I am currently working on expanding our wine list and the owner wants to feature a list of “natural” wines. We are farm to table restaurant in Florida (dishes range $15-35). I know the term natural is a loose one, so I want to make sure we offer solid examples for those interested. As well as avoid them spoiling on the shelf. Any tips on how to make sure I find quality producers? Any recommendations for natural wine types to highlight (I know orange wines and pet nats are popular)? Any must have regions? I appreciate any advice on working with this trending category of wine. Thank you!
I would reach out and see if Zev Rovine or Jenny & Francois have any distribution in your market. Also, take a look at a list like The Ten Bells and start researching producers you are unfamiliar with. During your research, also check to see if they are distributed in your area. I have found instagram to be a pretty good tool as well.
Get in contact with Madeline Thompson in San Francisco. Her list at flora street cafe in Dallas was tauted by wine writers.
Look into the Dressner portfolio as a starting point. It's distributed by Progress Wine Group in Florida (PWG also reps tons of Cali stuff, including pet-nats and orange stuff). For the more raw (filthier) side of natural wine, look for a distributor called City Beautiful. They bring the funk.
Depending on your definition and with some careful selections, you can even branch out into slightly more mainstream Kermit Lynch, Jose Pastor, and Eric Solomon.
Zev and Jenny are probably the most exciting right now, though, like Josh mentioned.
Grab the Raw Wine and Slow Wine guides, as well as Natural Wine by Isabelle Legeron. Read Alice Feiring’s blog. Seems like there are 10 new articles written every day by starving wine bloggers that would appreciate your clicks.
As as far as regions go, lots of good stuff from Jura, Savoie, Beaujolais, California!, Bierzo, Madrid, and Republic of Georgia, but really this is more about method than any region.
Kory mentioned a distributor I also recommend. Reach out to City Beautiful Beverage Company.
Perfect- I will get in touch with Progress about the Dressner portflio. I Actually just did a tasting with City Beautiful, they do have lots of very cool, and funky things to get the list started. Thanks for the info.
Great, I will look into that list and see if anyone around here distributes anything from Zav and Jenny. Fingers crossed. Thanks for the tips.
Do a bit of homework on your list. You might have wines on your list that are natural already and you don't even realize it! Other pieces of advice:
Know what the faults of natural wine are and if you're noseblind to them. I personally can't pick out mouse taint (only 20% of the population can) but I'm all over brett, EA/VA, sulfur, cold carbonic, etc.
Talk to your reps. Good ones will tell you which producers/bottlings in their portfolios have spoilage issues/are getting returned at a higher rate than normal.
I would also caution that you should try and keep the selections to be similar in style to what you currently have. First steps in adding a category like this would be doing something that is a small change and see if the staff likes it AND can sell it AND your guests like it. If they do, then you can add more. Something like Ca' dei Zago Prosecco Col Fondo (J&F, relatively widely distributed) is a great way to dip the toes in the waters and is relatively inexpensive.
Well said. I agree 110%.
Also, I would ask your natty reps for pure and clean examples of wines from their book. Ask your reps for a few categories to taste: classic must-haves, hip/unique/under the radar, and a few of their personal favorites. Like Martin said, start less esoteric then work your way outside the box
Thank you for the great advice. I definitely want to make sure they are fun wines, but always bottom line is they need to sell.
One more thing to add to Martin's brilliant response. Make sure your storage ALWAYS stays cool, natural wines do not play well with temperature changes, even gradual ones, it's the fastest way for them to go bad. In the Florida summer, it will only take one day of having your A/C unit down for half the (natural) wine to spoil.
Check out Indie wines Indie Wineries they are distributed in Florida.
a fun read on the topic