When De Wine Spot opened in 2007 down the block from my apartment, I was ecstatic. At that time, the only places to get wine in my neighborhood were of the Yellowtail-behind-bullet-proof-glass variety. Two and a half years later, De Wine Spot’s glowing green lights beckon – my path to tomorrow’s hangover is that much closer. And the best part about the shop? It’s full of carefully selected, reasonably priced wines from small vineyards. Owner Alessandro de Garcia tells Hungry in Brooklyn all about how to be responsible: support local, buy small, and drink big.
SH: What do you specialize in here at De Wine Spot?
AG: We specialize in small vineyards. Mostly French, Spanish and Argentinian.
SH: Why do you prefer small vineyards?
AG: Because of the quality of the wine. I obviously have nothing against California or Australia but sometimes they’re completely mass-produced and you can lose control of something that you mass-produce. We get our wine from vineyards that are family-owned with small staffs. So every single bottle is well crafted.
SH: In addition to smaller vineyards, you also carry organic wines. Tell us about those.
AG: Well I have completely mixed feelings about organic and non-organic. The [USDA Organic] seal is a tax – something that the vineyard is paying for. It definitely helps business; some people see it as an investment. You have the seal, you’re gonna sell a lot more when people are looking for the organic label. But then you go to a vineyard in the old countries, small families, like France or Spain and they don’t believe in paying the government to have the seal when they’ve been doing organic and completely [synthetic] fertilizer-free forever. You know? And also, [even with the seal], truly organic is very rare because if you have a vineyard that’s organic and the guys next to you are not, and they’re using pesticides, it’s always gonna filter over little bit….A lot of the small vineyards without the seal, they’re even more organic than the ones with it.
SH: I see, so it’s similar to Ronnybrook milk, where they practice organic farming but they just never bothered to get the seal. I also noticed you carry a lot of boxed wines.
AG: I think boxed wines are going to be a big part of the future because it’s completely, completely green. Tetra Paks are almost 100% recyclable and they use less fuel to transport because they don’t weigh as much as bottle. Also the quality of the wine can be better because the seal helps it to stay fresher longer.
SH: So it’s acceptable to show up to a party with boxed wine these days! Speaking of which, I throw a monthly dinner party where the menu is a surprise, and the guests always wonder what kind of wine to bring. What are some good choices when you’re looking to please a crowd?
AG: Definitely go to your local shop and try to ask for what’s easy and good. Pinot Noir is always good. I also like Tempranillo because it’s a more versatile wine. You can drink it with food, without food, with meats, or just with a salad. Malbecs are good, too. They’re a little popular nowadays, you know, but they’re still ok; they’re still a good choice, and great with food. But Tempranillos and Pinot Noirs are always a safe choice.
Alessandro’s Top 5 Tips to Buying Good Wine
1. Shop Locally. Find a small wine shop that specializes in family vineyards.
2. Choose wines from small vineyards. You’ll be more likely to have a more responsibly-produced, consistent wine when you seek out wines produced by the little guys
3. Figure out what you prefer: Dry, Sweet, Light, or Full-Bodied. Once you know what you like, you can narrow down the types of wines to buy. Prefer something light? Try a Pinot. You’d rather have something full-bodied? Maybe Cabernet is more your thing.
4. Ask for help. Chances are, at a small shop, your wine guy has tasted almost everything that comes into the store, and he’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
5. Drink. A lot. Can’t learn if you don’t practice.
De Wine Spot is located on the corner of Ten Eyck & Lorimer in Williamsburg