I understand that every wine I taste is fundamentally the same as every other wine, yet I also understand that every wine is different from every other wine in terms of its origins, its intentions, and its making, its history and relationship to a place and a heritage
I don’t remember where I read the above statement but it stuck with me because I believe it to be true.
Wine has always been of great interest to me – learning about it, finding a good bottle and making notes in my wine journal. My knowledge of wine is beginner level at best (I’m being modest – a little above beginner 😊) – I am enjoying the process. There are many aspects of wine that I find exceptionally satisfying – the wine OBVIOUSLY, which represents so many things to me: The content of the bottle, time, place, people, food, the way it’s made and of course culture. Our connection to wine is simply through our senses and that’s what makes experiencing wine truly special to me.
As a consumer, I want to buy food that has quality ingredients and nutrition and therefore whenever possible I opt for quality sustainable, organic and eco-friendly food products. I appreciated the fact that these practices have spilled over into the world of wine because I love to enjoy a nice glass of wine several times a week. I became interested in organic wine a few years ago and when the opportunity came up to visit a wine shop that focuses on organic, natural and biodynamic wines – I was extremely excited and made my way to South Williamsburg.
Spirit Animal, is located at 20 Broadway in the South Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and it is the brainchild of Chef and restaurant owner (of Barano) Albert Di Meglio (chef Al) Opened June 2019 as a means to provide extended customer service to his restaurant’s patrons.
The well-curated inventory features a combination of organic, biodynamic and natural wines, in fact, 98% of the shop’s inventory falls into one of these three categories.
A bit of information
Organic, biodynamic, and natural wines are all an alternative in terms of the way the wine is produced – these categories represents a departure from conventional winemaking and mass-market practices.
Organic wine solely means the grapes are grown observing the principles of organic farming practices. Artificial or chemical fertilizers are not added – the grapes are cultivated without the use of pesticides, fungicides or herbicide. The legal definition of organically grown wine varies from country to country. In the United States, a farm is certified organic by the USDA while in other countries the majority of organic farms are certified by a local organization called IMO control (Institute for Market Ecology). Organic wine imported from other countries to the United States is subject to Strict guidelines.
As mentioned organic wine emphasizes what is not done to the vineyards and grapes while biodynamic emphasizes what is done to them. Biodynamic is a very intentional process with no chemical intervention – a practice that is used in viticulture (grape growing) and dates back to the 1920s. This process predates the modern organic movements and is said to be the true expression of terroir because it works in harmony with the earth’s cycle. The entire process and timeline for enriching the soil, planting, pruning, and harvesting are based on phases of the moon as well as astrological signs. It’s a holistic approach that has proven effective and promotes strong vines that in turn produces healthy grapes.
Natural wine gained popularity recently however it is technically the oldest method – stating a description or definition is a bit challenging since natural wine may follow similar characteristics as organic and biodynamic however winemaker’s personal codes of conduct may vary. Natural wine is an unregulated term and only refers to the winemaking process after the maturity of the grapes, not the way the grapes are planted, grown or harvested.
The space and the team
Walking into Spirit Animal was quite refreshing – the space is bright and airy, racks of wine and spirits lined the walls. In the center of the shop lies the greatest feature of the space, an interactive area (a curved bar) for wine tasting and small classes.
The trio of Spirit Animal is a unique bunch (Johnny, Chef Al, and Austin Flechler) – I love that their knowledge, intentions, motivation, and desire came together in a unique way to create such a space. A space created in the spirit of sharing with the customer at the forefront. An environment that strives on taste, education and bringing forward the best there is to offer.
Johnny, a managing partner, and former attorney started his entrepreneurial journey at a very young age in his parent’s store. He’s passionate about Spirit Animal and his intention is to find ways to include the community on an ongoing basis at Spirit Animal – his desire to create a collaborative and welcoming environment through tastings, education, and community is what makes his contribution special.
Chef Al (Albert Di Meglio) is not a sommelier by trade but his extensive knowledge of food and wine makes him a valuable contributor to Spirit Animal. With a 20 plus career – cooking in many kitchens in NYC he has developed an unwavering palate and understanding of food and wine that affords him the ability to effectively and successfully pair wine with delicious flavors. With such talents who would not want his recommendation on a great bottle.
Austin Flechler’s six sense for selecting the perfect bottle for a customer or the perfect addition to the already well-curated wine offerings at Spirit Animal is what makes him an invaluable asset. With 13 years in the Hospitality, Industry Austin utilized the last five years to obtain a firmer grip on his craft, as a Sommelier, lover of natural and biodynamic wines and wine director he developed his passion for wine into a desire for more natural and low intervention winemaking practices. He credits his travels through different wine regions, meeting, tasting and learning with winemakers for this specialized knowledge.
Spirit Animal’s foundation for choosing wine is quite simple “the farming practice” – I believe this statement caught my attention the most while meeting with Austin. When a business or company takes the responsibility of giving the very best of products and/or services to their customers and community; they are worthy of a shout-out.
With a strong desire to explore all things wine and spirits, anyone who visits Spirit Animal can expect something new and different. The team’s effort and persistence to discover winemaker, producers and distillers “that are methodical yet passionate, uncompromising yet whimsical, holistic yet refined, and most importantly genuine and approachable” (Austin Flechler) is evident as the driving force behind the shop’s concept.
The shop currently carries approximately 100 to 150 different bottles – the goal is to take the guesswork out of selecting the perfect bottle for you or me.
As Austin states “Instead of having 5 or 6 different types of Sauvignon Blanc, we may have two true Sauvignon Blanc options and carry a couple of things that are similar in style.”
I hope you stop by and visit – I had such a pleasurable visit. This unique wine shop is dedicated to educating its customers through tastings (which is scheduled once or twice weekly) and small classes – what a treat if wine is your thing.
To us any wine, no matter how flawless, is useless without someone to share it with. That’s where you come in. We could have all the best bottles in the world but without your desire to taste, learn, and excite we’d be pretty bored. So, we’ve built Spirit Animal with you as our first priority
Spirit Animal20 Broadway, corner of Kent Avenue
Sunday 12 - 8PM
Monday through Saturday 12 - 10PM
Next tasting Thursday, September 19th – it’s worth the trip I promise.
Austin Flechler (Spirit Animal)