Despite the handful of excellent restaurants there that now offer natural wines, Mexico City has long been crying out for a proper wine bar, complete with delicious, relaxed food and an affable French person to pour you a glass of whatever he feels like that day, made by someone they know personally. And so now the city’s wine lovers can rejoice—as Loup Bar, complete with Michel Tolmer art, a staple of natural wine bars the world over—is officially open for business. Loup’s opening at this difficult time for the city—in light of a series of earthquakes this fall—is testament to the love we Chilangos have for the Roma and Condesa neighbourhoods (both badly affected), and the knowledge that whatever happens, el barrio te respalda—the barrio’s got your back.
Loup Bar, occupying the narrow ground floor space beneath renowned Mexico City cocktail bar Maison Artemisia on Calle Tonalá (in case you get a sudden craving for absinthe when Loup closes at 12:30am), is co-owned by Gaëtan Rousset, who imports and distributes a wonderful selection of hand-picked natural wines from the Loire and Rhône, and Joaquin Cardoso, one of Mexico’s most talented young chefs. Cardoso spent 13 years in France in the kitchens of both Jean-François Piège and Iñaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand) before coming back home to Mexico to open the acclaimed restaurant at Mexico City’s Hotel Carlota with star pastry chef Sofia Cortina.
But here at Loup, it’s all about the wine, and thus the food menu Cardoso has created consists of well-sourced, seasonal ingredients, resulting in fresh, perfectly executed sharing plates that are delicious but that you don’t have to think too hard about. Cardoso draws on Mediterranean, Mexican, and classical French influences, so there’s an excellent flank steak with buttery mashed potatoes; Greek and Caesar salads; burrata with a fruit pico de gallo; tchoutchouka with a poached organic egg; beef tartare; and their fish of the day, which comes with wild Mexican greens, beans, and salsa tatemada-a base of charred chiles and tomatoes. Prices range from $60 pesos to $260 pesos.
By the glass, Rousset has started strong, pouring the wines of Corinne and Paul Gillet from Cher, Alfredo Maestro (Peñafiel, Ribera del Duero), Laurent Fell from the Ardèche, and of course Mexico’s homegrown natural wines, Bichi (from Tecate in the north)—all between around $130 pesos and $230 pesos a glass. By the bottle, you can expect joys like the Laherte Frères Champagnes (both the Blanc de Blanc and the hugely seductive Rose de Meunier), the hard-to-find wines of Oriol Artigas, Matthieu Barret (Rousset mentions the 2014 Cornas Brise Cailloux as a personal favourite), Chile’s Louis-Antoine Luyt, and Lammidia from the Abruzzo are all well-represented. These are all wines that have miraculously made it to Mexico thanks to a handful of determined maverick importers, distributors, and chefs who were desperate to drink the wines they loved in Mexico and risked bringing them here (and indeed making them here, in the case of Bichi), despite the fact that the market for low-intervention and natural wines in Mexico is fledgling to say the least. But if the roaring success of Loup’s soft opening was anything to go by, it was a risk work taking—to borrow from Monsieur Tolmer, ¡Viven los vinos libres!
Venetia Thompson is a British freelance journalist based in Mexico City, writing for The Guardian, GQ, Conde Nast Traveller, and VICE.