Although dance music producer Jean-Baptiste Martin was brought up in a part of France where kids were given plum brandy to sleep well (Exberliner disclaims responsibility for this advice), neither he nor his co-founder, Chile-born former store manager Christian Fonseca have wine backgrounds. Consequently, their wine bar Oui, Madame, open since mid-June, has nothing esoteric to it.
Hidden on a cosy corner behind Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, it might feel a little remote. Yet there are already regulars, many of them French, and the owners seem to befriend most guests – which is potentially what makes the service a little slow. Apart from word-of-mouth, they attract customers through events like Tuesday boules and pastis by the Volksbühne (€5, including 2 pastis) and monthly improv theatre evenings.
The wine blackboard is limited (four whites, five reds, two rosés and a handful of sparklings, €4.80-7/glass) but changes at least once a month. Work your way through them with a generous cheese plate (€9), normally containing three cow cheeses, one goat and one sheep, decorated with strawberries, sliced peaches, dried figs and a pile of rocket salad and bread.
Fruity, unoaked Cabernet-Grenache blend Le Petit St. Jacques from Languedoc (€4.80/glass, €18/bottle) is easy to enjoy with the nutty, savoury and mature hard cow cheese Salers (from Auvergne) or the musty, gamey sheep milk Tomme d’Estaing from the Pyrénée mountains. Both owners favour Abondance, an aromatic, semi-hard mountain cheese similar to Comté, which pairs surprisingly well with crispy Tourain Sauvignon blanc Clos du Porteau Le Courlis (€5.50/glass; €24/bottle).
As for the buttery, salty blue cheese Bleu d’Auvergne (think Roquefort, only creamier), aim for something sweet rather than the dry reds you’re recommended. Our tip: ask for the honey coloured Ratafia de Bourgogne, a special kind of aperitif with complex flavours of dried fruits and elderflower that will knock you off your feet. The only disappointment is the bread, some generic whole-grain slices that can’t match a nice crispy baguette. But they also offer a great salami plate, and the French don’t need bread to eat saucisson!
Originally published in issue #130, September 2014.