Briefmarken Weine is one of our favourite winebars, because being set in a former DDR postage stamp shop it’s so romantic and charming inside! Staff are friendly and they stock excellent Italian wine, including some tasty natural wines too! In the summer you can watch the sun go down on the beautiful Karl-Marx-Allee promenade. We asked manager & sommelier Michele Scarcella a few things about the place..
This former GDR postage stamp shop is an incredible setting for a romantic evening, with its wooden cabinets and old-fashioned charm. Was it anything else before Briefmarken Weine?
I came to Briefmarken Weine one year ago, but as far as I know it continued to sell stamps until 2010 or so. Then it stayed closed but almost intact until first owners Nicola, Alessandro & Ivano started the carefully thought-through renovation. They were changing the structure of a stamp shop into a functional „Osteria con cucina“ with Italian charm and a cosy family flair, at the same time allowing the guests to get a glance of the historical character of East-Berlin.
During the evening we show Italian movies (without sound) on the old wallpaper. They are of the same era (1950s-60s ) by Germi, Bertolucci, Visconti and other Neo-Realism directors.
Has much changed to alter the style of the place when it first opened?
We obviously had to put the kitchen in one of the backrooms with all the necessary devices and build up a counter with the fridges and sink, but it was kept very simple and integrated itself totally in the room.
The older stamp shelves just remained as they were or moved to the side.
You source mostly Italian wines. How many different wines do you stock?
We have around 200- 250 different bottles, mostly from small producers, using indigenous grape varieties.
However, we continuously rotate them and add new ones, so people always have the chance to try a new interesting wine they haven’t had before!
And you also sell some nice Natural wines too?
Yes – we love natural wines!
I personally have been drinking and selling natural wines since the 1990s, although at that time nobody called them „natural“… but there were already some fantastic wine makers like Gravner or Radikon from Friuli who made great natural wines!
At the moment we’ve got : Frank Cornelissen, Princic, Il Carpino, Terpin, COS, De Bartoli, Alessandro Viola, Salvo Foti and more from Sicily. Also Valfaccenda, Stefano Bellotti and others from Piemonte, Ampeleia from Toscana, Garlider, Pranzegg from Alto Adige, Tenuta Mara from Emilia Romagna…
Furthermore we also have a lot of organic wine maker from all over Italy.
And how would you describe the food served?
We don’t concentrate on just one single region for our food offering, but for sure the influence of the south ist obvious, as if you put the focus of the cold dishes on fresh buffalo mozzarella and burrata (the one with the soft core) which are typical from Campania. At the moment we also have a buffalo ricotta which is just unbelievably aromatic and creamy! And of course we also have some dishes from Sicily and Puglia.
We are also not afraid to adapt some traditional middle and north Italian traditional recipes for our menu too.
And what’s your favourite dish being served there at the moment?
I don’t want to say Caponata because it is from Sicily and I would be called a „patriot“ , being from Sicily myself ,haha, but it is great! 😉
I also love the burrata with grilled green Italian asparagus (the asparagus is thinner than others, but it’s very aromatic !)
One of the things we like about Briefmarken Weine is you all know the wines really well, and are able to make good suggestions. What are some of your favourite grapes and regions in Italy?
I personally love the grapes who (and I use the word „who“ because I compare the grapes and the wines made from them to human beings: each of them have their own character, their own personality) don’t show off when you meet them. The ones that want to be explored slowly, without shouting:“ I’m here!“
So, I really love Nebbiolo from Piemont, Nerello Mascalese from Sicily and Greco & Fiano from Campania.
I want to listen to them very carefully… with every sip they tell you where they are from… from which soil they have originated… and with every sip you are told a new story, a new experience. So you simply fall in love with them…
Do you feel wine is becoming more of interest to a younger audiences than say ten years ago?
I feel that, regardless of age, wine drinkers have become much more aware of things nowadays.
They inform themselves about the countries, grape varieties and the way wine is produced.
Younger people don’t tend to have the same amount of knowledge as an older audience as such, but they are much more open towards “new” kind of wines, like natural wine, as they aren’t fixed on the “classical taste”, but instead are eager to get to know new aspects of the wine world, which is brilliant!
Never stop your curiosity!
What made you yourself move to Berlin?
Probably two things:
In 1983 I recognised that Berlin was an immensely interesting city (mainly because of its past) and that it might change into a place where many different people from all over the world will someday stay again together, maybe with the help of all the people from other countries who moved to Berlin.
Oh and I wanted to improve my German learnt in school…!
How do you feel the wine scene in Berlin is developing?
I think the wine scene in Berlin is really great. There are so many wine bars, shops, tastings and other events, but of course, in my opinion, there is still so much more that could be done – there definitely is still space for more!
What are the hardest parts of running Briefmarken Weine?
For me, the people working here, are the most important “organ” of Briefmarken – they are its heart. Everything else can run very smoothly, as long as the heart is well and you have great people working together !!
And where do you like to eat and drink when not at Briefmarken Weine?
As I’m in Briefmarken, I don’t have so much time in the evening to eat out, but I love to try new places.
At the moment I like to eat the pizza at Futura, here in Friedrichshain.
“ For me, Berlin is…”
…a big vineyard planted with all the grapes of the world, which grow together, producing different fruits with different colours & tastes. It’s up to us to make a unique, GREAT wine with that!
We highly recommend grabbing a close friend or partner for a nice evening at Briefmarken Weine – it’s truly a special place!