If you live in Brooklyn, like wine, and/or follow the right people on Instagram, you probably know the name Rude Mouth or have at least seen the cheeky, handwritten, tongue-out logo on your feed. Rude Mouth, a natural wine project from sisters Ava and Sophie Trilling, began as an Instagram account in September of 2020, where the Trillings continue to highlight natural wines they love and define buzzwords in their trademark down-to-earth voice.
Since then, their following has grown significantly, and Rude Mouth has transformed into a brand in and of itself — with a monthly wine subscription, a residency at the Ace Hotel bar, and pop-ups at buzzy spots like Cafe Kitsuné and Daughter, among others. They epitomize a new, distinctly “2022” entryway into the wine world — they don’t have Court of Master Sommelier certifications, nor parents who worked in wine, nor any other classic ins to a famously exclusive industry. More importantly, though, they represent and uplift communities that aren’t traditionally the face of wine: Not only are they both young, queer women, but they are deliberate in their inclusion of forward-thinking producers, New World wine regions, and tiny-production wineries that wouldn’t typically be afforded much attention.
After their most recent Kitsuné pop-up, we sat down with the Trilling sisters to dig into the roots of Rude Mouth, their dreams for the project’s next steps, and the wine world they hope to see in the future.
1. What led you both into the wine world?
Ava: I’ve been working in the restaurant industry since I was about 14 years old. As I got older and took it more seriously, I started to figure out what kind of places I liked working at and what, exactly, within the industry I gravitated towards. I became really interested in the wine side of things and began working at places that prioritized it. Eventually, this moved more specifically into natural wine.
Sophie: I went to visit Florence a little while ago and became obsessed with their bar and wine culture. I came back and immediately told Ava I wanted to start a project with her involving wine in some way. After that, we began to discover low-intervention wine around NYC, and the idea of Rude Mouth started to come into focus for us.
2. What’s the significance of the name Rude Mouth?
A: When I was a baby, my mouth was always positioned in this rude, sassy-looking way; kind of pursed and frowny. Our babysitter Cassindra nicknamed me “rude mouth,” and it stuck. When Sophie and I first started thinking about a wine project that was welcoming, unpretentious, and encouraged a space for learning, she suggested the name Rude Mouth. It felt like a perfect fit: Here, you can talk about wine how you want. There are no rules.
3. What do you look for in a bottle of wine?
A: I feel like it really depends on the situation! If it’s hot out; if I’m at a party; if I’m eating a big, decadent, or spicy meal; I’m looking for a bright and zippy bottle of wine — something with high acid, a bit of tang, some citrus, energetic as hell. Probably something from Eastern or Central Europe. If I’m out to dinner with family or friends, maybe having a date night, or — who am I kidding — pretty much on any occasion, I’ll go for a Burgundy (specifically Chardonnay). Simultaneously round and crisp, beautiful minerality, lots of tension. Some producers I love and will always go to are Claire Naudin, Julien Guillot, Chanterêves, and Frederic Cossard. I think in general, what I look for in a bottle of wine is something that really makes me feel transported to the time and place where that wine was made. Something that feels soulful and has personality.
S: Personally, I can drink a crunchy, juicy, refreshing wine any day of the week. That could be a light red like a Chilean País, or it could be some sort of white blend. It doesn’t matter if it’s winter, I’ll always crave that taste.
4. What’s the dream for Rude Mouth’s future?
A: The dream is opening up a tiny wine bar. A place that neighbors and newcomers alike can depend on for a satisfying bottle or glass of wine, good chat, and where you’ll know you’ll be 100 percent taken care of by whoever your server or bartender is. No pretension, no judgment, no snobs. Somewhere wholly our own that welcomes everyone with open arms.
5. What is a change (or evolution) that you crave for the wine industry?
A: Wine is a terribly exclusionary field. To this day, it’s dominated by whiteness and maleness, and although there are so many exciting people working in natural wine who are trying to change that, it remains a very difficult space to access. I’ve experienced firsthand how much easier it is to access the wine world as a white person, and I’ve seen how much gatekeeping those with marginalized identities face. Projects like The Roots Fund, Wine Empowered, and Industry Sessions (to name a few) are so important because they’re doing the work to change the wine industry. These are the leaders in wine we all need to be following.
6. What is your most pivotal or influential experience with wine?
A: I think a real pivotal moment for me was when I was still in college, working at my first-ever natural wine bar. I was on the opening team and gave it my 100 percent. I was transparent with them during the interview and told them up front that I didn’t know much about natural wine but was fully dedicated to learning and making it my priority. I got hired and studied my ass off. I was super passionate and excited about it. Despite being a full-time undergrad student, I was working three to four shifts a week and always showed up eager to work. They really branded themselves as being open and approachable; however I quickly realized that was not the case. The whole vibe was incredibly judgmental, rude, and inaccessible for anyone (including guests) who didn’t know much about wine. From then on, I decided I only wanted to be a part of something that was friendly, welcoming, and accepting. Being in that position and feeling that way really inspired me to create a space where people can feel free to ask anything, be themselves, and not feel like they’re being ridiculed for their lack of wine jargon, knowledge, or experience in the industry.
S: I’ve said this before and I have no shame bringing it up again: The Four Horsemen changed how I thought about wine. My first time ever trying “natural wine” was there, and it blew me away. It was the feeling of sitting at the bar and having a red wine which was a taste and moment I’ll never forget. Before that day, I didn’t care about which wines I drank, where it came from, or who produced it. One chat with the bartender at Four Horsemen, and I was hooked! I wish I could relive that night over and over again.
7. How do you put together your by-the-glass selections for each pop-up?
A: It depends on where we’re hosting our pop-up and what kind of pop-up it is. Once I get the feel of the space, I rack my brain of wines I’ve tasted recently. I reach out to wine reps I have connections with and talk to them, go through their portfolio, ask what’s new and if I can taste certain things. I like to curate a list of wines you don’t always see everywhere as well as a couple of classics. I’m careful to have a selection of wines from all different places, and no repeated grape varieties. I choose wines based on season, price, and labor/vineyard practices. Depending how big the list I’m curating is, I’ll choose a couple of sparkling, white, orange, and red wines that speak to each other. Voila!
8. Imagine I don’t like natural wine, or don’t like wine in general. What are you pouring for me, and why?
A: Well first, I’d ask if you could tell me what you didn’t like about certain wines. Then, I’d ask what you might be in the mood for based on color and style. I’d taste you on a couple of different things, see where your head’s at, and take it from there. And we could do that all day, baby!