Roberta's Sommelier Tells Us What Wine We Should Be Drinking Now

If you’ve ever stepped foot in Bushwick, the hipster Brooklyn neighborhood du jour (and home to The ANY Magazine HQ), then you’ve likely heard of the restaurant Roberta’s. A farm to table spot that the NYTimes calls a “rural-urban-hippie-punk food Utopia,” their wood fired pizzas and $5 happy hour alcoholic slushies draw Brooklyn art crowds, while their two michelin stars for back of house reservation-only spot Blanca draw the fine dining international scene. 

Whenever we go- which is often; it’s a Summer Friday staple- we’re blown away not only by the food, but also by the incredible selection of wines. We got a chance to speak about wine with Bryan Keller, who works as a sommelier under Roberta’s wine director Amanda Smeltz when he’s not playing in art rock band SOFTSPOT. 

Keller attributes Roberta’s stellar wine selection to Smeltz’s mentality of: “balancing her personal tastes against expectations of the public, and seasonal tendencies of the chef's cuisine. She has a knack for finding very interesting bottles from all over the world and playfully challenging some broad conceptions about genres.” 

Going along with that view-point, we asked him to tell us which bottles of wine we should be snagging this spring under the categories of red, white, rose, and sparkling.

WHITE

Fanni Kertje's 1999 Szamarodni from Tokaj, Hungary

“I was introduced to this wine and style of winemaking in my time at Roberta's. It is so aromatic and ethereal with some serious trajectory on the palate. Grapes with noble rot aged under the veil in cellars full of a mysterious mold. Old school Tokaj style with that volcanic terroir.”

Terms to know to impress your friends

Noble Rot: A gray mold that's purposely cultivated on grapes to create a type of sweet wine.

Aged under the veil: Grapes that are aged under a veil of yeast; often used to create the bread-y flavor in sherries.

Volcanic terroir: Terroir is a french word that refers to a wine's "sense of place." In this case, the grapes were literally grown in volcanic soil. It's very cool looking.

Tokaj: A Slovak region known for sweet wines.

RED  

Coturri Family Winery's any vintage, or any red from Sonoma, CA

“Three generations of Coturri's making natural wines on Sonoma Mountain. From 1979 to present vintages: no pesticides, no fungicides, no herbicides, NO sulfur at any point, all natural yeasts, and no fining or filtering. It's like drinking the Redwood forest.”

Terms to know to impress your friends

Sulphur: Sulphur dioxide is an additive used since the late 1400s in wine to inhibit or kill unwanted yeasts and bacteria, and to prevent wine from oxidation. Recently has become controversial, as some people are allergic to sulfites and get headaches and skin rashes, and too many sulfites can add a charred taste to wine. 

Fining: A technique used to clarify wine using bentonite clay, casein (milk protein), isinglass (fish bladder), gelatin, or egg-whites. The fining agents combines with any sediment particles in the wine and allows them to settle at the bottom where they can be more easily removed.

SPARKLING

(Ernesto Cattel) Costadila, Bianco Colli Trevigiani Prosecco from Veneto, IT (NonVintage) 

“Small organically farmed Prosecco from the Veneto in Italy. With skin maceration and all fermentation happening with natural yeasts inside the bottle, this is a challenge to the mass conception of what Prosecco is. Hazy, funky and lush with balanced acid and a touch of tannic structure. So much fun to drink.”

Terms to know to impress your friends

Tannic structure (i.e. tannins): Naturally occurring compounds in grape seeds, stems, and skin, scientifically referred to as polyphenols. Polyphenols are released when the seeds, stems, and skin soak, and give wine a dry mouth feel. The longer everything soaks, the higher the tannin characteristics will be.

Maceration: The process of soaking crushed grapes and their seeds and stems to extract the color, aroma compounds, and tannins. This is where red wine gets its color and tannins from, and the lack of maceration is why white wine is light in color and doesn't have tannins. 

Natural yeasts: Yeast is what creates wine. By fermenting grape juice with yeast, it becomes alcoholic. Commercial wine makers in the last century have often used cultured, pre-packaged yeast to make their wine. All yeast is inherently natural but "natural" yeast in wine making refers to using wild yeast, the yeast already existing on the grapes and in the air, to ferment the wine, and not using sulfur dioxide to control and inhibit the natural yeast.

ROSÉ

Wolffer Estate's Rosé Cider

“I know it's not WINE wine, but gotta rep NY State and getting ready for summer. Probably a little easier to get your hands on, this winery is using all NY state apples and their own grape must to create a fun summer pounder. You could literally drink a thousand [Ed.note: we do not recommend this]. Get a few 4-packs and hit the beach.”

Terms to know to impress your friends

Grape must: The freshly pressed juice made from the grapes, stems, seeds, and skin that get fermented together to make wine.

Nina ZilkaComment