There are wine bars that specialize in French wines, Italian wines, Spanish wines, and even organic wines, but in all these cases the focus is usually red. Inez Bon wanted to create a wine bar specializing in the kinds of wines she likes to drink: in a word, whites. In more words, crisp, aromatic white wines from places like Austria and Germany. Her West Village wine bar, Vyne, is a main destination during Riesling Week this week.
What’s on for Riesling Week at Vyne?
We’ll be featuring specials by the glass and by the bottle. We have a Hungarian, an Austrian, and a German Riesling we’re focusing on. We go from dry to wines with a little bit of sweetness. The German is a bit sweet, the Hungarian is pretty dry, the Austrian is the most interesting, I would say. It’s very dry, but has a lot of character. And we have other Rieslings on our list, as well.
So, has Riesling’s time finally come?
I think so. We have about 10 whites by the glass and the Riesling is definitely selling very well these days. I think it tops the Sancerre, coming in at No. 3. Riesling is gaining ground in this country. I see it even in other wine bars more and more. It used to be that it was only sweet Rieslings, but now the dry ones are on the rise, especially by the glass.
Did you have help putting together the wine list?
Yes, my friend Benjamin Kirschner [a wine importer] helped me. I told him what I was looking for, that I have an interest in white wines, and he helped me select the wines from different suppliers.
What is your favorite white wine of the moment?
I love a German Riesling called Wittmann. It’s dry and delicious. And an Austrian Riesling called Graf Hardegg Vom Schloss [$12 by the glass at Vyne].
This is your first Riesling Week, then?
Well, it started on Monday, which is our slowest day. But people have been calling and asking what we’re doing for it. And the weekends are really busy, so I’m sure we’ll have more people coming in.
And how has the bar’s concept been received?
It’s interesting: People are also drinking a lot of reds, but we looked at our numbers recently and found that our sales are following exactly the division of the wine list. Sixty-five percent of our wines are white, and that’s exactly what we do in sales: 65 percent white and the rest red. Of course, it’s summer, so we’ll see what happens in winter when people tend to drink more reds. We haven’t had a winter yet, so I’m curious to see what will happen.
What are some of the biggest wine pairing myths you like to bust?
I like to drink white wine with almost everything I eat. I find it much easier to pair food with whites, and Riesling is the easiest. It’s definitely the most food-friendly wine there is. Because it goes well even with spicy foods, like Asian, and there are very few things that do. It goes well with salty foods, practically anything.
Where do you like to drink when you’re not at your own bar?
I mostly like to drink near where I live. There’s Il Posto Accanto on 2nd Street, where they have all Italian wines. When I go there, I try to get more familiar with Italian whites. Then there’s a Spanish wine bar [Bar Carrera] on Second Avenue. All the Veloce wine bars, really.
Do you have anything coming up at Vyne?
I’m going to Napa Valley next week because my knowledge of American wines is not quite up to snuff. I’m European, so I tend to focus on European wines. So, I’m going to do a bit of research and visit some wineries to see if we can put a few more American wines on the list at Vyne. Maybe even some American Rieslings.
Do you have any Riesling tattoos?
Ah, no. That’s funny. I do like Terroir. I like their vibe.
Favorite wine-drinking scene in a movie?
It’s a little bit boring — it’s probably what everybody says — the scene in Sideways where the guy screams, “Merlot! I’m not drinking any fucking merlot!” It’s hilarious.
So, will you be drinking any merlot in Napa or just sticking to whites?
No way! Just sticking to whites, thanks.