Chris Kelly of Lenoir in Austin, TX on artisan wines for spicy foods - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Chris Kelly of Lenoir in Austin, TX on artisan wines for spicy foods

Chris Kelly joined Lenoir after striking up a conversation with chef/owner Todd Duplechan before the restaurant’s opening in 2012. Today, his wine list gives Austin diners a chance to try something new—regions, grapes and styles they may not have encountered before. His 25 wines by the glass are designed to match and enhance the bold flavors of the food, self-described “warm-weather” cuisine with influences from all over the world.

Wines for warm weather flavors

I think of wines that are lower in alcohol and lighter in body. Our food has influences from Southeast Asia, India, warm weather places with powerful flavors. Generally, wines from cooler climates work well—higher acidity and lower tannins. Most of our wine is between 11.5 percent and 12 percent alcohol. That’s different than a lot of the other places here in Austin. I want people to leave satiated and refreshed, more than anything. I want to pair wines that are a vessel for the food’s caliber and success.

One wine that surprised me was Le Sot de l’Ange [Vin de France]. It’s a young winemaker from Touraine, Quentin Bourse. He makes a super-funky gamay and grolleau blend. I like the idea that he puts all his wine in clear bottles, insinuating that it should be drunk young. When you open that wine, it kind of stinks. It’s granular, grainy; it’s not easy to sell. So, we do it as a pairing, and we go through two cases a week. People say they’ve never had a wine like this. They want to buy it in retail.

Going natural

I’m trying to introduce people to the plethora of ideas in natural wine. My friends and I are musicians and artists, and we like to drink artisanal. Just exposing people to that wine without pretense is really important to me.

It’s too bad that everything has to have a label. Calling someone a “rock musician” tells you nothing about the music. It’s a categorizing of a sound.