Clément Lapeyssonnie opened L’Accolade, a natural wine bar in New York’s West Village in 2019, and has steered it through a few different iterations during COVID. Backyard patio dining, streateries, a brief closure while waiting for PPP money…the usual suspects for pandemic pivots. Now that they’ve made it out on the other side, he’s seeing people start to come in for the wine rather than just the food. It’s a lot of glasses on the table for the one-man wine team, but Lapeyssonnie enjoys the personal imprint he leaves on the list. —Corey Warren
Wine comprised around 85% of your total alcohol sales, and 80% of guests ordered wine with dinner. You also said that it’s increased by about a quarter since 2021. Why do you think it climbed so much?
It’s a combination of things. Less and less people drinking strong alcohol which has been an interesting switch for us. The younger generation is more health conscious. There are more people asking for alcohol-free cocktails and things like that. The second factor being that we’ve been open on and off for three years now. We’re getting more and more well known for natural wine. More people are coming in for the wine list and are interested in exploring it. Before, it was people coming mostly for the food.
You estimate that 80% of your list is from “lesser-known” regions or varieties, but people are ready to dive in, given how much wine is getting drunk. What’s an example of such a wine?
That was a tricky question to answer. We still have a lot of wine from France but more and more we’re pushing into hybrid grapes. Working in natural wine, you have to look at the supply chain. You try to source more locally, and if you source locally from the US, it has to be hybrid. I love wine from Vermont, Quebec, like Domaine du Nival’s Matière à Discussion (100% vidal), or Les Pervenches Seyval Chardo, or Pinard & Filles’ Frangine, a maceration of La Crescent. If you want vines that grow well in this type of envrionment, hybrids are the way to go for natural farming up there. La Garagista’s Damejeanne is one of my favorite Marquettes. That grape is starting to make really stunning wines that are close to the best pinot noirs that I’ve tried, to be honest.
The second focus is that the wine list is built to encourage conversation about the history of wine and the farming, so we have a lot of wine from Georgia and Greece. It’s interesting to have this conversation with people that come in the restaurant and ask for chardonnay or chenin blanc. (Which I love, I have nothing against them.) It’s exciting to make [the guests] discover other things.
You said that people are asking for skin-contact wines more. Your first suggestion was a Long Island chardonnay—why was that your go-to?
I love local wines. It’s a passion project. I contacted Erik Longabardi [who makes Long Island ciders with Benford Lepley under the label Floral Terranes] when he started making wine a few years ago. He’s super-involved in the conservation of what Long Island used to be. It used to be huge for apple growing and winemaking and that’s disappearing. It’s an interesting project, you can contact people that have vines growing in their backyard and make wine out of it. The merlot on our list is an example of that. The chardonnay is from the Macari Vineyard, a biodynamic vineyard on the North Fork. It’s really approachable example of skin contact with a well-known grape so it doesn’t scare people away too much. Made locally, two weeks’ maceration, bright chardonnay with a cool texture. It’s an interesting project to back up.
How big is your wine team?
It’s me, me, and me. It started like that. I created L’Accolade and specialized in wine just before COVID happened. So we didn’t hire anyone. After that we hired waiters that I’m training on the wine. But to make the list and talk about wine, it’s just been me. It has its ups and downs. I work all the time but at least I get to have my vision on the list.
Corey Warren is the Tastings Editor in addition to covering the wines of the Loire, Southern France, Argentina and South Africa.
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