2019 Wine Bar of the Year: Nathálie, Boston - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

When Haley.Henry opened in 2016, Boston didn’t have many bars that championed natural wine. “We wanted to give the city a different experience and get people to drink things that aren’t on every wine list in the city. It was to broaden horizons,” owner Haley Fortier says. The petite space quickly became one of the city’s most lauded wine bars, and last fall Fortier followed up by opening Nathálie, a haven for natural wine in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.

Also the home of Red Sox stadium Fenway Park, the neighborhood seems like an unlikely location for a bar with a focus on natural wine made by female producers, but that dissonance is part of what makes Nathálie so special. Sandwiched between a Starbucks, Panera and West Elm on Brooklyn Avenue, the bar eschews a corporate feel for a more personalized atmosphere. Fortier wanted to create a comfortable, intimate space where guests of all backgrounds would feel at home. To bring that vision to life, she worked with local design firm Wolf in Sheep.

Fortier is quick to point out that the design and menu at Nathálie is not just a redo of Haley.Henry. Rather, the two programs work in concert. “The biggest thing for me is that we kept the lists—both the beverage and the food—completely different so if people are following us they can go to both places and get a totally different experience,” she says.

While tinned fish star on the menu of Haley.Henry, Nathálie’s food features more tapas and Euro-style snacks. Organic and biodynamic wines take top billing at both bars, especially at Nathálie where most of the featured wines are small allocations and about 70 percent of the menu features female producers. “I would say the percentage of female-produced wines on the menu at Nathálie is more like seventy-thirty,” she says. “In any profession, as a female you’re always having to claw your way up rather than just being recognized for what you’re doing. So for us, the more we can showcase the 50 percent of the world that no one talks about enough is great.”

The bottle list is divided into categories like “Cheeky & Fresh,” “Unconventional” and “Succulent,” and the staff keeps things easy-going and approachable. For example, though Fortier’s personal tastes skew towards rustic, “funkier red wines,” Nathálie showcase bottles that will challenge people’s perception of natural wine. “One of the misconceptions people have is that if it’s natural wine it has to taste funky, and that’s not always the case. We try to put some things on our menu that taste pleasing and elegant and easygoing, and it shocks people because they don’t think it’s natural wine.”

Guests might also notice an emphasis on Old World varieties made by up-and-coming American wineries. “We’re seeing producers from all over the country that are doing really incredible things, so we carry a lot of these wines,” Fortier says, citing Oregon, Washington and California as regions she’s especially excited about right now. “Everyone thinks [the U.S.] doesn’t make great wines that are big, rustic and bold. I’d like to think we’re helping change that conversation.”

The best part? Like Haley.Henry, Nathálie will open any bottle on the menu if you commit to two glasses, plus you can order by the glass if there’s a bottle that’s open from a previous order—a great way to help guests find wines they like. “We always have some fun stuff open, and it’s a good way for people to drink through the menu,” Fortier says. “If you want people to try natural wine, you have to give them a good vessel and outlet.”

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