibrancy and detail that mirrors the greater range of flavors created through natural-wine making,” says Cournot.


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