As the Food Keeper grows, we’re delighted to introduce a new section to the fold: an ongoing ‘Guides’ series, in which we ask creative minds to share recommendations for places within an area they know well – either geographical or subject-based. The common thread linking the tips to come in this section is places, organizations, and businesses that nourish – whether that be the taste buds, the body, or the creative spirit.
You might have seen Liv at one of Berlin’s increasingly regular natural wine events – if not tasting, then pouring. The native Berliner keeps a busy schedule. A food and drinks writer by profession with a cookbook under her belt, Liv also runs Natty, a roaming pop-up “natural sips and bites,” with two friends. A friend who worked at Viniculture first got her into natural wine back in 2016, when it was still a rarity on the shelves of Berlin’s bottle shops and bars. “It was so nutty and floral and incredible, but at the same time I thought – how is this wine?” she recalls contemplating, and so began her autodidactic journey into its nuances, built up through a library of references though tasting and diligently taking notes or talking about it with friends.
Since then, Liv has not only closely witnessed, but also contributed to, Berlin’s natural wine awakening, which has flourished fast around town. Despite not being proximate to a wine growing region, Berlin is well-located for many European growers, she explains. And it’s still affordable. Forget the 15 dollars you pay for a glass in New York. Here, six euros is standard.
“I became a red wine drinker when I discovered natural wine. Chilled reds became my whole life. A lot of people associate “natty” with funkiness, which can be fun, but also could be a flaw caused by improper processes or over-oxidation – so there needs to be a balance. I love a classic Beaujolais, and wines that are super summery, juicy, and chuggable, with lower alcohol by volume. I love a 10-11%er. A lot of natural wines are super refined – an elegant counter to all the funk that’s happening. They’re so clean that any classic wine drinker would say that they are beautiful wines.”
Whether you’re a natural wine novice or aficionado, Berlin is full of places to sip, explore, and enjoy the delightful fermented grape juice.
“I know Kerry [Westhead, co-owner of Barra] from back when she worked at Jaja. She also used to run To The Regiment, a pop-up with her partner, Daniel Remers, who is now Barra’s chef alongside Neil Paterson. When Barra opened in late 2018, I immediately knew they would be doing great things. The food is simple but refined, with tons of taste. And they take such care with their wine pairings. There’s a story for each bottle. Kerry’s curated a pretty classic, well-thought out wine list with something for everyone – whether you want a clean Riesling, a funky Georgian orange or a deep red. An ovary red. A friend of mine says this thing – you can feel the red in your ovaries. If you watch Kerry throughout the night, she’s constantly tasting and spitting wine, and smelling glasses to check that they’re clean. You can enjoy a glass of wine by yourself, thanks to the kind of atmosphere they curate. They care. The fact that they’re so young and delivering so hard makes me happy.”
Okerstraße 2, 12049 Berlin
Schramms Weine & mehr
“Schramms is a classic Prenzlauer Berg wine store which recently started selling natural wine. Because I live in the neighborhood, I’m so happy it’s there as I can just stop in on my way elsewhere, instead of having to do destination wine shopping. Schramms sources a lot of bottles from Pierre Lejeune of La Malo and Des Quilles à Berlin, which supply a lot of my favorite natural wines, and offers a selection that’s perhaps less innovative, but is really good. It also stocks Vouvray bubbles, which you could only previously get at Viniculture. On Sundays it has open bottles, so you can come by and taste a few different kinds. When I first went by, the owner [Barbara Schramm] asked if I was into natural wine, and why, and when I explained she said, ‘Good to know, we’ll expand our range.’ It’s a good example of how ‘natty’ is getting more traction in classic wine world.”
Kastanienallee 83, 10435 Berlin
“When Jaja first opened in 2016, I thought they might be a little too ‘Paris’ for Neukölln. But it’s really great that they’ve pushed their vision forward. That never-ending wine list! Their selection is bonkers. [Owners] Julia and Etienne have done so much for the natural wine scene. You can always come and be surprised, or equally find a classic. There’s a great selection of German, French, Austrian wines, all presented in this lovely bistro. You can grab that beautiful middle table and bring 10 people, make a ruckus and have a really nice catch up. They consistently deliver some of the best food around, too. I only wish they opened a little earlier. But that’s my gripe with many Berlin bars. Jaja will always be in my heart for hosting the first and best Beaujolais Nouveau night – at a certain point, the magnums appear. Jaja have stepped up the hospitality game. They bring to it a certain kind of sensibility which is irreproducible.”
Weichselstraße 7, 12043 Berlin
“Rocket is my spiritual home. I’m there more often than not. Jeff and Elisa run it. They work with so many Berlin gastro businesses. If you’ve eaten at a place that has natural wine, you’ve probably had wine from Rocket. They’re one of the second wave of pioneers of the Berlin bar scene. You can even buy bottles and they’ll keep them for you till you want to pick them up – they’re that accommodating. Aside from having a banging selection of wine, they put on the Wine Rush [fair] every year, and do such a good job. Wine fairs are my favorite part of working in and around wine. They’re a great opportunity to put faces to names. For one round of Natty, we sold wine by Stefan Kraemer and I met him at Wine Rush. He’s an eclectic German guy who was going tango dancing after the fair. And then there’s The Wonderful World of Wines, an online store that the Rocket team has together with Olaf Schindler, who has been working in natural wine for around 20 years. All up, they’re one of the most important distributors and importers in Berlin. I walk in and I feel at home.”
Linienstraße 114, 10115 Berlin
“St. Bart is the place I’ve spent the most time eating out at over the past 12 months. The food is honest and simple, and Victor Hausladen, the sommelier, curates an incredible – and really long – wine list, with tons of juicy chilled reds. It’s especially good by the glass, and constantly evolving. It’s open seven days a week, and on Mondays it offers a selection of five open magnums. St. Bart doesn’t pretend to reinvent the wheel. It’s a pub. Locals can come by and get a Stange of beer for 2.50 euros. Its list of liquids is very good generally, with a consistent base of classics. Food-wise, it serves casual good food without slipping into fine dining. You can always get a bacon sandwich. It also serves radishes with butter or whipped cod roe and a vinaigrette for radish greens. You can see there’s a team behind this place. They’re happy to explain things. If you’re like, ‘I know nothing,’ they’re like, ‘OK, cool, what type of flavors do you like?’ Which is exactly how it should be.”