The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2014

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108  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2014 RETAILER PROFILE I f you can recognize more than a couple of the nearly 200 bottles in Brooklyn's Heritage Wines shop, then its wine buyers haven't done their job properly. It's not that Giancarlo Luiggi and Karl Wurst want to alienate customers—far from it. But they do want the opportunity to nudge—even coerce—them away from that bottle with the animal label and towards something whose name evokes romance or, better yet, foreign espionage. Indeed, the bottles in this year-old shop read like a bookstore full of spy novels with mysterious names such as Stobi Vranec and Gunashauri Saperavi. The labels, too, hint at other unknown worlds—Macedonia, Georgia, Canary Islands. Owned by Charles McMickens of the nearby General Greene and managed by Brooklyn Wine Exchange alums Luiggi and Wurst, the store (at 237 Dekalb Avenue) overturns all your assumptions about wine by mashing up familiar varieties in unfamil- iar lands. Here, you'll find a German Syrah, a Serbian Riesling and a Gamay from Loire. "We intend to challenge our customers and our suppliers alike. We'll stock [the wines] and create demand for them," says McMickens, noting they will feature "doggedly traditional producers as well daring winemakers." Heritage Wines, so-named for the shop's philosophy of featuring small traditional vignorons, is the latest bead in a string of small wine shops in Fort Greene. It joins Thirst Merchants, Gnarly Vines, The Greene Grape and Olivino in creating a wine route of sorts through the neighborhood. Heritage, however, distinguishes itself with a strong showing from countries known better for goulash than grapes. While about 75 percent of the selection is sustainable (if not organic or biodynamic), Luiggi says, "we favor that, but we're not dogmatic." The bottles $16 and up tend to be sustainable. But that's a tougher reach for the value wines. What they do insist on, however, is a "small-is-beautiful" outlook, with a focus on soil and grape stewardship. Some of their producers—whom they consider farmers—produce as few as 100 cases. All are crafting wines that are closer to the fruit, lower in alcohol, higher in acid and have a sense of place. The "less-is-more" credo applies to the importers with whom Heritage works, among them Jenny & François, Naama Laufer (NLC Wines), Blue Danube and Savio Soares—all small companies focused on quality, sustainable producers. Winebow and Michael Skurnik are as large as they go. "There are really interesting [importers] doing interesting things outside the huge wine buckets that are France, Italy and California," Wurst said. Luiggi explained that they will be tasked to find the "right mix of producers and distribu- tors in an industry that's lost its scalability to super-sizing." But with New York's swell of small-batch producers, he says, "We'll find them," adding, "That's how we roll." Giancarlo Luiggi is the Manager of Heritage Wines in Brooklyn, where the more obscure, the better. Some under- the-radar labels carried at Heritage Wines in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. Where Small Is Beautiful BROOKLYN'S HERITAGE WINES NUDGES CONSUMERS OUT OF COMPLACENCY by Lana Bortolot / photos by Kelsey Bozler

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