La Cave is a wine bar in Prenzlauer Berg that focusses on small wine producers from around the world.
A passion project of Michael Rowe, it’s a million miles away (although only a few streets away) from his other venture: Badfish.
Badfish, for those who don’t know, is a raucous, always-buzzing Irish pub that’s probably the only place left in P-Berg to go get smashed with like-minded individuals (see: drunks).
In stark comparison to Badfish, La Cave is an open, light, sophisticated-yet-ambient wine bar and shop that spills out onto the streets at Dunckerstrasse.
La Cave (meaning ‘wine cellar’ in French) stocks lesser-known wines from places like Chile, California, Armenia, New Zealand and beyond. Michael’s also a fan of German wines and waxes lyrics about his favourite vintages.
The clientele is mixed, more wine aficionados than winos. They take time over their glasses, some nibble on finger-food, everyone talking, relaxed and enjoying the passing of time.
Seeing wine beyond the pretention.
Michael found his true appreciation of wine whilst getting his hands dirty in the vineyards of Burgandy and Alsace. A trained wine sommelier, he wanted to learn something they didn’t teach in the classroom: the “grunt work” of winemaking.
Far from the suits and vol-au-vents, he realised how much hard, back-breaking graft goes into each bottle of wine. It’s a peasant industry, done for love. Especially when the bottles are opened and passed around the vineyards at lunchtime.
A wine emporium in the back.
La Cave’s backroom serves as its bottle shop. They carry 200 varieties in total, purchased from distributors with whom they’ve built a relationship based on trust in the provenance and quality of the wines.
“I’m having a dinner party, what would you recommend?” a customer asks, and Michael disappears among the bottle racks before returning with his suggestions.
La Cave try to make their guests step out of their comfort zones when it comes to wine. Many think ‘they know what they like’ and are difficult to persuade to try a different grape variety or style. To this end, they offer a ‘wine flight’. This is a blind tasting which includes providing either three whites or reds aimed to challenge preconceptions and introduce their guests to new experiences and flavour profiles.
A huge wooden table runs the length of the room. It plays host to monthly guided wine tastings as well as a range of food events and other get-togethers.
The first Tuesday of every month is half-priced bottle day.
The best Negroni in the world.
“We don’t just sell wine”, Michael states, before presenting us a range of beers and other drinks. “I also make the best Negroni in the world”, he added. Well, we couldn’t leave without tasting it.
I’m no Negroni expert, but it did taste pretty damn good. “It’s not difficult”, Michael says, modest to the end, “you just need to use good Vermouth. And we have really good Vermouth.”