The Rise of Minimal-intervention Wine in Copenhagen

© Yadid Levy

The forecast for Copenhagen is cloudy and funky, and we’re not talking about the weather. Natural wine—made with no additives and as little intervention as possible, and usually made from grapes farmed organically or biodynamically, too—has completely taken over the Danish capital, partly because of how the unusual, earthy notes dovetail with the natural flavors of New Nordic cuisine.

Credit Noma for getting the ball rolling, notably in a country that doesn’t even make wine because of its climate. “It got started here, and it picked up the pace so quickly,” says Mads Kleppe, the restaurant’s wine director. “It’s surprising in a fairly small city that a couple hundred restaurants and bars specialize in it. People don’t even announce it now.” And he points out the massive variety in the field: “It’s an approach, not a flavor.”

Though natural wine is the new normal, a few venues stand out for sampling. It makes perfect sense that a Noma alum is among the three founders of Ancestrale, a charming wine bar where you can grab a wooden stool at the communal table and order the equivalent of a happy-hour special: three wines for about $15.

The well-known Manfreds, an offshoot of the Michelin-starred eatery Relæ across the street, certainly merits a stop (make sure to have the beef tartare), but the same block holds the cozy, offbeat Terroiristen, a combination wine shop and wine bar where you may find 200 natural options from countries such as Slovenia, Austria, and Italy—as well as a concert in progress.

Located right on Copenhagen’s picturesque main canal, Den Vandrette plays music (“always loud,” according to the owners) in its brick cellar, which features charming old barrel-vaulted archways. Order the fried whitebait and a glass of trendy orange wine, rosé’s cooler cousin.

And nothing represents the quirkiness of this category—and Copenhagen itself—better than the service at Ved Stranden 10. Pass through the wine shop in front and go to the spare, modern rooms in back. Have a seat, but don’t expect a list—your waiter is likely to plop down next to you as he asks about your drinking preferences, which he’ll use to pick something especially for you. The wine you get maybe Hungarian or Catalan—but in any case, it’ll be good.