Sarah Hale is impressed by Neukoelln’s newest neighbourhood wine bar…
Walking in the door of Vin Aqua Vin early on a Friday evening, I wasn’t prepared to find a quiet, cozy wine shop where I expected a standard city wine bar.
There are no lists of wines available by the glass or placards proclaiming the new stock that simply must be sampled and purchased.
Nor is it the sort of wine shop where an expectant shopkeeper keeps plastic tasting cups at the ready, eager to make a sale and convince customers to return. This Neukölln shop is altogether more unassuming and casual.
Wine-lined walls and a seating area, with just enough leather to lend a little Gemütlichkeit without being kitschy, surround a small wine bar where patrons give the knowledgeable staff a sense of their taste. Peppery Côtes du Rhône? Herby summertime Sauvingnon Blanc?
I go straight for the house Secco, which is a signature Vin Aqua Vin production in white and rose. The white is a simple sparkler perfect for outdoor summertime sipping, and is an affordable three Euros by the glass. Affordability is a welcome hallmark here: good wine doesn’t need to be expensive, and there is no shortage of bottles here for under 10 Euros.
In typical Berlin good-weather fashion, the cozy indoor shop spills out onto the sidewalk with simple wooden tables and folding chairs. Short bud vases and candles add to the shabby chic vibe. A short chalkboard menu offers simple starters and a variety of tartlettes. Bœuf bourguignon is a specialty here, and Jan Kreuzinger, Vin Aqua Vin’s owner, just so happens to be a chef. Apparently, he’s also a budding carpenter: I learn later that he built the shop’s shelving by hand. This is representative of Vin Aqua Vin’s overall tone—it’s personal, simple, and reflects the ownership’s casual love affair with wine.
A few friends and I are quickly charmed by both the relaxed neighborhood atmosphere and by Heinrich Vorster, Kreuzinger’s knowledgeable associate. Rarely enough, he combines wine scholarship with a complete lack of snobbery, and is happy to walk us through the informal, gut-decision method by which wines are chosen for the shop – and throw in some of the basics of German wine regulations for good measure.
(More on Deutschland’s wine standards and recent reforms can be found here, in a blog post by the Society of Wine Educators). German wine is a natural focus of Vin Aqua Vin, and Vorster is happy to describe the surprisingly wide range of palette profiles that fall under the Riesling umbrella. From flinty, light, and acidic to the more stereotypical honeyed and fruity varieties, I’m reminded that the Riesling family is a diverse one.
We learn that even the high-sugar-content varieties that produce “legs” on the side of a wine glass when swirled still have an acidic finish at the end of a sip. Vorster further informs us that these sugary traces on a glass are referred to in German as Fenster, or “windows”.
If you’re looking for a truly international wine shop, this isn’t your place. The shop carries only two non-European wines, and they’re both from California.
Of course, when we learn that a single Silvaner grape vine yields as many as eleven wine varieties based on sun exposure and other natural miracles, this fact seems trivial. It’s a neighborhood shop with a largely neighborhood-based clientele where relaxing and Quatsching comes naturally.
Vin Aqua Vin hosts wine seminars twice a month for those who want to be able to distinguish between Trockenbeerenausleseand Spätlese (auf Deutsch, unless noted). Kreuzinger also hosts private dinners in his intimate shop setting. While the shop and café are open until 9pm (closed on Sundays), the wine bar is open late. For more information about dinners, contact information or seminars, see Vin Aqua Vin’s website.
T: 030 940 52 886
Opening Times: Mo-Wed 17.21, Sat 13-21; wine bar till open end.