For almost eight years, Christy Frank has been an ambassador for small wine producers and wines from the southern hemisphere at her teensy 320-square-foot wine shop, Frankly Wines, in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. She’s filled her shelves with boundary-pushing Aussie bottles, exceptional $10 South African Chardonnays and even sparkling wine made with the unheard-of Brianna grape in Vermont. Needless to say, she spends a lot of her time busting myths and giving these wines narratives for her customers. Here, Frank's 12 myth-buster wines.
For almost eight years, Christy Frank has been an ambassador for small wine producers and wines from the southern hemisphere at her teensy 320-square-foot wine shop, Frankly Wines, in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood.
“The idea of Frankly Wines is just to be a superawesome neighborhood wine shop that you wish was in your neighborhood—the shop around the corner that you wish was the shop around your corner,” she said. And it works: Everyone from bankers to tech people to New Jersey commuters have gotten turned on to Frank's unique wines.
She’s filled her shelves with boundary-pushing Aussie bottles, exceptional $10 South African Chardonnays and even sparkling wine made with the unheard-of Brianna grape in Vermont. Needless to say, she spends a lot of her time busting myths and giving these wines narratives for her customers.
Just this summer, Frank and her husband opened a brand-new shop upstate in the little town of Copake, called Copake Wine Works, which means that people outside the city can now benefit from her smart approach to wine.
We asked Frank to tell us which myths come up time and time again, and to give us her wine-bottle responses. Here, 12 exciting wines that will open up your mind:
1. MYTH: ALL RIESLING IS SWEET
2014 Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling
“This is a very, very classic Eden Valley, Australia-style Riesling. It is achingly bone-dry, with that lemon-lime, petrol, mineral—it’s battery acid, basically. It’s lime-flavored battery acid. And it’s a great price; it comes in under $20. We’ve done Riesling tastings at the shop and we’ll start with Pewsey Vale and people will say, 'oh no, Riesling is too sweet,' and we’ll give them a glass of that and they’ll say, 'oh, oh, oh, do you have anything sweeter?' It opens their eyes. Nothing does that like Australian Riesling. That said, not all Australian Riesling is in that dry style. Ones from the Clare and Eden Valleys tend to be the drier styles, but you’ll see things from the Yarra that have a little bit of sweetness to it and Rieslings from Frankland have a nice fruitiness—so it’s all over there, we’re just little by little starting to get it over here.”
2. MYTH: ALL SAUVIGNON BLANC TASTES THE SAME
2014 Marie et Vincent Tricot Chez Vignon Blanc
"This is from a little family property that’s working naturally. The Tricots are in the Auvergne, which is a part of the Loire Valley that we’re going to see more and more of. The land is cheap there, so you’ll find these people who can work naturally and take risks and experiment. There’s not as much risk if you’re working in this region as there is if you’re in Sancerre. This Sauvignon Blanc is amazing. In fact, I’ve got to go open a bottle right now. It’s a cross between that grapefruit and that fruit that you would expect from New Zealand, but it’s got this real savory, beautiful herbal thing that you would get in an old school Sancerre with the minerality. So it has beautiful fruit, but then it has these other things going on where you’re trying to place, ‘what exactly is that specific herb?’ It’s just beautiful and refreshing and there’s complexity there if you want to look for it. But you don’t have to.”
3. MYTH: FINE, BUT ALL NEW ZEALAND SAUVIGNON BLANCS TASTE THE SAME
2014 And Co. The Supernatural Sauvignon Blanc
“The big thing that makes this Sauvignon Blanc different is that it’s from Hawke’s Bay, not from Marlborough. The vast majority of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that we see over here is from Marlborough. This has made for a very specific expectation of what people want when they want New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Those wines are very grapefruity, they’re fresh, they’re crisp, they’re made very quickly—they’re wonderful wines, but they all kind of taste the same. But this is from Hawke’s Bay, which is a little bit further north, which in New Zealand land means it’s a little bit warmer. So already the fruit has a little more opulence. Gabrielle, the winemaker, is using natural yeast, and it’s unfiltered and unfined. The herbal notes are kind of undercurrents that play well with the tropical fruit flavors. This bottle is richer and warmer and a little bit more deeply colored than other Sauvignon Blancs. You’re still in that place with Sauvignon Blanc, but it doesn’t taste like every other bottle that you can get.”
4. MYTH: PINOTAGE IS HORRIBLE, INSIDIOUS STUFF
2012 FRAM Pinotage
“First, when we sell this, we tell people, 'this does not taste like a wet dog.' And there are a number of Pinotages on the market that don’t taste like wet dog, but you really, really have to ask and trust your wine merchant. This one really shows the Pinot Noir side of the Pinotage grape. Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. With Cinsault, you can get…well, there are a lot of reasons it can taste like a wet dog, but we won’t get into that. This one really shows off the Pinot! So it’s got this really beautiful, earthy elegance and you get this little bit of smokiness, so you know you’re not just drinking your plain ol’ Pinot Noir. But it’s really beautiful, sexy Pinotage that can turn people’s heads around, even if they think they hate the grape. I tell people, ‘try this and if you don’t like it, you don’t ever need to have another Pinotage in your life.’”
5. MYTH: GOOD ROSÉ IS PALE PINK
2014 La Realtiere Pastel Rosé
“The talk of the summer is that rosés are basically like pantone chips. Winemakers can take their wine into a lab and say, 'I want it to be this color' and then there are lots of different things that can be done to make it that color. People say 'you can’t taste with your eyes, so it really shouldn’t matter' and that's true, but people do like a pale pink color and they’ve been conditioned to think that deeply colored rosés are going to be sweet and icky. That used to be the case, but it’s definitely not anymore. I like this one because the winemaker is not stripping the color out of the wine, and it’s a little bit more deeply colored than you would expect from your traditional Provençal rosé. It still has that refreshing quality that people want from it, but it has a little more complexity—just not so much that you can’t just chill it down and drink it on your front porch.”
6. MYTH: MALBEC COMES FROM ARGENTINA
2012 Domaine Le Fay d’Homme La Part du Colibri Côt
“People think that Malbec is a grape from Argentina because the country has done so spectacularly well with marketing it. And the grape does extremely well there because it loves that climate and that warmth. But its original home is in France. You’ll find it in Cahors, where it tends to be really dark and almost too intense; they call it ‘the black wine of Cahors.’ And you’ll find a little Malbec in Bordeaux. But then you’ll find it in the Loire Valley, where they call Côt. That’s the one I like for summer. The climate in the Loire Valley is cooler than in Argentina, and they make Malbec in a lighter, fresher style—it’s great with a chill on it. It’s still that crazy purple, vibrant, magenta-rimmed color, but the fruit is just a little bit juicier, fresher.”
7. MYTH: PINOT GRIGIO IS BORING
2014 Domaine Lucci Gris Noir
“They call this Pinot Gris, not Pinot Grigio, and the 'gris' part indicates that it’s a gray grape—so it actually does have a little color hiding in the skins. Winemaker Anton Van Klopper (not Von Klapper) is one of the leaders in the natural winemaking movement down in Australia. And he’s hilarious. He’s been to university at Roseworthy, which is the top tech school for winemaking in Australia, and he knows his stuff, but you go to his winery and it’s a shack, and his house is a beautiful shack in the Adelaide Hills. He’ll make you pasta by hand while you’re trying all these bottles, and he’s part of the Natural Selection Theory, which is a group of guys that have really played around with natural winemaking and tried to draw attention to it down there. You get deep into the Anton Show, where he’s talking about natural wine and how he wants to have the dirtiest winery you’ve ever seen—and then you say, 'Anton, where did you go to college?' And he’s like, 'Oh, Roseworthy.' He was first in his class. So he knows exactly what he’s doing, he’s just chosen to disregard all of the technical stuff. But because he has that background, the wines are beautiful. They’re clean and they’re nothing that you would expect from Australia. His daughter is probably 14 or 15 now. Her name is Lucy and she draws all the labels. So this particular one has a little anime girl fashion label on rice paper. Depending on our mood, we either sell it as a Pinot Gris with a lot of stuff going on or we sell it as a rosé. It’s not a pale pink rosé; it has a copper color to it. And it has these beautiful exotic spices.”
8. MYTH: WINE IN A CAN?
2013 Field Recordings Fiction Red
“I love that this wine comes in tallboy cans. They’re so good. It’s such a rich, dense, full wine, but there’s still a core of lightness to it. I love a big, silky, sexy wine, and it’s fun that I can sell it in a can! I can sell it to somebody who’s craving something velvety and I can sell it to someone who’s looking for cool-kid California. It’s got everything going for it. They’re $12.99 a can. I think it’s almost under priced based on what the full bottle costs—because it’s 500 mL, two-thirds of a bottle.”
9. MYTH: I DON’T LIKE CHARDONNAY
2014 Balance Chardonnay
“This is just a nice, easy wine that’s $10 on the shelf and has an elephant on the label balancing on a ball. It’s just a really clean, unoaked Chardonnay. The thing I don’t like about some unoaked Chardonnays is that they’re too far in the other direction. People will come in and say 'I don’t like Chardonnay,' but what they don’t like is the oak. I could hand them a truly unoaked Chardonnay from California that’s made to be super steely and high acid, but you can get that in Chablis. But in California and South Africa, I like to have a Chardonnay where you can show people, 'This is the fruit,' and it’s got this lovely pear and yellow apple to it, but it’s not so severe that they’re going to run away screaming. I love to have it on the shelf to give to people who are finally tired of the superoaky Chardonnays or who have completely turned away from the grape, but aren’t quite ready to go into Burgundy territory. It’s something to show them that it’s not the grape they don’t like; it’s the winemaking.”
10. MYTH: ALL SHERRY IS SWEET
NV Fernando de Castilla Sherry Fino En Rama
“Fernando de Castilla is one of my favorite sherry producers because they’re working on a small scale and using old-school techniques, so some of their sherries have slightly higher alcohol than some other sherries. It’s sold in 375 mL bottle and it’s unfiltered and it’s just got that briny finoness with a little bit of extra texture and weight that you get because it’s not filtered, and the price is great for the quality—it’s $19.99.”
11. MYTH: CREAM SHERRY IS FOR GRANNIES
NV Emilio Hidalgo Morenita Cream Sherry
“General consumers will think that all sherry is sweet; then you give them a dry, salty fino and they’re like, ‘oh gosh, I didn’t know this existed.’ And all the wine-trade, cool-kid people are like, ‘oh no, all sherry is dry. There’s no good sweet cream sherry.’ When my sales rep brought this in, I was like, ‘seriously!? What are you doing?!’ And he was like, ‘oh, shut up and taste it.’ And it was awesome. It’s not the icky, cloying cream sherry; it’s just delicious. It’s more like a tawny port with more sweetness and higher acidity. I think it’s $15 on the shelf.”
12. MYTH: NEW ENGLAND'S TOO COLD FOR MAKING WINE
2014 La Garagista Ci Confondo Petillant Naturel
“This is made from the Brianna grape. And the winemaker, Deirdre Heekin is working organically—she’s very committed to working organically with some biodynamic practices in there—and the only way you can do that in Vermont is if you’re using hardy grape varieties that are local to the region. So she’s using hybrids, and she’s proof that if you treat these hybrids with the same love and attention that you do fancy French grapes, you can get some really amazing wine. This is her white sparkling Pet Nat. It’s beautiful, slightly foamy—not full-on fizzy—and it’s fresh and delicious and has this little herbal edge on the finish.”