Drinks

Natural Wine Lightens Up

The Four Horsemen team weighs in on summer's best natural wines
The Four Horsemen
Inside The Four Horsemen and dry-aged pork sausage with spring onions | Photos: Justin Chung

Natural wines are having a moment—a moment in the sun, that is. Some of the most interesting and alluring natural bottles out there are perfect for summertime picnicking or rooftop cookouts, say Justin Chearno and Katrina Birchmeier, who, along with former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy and his wife Christina Topsøe, recently opened the wine bar The Four Horsemen in Brooklyn. Here's their advice on choosing natural wines for summer drinking.

Resist the urge to go straight for white. Both wine consultant Chearno and general manager Birchmeier suggest exploring dark, crisp rosés, such as the 2012 Domaine de L'Anglore Rosé or the 2013 Panevino Rosato. These fuller-bodied rosés are deeper in color and not as fruit-forward than some of the pale pink bottles you might be used to, but Chearno assures us that they're "great, friendly wines for large groups."

Of course, it's helpful to consider what you're eating before choosing a bottle. The vegetable-forward menu at The Four Horsemen (courtesy of chef Nick Curtola, who previously cooked at Camino in Oakland and Franny's in Brooklyn) provides a window into pairing natural wines with seasonal produce.

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"Dishes with a little spice [like the chile-laced snap peas with ricotta salata Curtola serves] go really well with orange wines," says Birchmeier. "We have Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium blend that works with anything that has a little bit of chili in it." And because natural orange wines tend to be rich with a deep minerality, they're flexible, pairing with vegetal and spicy flavors alike.

Structured, skin-fermented whites can pair surprisingly well with savory, meaty dishes. "The Denavolo Catavela, a skin-fermented white from Emilia-Romagna, is one of my favorite wines," says Birchmeier. "It's precise, minerally and funky, and pairs particularly well with umami-driven dishes, like our beef tartare." Because these whites undergo a shorter maceration period, they lack overly aggressive tannins, making them lighter on the palate and perfect for day drinking.

The bar's logo and house-made bread

Fret not if you can't make it to The Four Horsemen itself for these bottles. Wine shops across the country are expanding their natural wine offerings of late, and while selections will vary, Chearno recommends asking staffers for a "crisp wine that can be chilled, with a fair amount of fruit and acidity" for easy summer drinking.

And don't assume that natural has to mean funky. "There's no general flavor profiles for natural wines—a lot of the wines that we love happen to be made with no additives, but still taste like classical wines," says Chearno. "Not all natural wines are super funky and crazy—you can certainly go in that direction if you want to, but most of the wines we have are evocative of the place they're made, not just how they're how made."

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