HI, FRIENDS. CLOSED FOR A FEW DAYS. EMAIL US WITH WINE QUESTIONS, WE'LL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST NATTY FOR WHEN WE'RE BACK. HI, FRIENDS. CLOSED FOR A FEW DAYS. EMAIL US WITH WINE QUESTIONS, WE'LL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST NATTY FOR WHEN WE'RE BACK.

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A Focus on Black Voices (in Natural Wine): Lee Campbell

A Focus on Black Voices (in Natural Wine): Lee Campbell

I'm a born contrarian. Not argumentative, mind you. But just always looking for an alternative approach, a third way. Coming up, I was raised to be Bougie AF. And I often went along with it...at times, quite happily. But when the Elders weren't looking, I was sometimes prone to acting out, trying out, showing out. I was a curious girl who always felt compelled to explore.

When I graduated college, worried that I might be constrained to a life of predictability, I knocked on the kitchen door of a restaurant I adored (the D.C. institution, Restaurant Nora), and asked for a job. They obliged, and my work in food and hospitality (and ultimately, wine) commenced.

I am forever indebted to that opportunity because it validated my natural desire to challenge the status quo, while also demanding that I do so within the professional sphere. As restaurateurs, the Pouillon-D'Amato clan worked relentlessly to address dissonance within American food pathways, and were key players in creating a market for organic, local ingredients. Food should be joyful and nourishing, yes. But food could also be a mission; and food in America was inherently political. This sense of purpose gave me the strength to begin to carve out my own path. And I needed that strength, because as a first-generation West Indian American, great things were expected, and food and service were clearly perceived as a step backward. Yet, I couldn't shake it. I was inspired.

I made my way back to New York, where I was raised, and worked in some fantastic places. A barrage of important restaurants, a bread company, a food consultant...wherever I felt drawn in by feeling part of a community and a larger purpose. Believing that I had already disappointed my family actually liberated me to do whatever I pleased. But wine was not initially on my radar. To me, it reeked of elitism and was filled with people who didn't look like me. But surprisingly, via the encouragement, support and mentoring of many of those people who didn't look like me, white men like Joe Dressner, Terry Theise and Charlie Woods; and white women like Beth von Benz and Anita Katzman, I began to work as a bona fide wine professional. This was before the obsession with credentials and certifications, before anyone dare utter the misguided honorific, "celebrity somm." The business was filled with people who also seemed to be disappointing their folks. And yet they were impassioned, inspired and caring. I had found my tribe.

A life-changing moment occurred at a luncheon with Michel Chapoutier. While he remains a titan of the industry, in those days, he was also a bit of a renegade: the stubbly Braille on dem labels espousing less-heralded varieties like Roussanne and what-not. In those days, I was usually the only person of color in the room, and also one of the few women. As we dined and imbibed in the lovely garden room of the old Provence in Soho, I snuck a peek at his hands. Callused. Pillowy and well-tended, but definitely callused in spots. That sighting was one of a string of road signs that told me that I belonged in this world. His hands reminded me of my grandfather, a farmer in Saint Catherine, Jamaica, whose own callused hands tended to pigs and sugar cane. Honest men doing honest work. Were grapes really so different than bananas? I decided they weren't.

We are currently experiencing a reckoning both in this country and within the wine industry. It's necessary. It's overdue. My path was truly not the normal one, particularly for women of color. I was lucky. I was impetuous. I was strangely confident. I thank my mother and my grandmother for that brash sense of entitlement. But honestly, the path to wine shouldn't just be open to heedless Black girl knuckleheads as some one-off. It should be an open and welcoming job path for anyone who seeks it, whether they run into the "right" folks en route or not. Whether they have something to prove, or just want to earn a paycheck in a pretty fun way. Whether they want to be big stars...or just be part of a tribe, that in its best expression, feels a lot like family.

Lee Campbell is a wine consultant and sommelier based in Brooklyn.

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The Major Taylor Fellowship

The Major Taylor Fellowship

Our goal is to give somebody amazing a starting point in wine. They'll work 30 hours per week at Domestique, learning all the ins-and-outs of running a wine retail operation. We've also facilitated stages at three award-winning restaurants: Komi, Bad Saint, and 2AMYS. And our partner, Streetsense, will organize three days of programming centered around finding a restaurant space, design and buildout, and branding strategy.

We are looking to address, challenge, and disrupt the clear lack of diversity in wine and strongly encourage people of color and from disenfranchised communities to apply. The fellowship will last three weeks and will include a $3,000 stipend, plus we'll pay for your housing costs. We're planning to announce the recipient a month from now, with the fellowship beginning in August or September. Come join our team. We're fun and the wine is pretty good.

Eligibility and fit with the fellowship:
Must have authorization to work in the United States and must be over the age of 21
Must have fewer than five years of related experience in the food or beverage industries

Application timeline:
June 23rd - July 10th: Application live
July 12th: Semi-finalists selected and all applicants notified
July 14th - 16th: Phone calls with semi-finalists
Week of July 20th: Fellowship recipient announced
3-week fellowship scheduled between weeks of August 3rd - September 28th

APPLY HERE

 

ABOUT

Streetsense is an experience-focused strategy and design collective that creates brands people love and places people love to be. We are unified by an approach that is people-centered and design-led and are powered by an uncommon team ranging in expertise from interiors to branding, real estate to hospitality. Learn more at streetsense.com or follow us @realstreetsense

Domestique is a natural wine store based in Washington, DC. We (only) work with producers who use organic and biodynamic agriculture and minimal intervention in the cellar to make real wine. We're here in service of these producers. Learn more at domestiquewine.com or follow us @domestiquewine

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Phase 1: Low ABV Ciders

Phase 1: Low ABV Ciders

Patrick has been shopping at Domestique since we opened. He came in often specifically looking for bubbles (Marnes Blanches Cremant and Capriades, among others). After chatting a bit, we learned he was making his own cider in Virginia. He came down for a tasting with Benoit Lesuffleur in July of 2019 and brought some samples. Almost a year has passed since then and we're so excited to carry his first bottling. He's doing everything himself: harvesting wild fruit, trialing no spray practices in an old-growth orchard, and fermenting with little/no SO2 in a couple hundred square feet of warehouse space. It’s very small scale, with roughly 425 cases total production for 2019.

The pear cider is absolutely delightful and is what we want to drink on the patio all summer long. The acid is present and lively without being overpowering. And the bubbles! They are soft and delicate; they don't just dissipate after five minutes open. Cider is what we've been craving recently as the weather warms up and we're hunting something to pair with dehydrated bike rides. And this one is perfect. Below, Patrick shares a little bit about his process, his background, and Virginia. It's a pretty fascinating read.

How did you get into cider? I’m drawn to cider primarily because pomme fruits are better adapted to where we are. If you go poke around the mountains and piedmont backroads, there’re seedling trees swarmed with vines and brambles that are still generally healthy and producing fruit. I fermented for other folks in Virginia for three years while I explored my own ideas in the cellar and researched sustainable growing practices (and drank as much natural wine as I could afford). 2019 is my first harvest on my own.
 
What makes Virginia unique for cider? Virginia has a deep history (on a colonial timeline) of apple cultivation, from homesteads to the post Civil War boom in production and exportation. While maybe not as directly relevant as the plots of Burgundian monks, there’s much to learn from the pre-industrial successes of these old orchards (it’s fun to read the decorous Gentlemen Farmer debates in agricultural society minutes on proper cover crop regimens). I’m working with the current landowner to revive and replant one of these 19th century sites in western Albemarle County, and found a few others to harvest from.

Within the world of cider, Virginia’s warm climate has not yet been fully explored. The austerity of cooler New York and New England gives way to more ample fruit down here. Most cidermakers inhibit malolactic and ferment in reductive environments, but I’m very curious about how to embrace the chin-dripping lushness of Virginia instead of fighting against it.

I also have to mention seedlings and their potential for novel expressions of place. The genetic variability of apples is such that each seed contains a new iteration of its bearing and pollen parents. Those that survive are uniquely attuned to their given place. A few are wonderfully tannic and acidic, perfect for cider.

Your feelings on RS in cider? RS in wine? I have no prescriptive opinion of RS, only that things must be in balance and come from the fruit. A key component of pears (and certain apples in warm years) is their sorbitol, so a key component of perry should be some sense of sweet.

I very much like the concept of ‘feinherb,’ that a ferment finds its own equilibrium point and may change year to year. I’ll stir to resuspend yeasts in as ferments slow with cooler weather, but if the microbiome of a given cider says “I’m good at 2 g/L,” and is stable, then that’s fine with me.

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Mr. Baguette Makes an Egg Salad

Mr. Baguette Makes an Egg Salad

I was in the mood for Coronation Chicken Salad sandwiches for some reason, but I made do with what I had in the fridge and some sourdough from the freezer, and came up with curried egg salad tartines.

INGREDIENTS
Scallions (if not ramps or other coveted spring alliums), reserve some green tips for garnish
Crab Apple Mostarda (Casa Forcella from Lombardy, highly recommended, or sub mango chutney)
Radishes, diced
Large eggs
Unsalted butter
Madras Curry powder (or Vadouvan)
Labneh (or full fat Fage, Skyr, etc.)
Sourdough bread slices

PREPARATION No measurements needed, trust your instincts. Smash and char scallions in a dry cast iron skillet, add a bit of oil just at the end to blacken, then mince. Stir mostarda thoroughly into labneh. Dice radishes. Cook eggs in boiling water for seven minutes, then shock in an ice bath until cooled; yolk should be jammy and not runny. Toast bread. Bloom curry powder in hot melted butter, add eggs (cut in half), minced scallion, diced radish, and fold together with a fork until well combined.

Schmear toast with mostarda-labneh mixture then top with scoops of egg salad, garnish with sliced scallion.

WINE PAIRING Domaine La Loue Chardonnay 2015. This is among the few sleeper Jura whites remaining, made by Catherine Hannoun, a film producer (worked on brilliant Mondovino documentary on globalization in wine in the late 20th century) who after guidance from her friend Manu Houillon (of Domaine Overnoy) began a micro-domain of her own in the Jura.

This Chardonnay comes from parcels of gray marl in Pupillin, fermented in steel tanks then raised in neutral barrels for over a year. Open this bottle a good hour in advance of serving; there are notes of honey and buttered pastry, followed by golden apple and preserved lemon, with a chiseled mineral and savory finish. An impeccably fresh and precise wine that plays well off the pungent fruit of the mostarda and creamy/chalky labneh, along with the richly spiced and buttered egg salad.

- Saman Hosseini

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Ritual, Celebration, Alcohol

Ritual, Celebration, Alcohol

I've been thinking a lot recently about rituals. As humans, we perform rituals because they help us structure and control our inherently chaotic existence and confront the illusion of time. We make coffee at 7:05am every morning, we purge our closets when spring arrives, we always read the Style section first on Thursdays. 

Celebrations are built upon ritual. My older son, Nat, is going to turn five years old in a few weeks. He's at that age where birthdays take on supreme significance. He's been looking forward to his birthday for six months now. About two months ago, he started telling me, "Dad, Coronavirus will definitely be done by the time it's my birthday." And then a few weeks ago, it changed to, "Dad, I think it will be okay if I can't have a big party with my friends, as long as we celebrate at home and I still get a Nerf blaster."

The other day at our house, we saw our next door neighbors outside playing a game with their kids and one other family. They were all wearing the same color. Nat stood at the window watching intently, not saying a word (which never, ever happens) as the small party pinned tails on paper dinosaurs and ate cupcakes and danced. He seemed shaken, pensive, but also oddly accepting, despite the fact that he hasn't seen a friend in person in almost three months. That acceptance was crushing. Eventually Nat walked away from the window and quietly sat down to dinner. We realized it was the neighbor's eldest son's fifth birthday that day.

Alcohol and ritual go hand in hand. Champagne toasts at weddings, beers after a long bike ride, whiskey shots on birthdays, bottles emptied onto the street for lost friends. Business deals and Roman sacrifices alike revolve around the presence of alcohol.

One thing that we've been focused on learning more about recently is sake. I'll readily admit that sake is the area of beverage that I know the least about. It's always intimidated me somewhat. The other week, I was having a discussion with Lane Harlan of Baltimore's Fadensonnen, a beautiful natural wine and sake bar, and she touched upon the value of serving rituals for sake. Lane explained how, from ceramic drinkware to how it's poured to careful manipulation of temperature, ritual is closely tied to the sensory experience of sake. That ritual is likely much of the reason for my intimidation.

And below we're lucky to have Monica Samuels, one of the world's leading sake experts, writing about the confluence of Japanese sake and natural wine. She picks out a few sakes to help guide any natural wine drinkers, like us, who may be newer to the experience.

One of the many things we've lost because of COVID-19 is ritual, especially the ritual of celebration. There are no weddings, bars, or funerals. But we have a chance to find some new, slower rituals these days. At our house, we'll be having "corn-a-macob" and steak for Nat's birthday, at his request.  Because a June birthday also means the beginning of summer, and all of the rituals that that entails. Hopefully we'll carry some of these smaller rituals with us when the old ones come back too. 

-Jeff Segal

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Takeout of the Week

Takeout of the Week

The sun warms planet Earth to a perfect 72 degrees Fahrenheit and the birds signal the triumph of spring. Persephone is seemingly unfazed by COVID-19. It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and if I ever needed an excuse to celebrate a season, this is it. Listening to my stomach as my sunbathing brain starts to shut down, I’m immediately reminded of the Ferris Wheel-style car park scene from The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift when Google confirms that Oohh’s & Aahh’s is indeed THEE spot for catfish in D.C. 

If that reference is lost, here's a recap: the Christian hip hop duo Grits' hit single “Ooh Aah (My Life Be Like)” serenades the audience just as Twinkie’s custom Hulk-themed Volkswagen Touran I cascades onto the screen. But it’s not four wheels descending onto my phone as I scroll, rather an entree of fried filets of catfish. I click ‘order now’ and watch the clock with adolescent eagerness.

Fast-forward to a platter of the house favorite fried catfish, cabbage with carrots, and the obvious side, macaroni and cheese. I hear angels as I open the Styrofoam and prepare for paradise. But first, pet nat. 

I opt for a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, Supernatural Wine Co’s “The-Super-Nat.” It pours a cloudy, honey mustard yellow and sits in the glass like Dole’s pineapple juice right out of the can. The theme of tropical fruit interlaces the aromas of apple and lemon rind. On the palate, I'm greeted with a warm spice akin to a ginger shot that just rinsed down freshly made baked goods and grapefruit. Then I'm promptly introduced to acid and minerals that remains long after I gulp. 

The crisp citric acid cuts through the fats of melted cheese and fried batter that I’ve lathered in Tartar sauce, allowing the catfish to sing a sweet solo of fresh, flakey, whitefish flavor. My lunch be like Ooh Aah…

- Chris Szymanski

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Q&A with Gina Hildebrand of Lady of the Sunshine

Q&A with Gina Hildebrand of Lady of the Sunshine

Rebekah Pineda (Domestique Manager) x Gina Giugni (Winemaker)

Let's start with some icebreakers. What was your first car and what did you love about it? A 2004 Camry that didn’t last long. I totaled it at 17. Sorry, mom and dad. More importantly, my first tractor was a Kabota M8540 crawler :) 

What does a perfect winter day smell like to you? Pine, mountain misery shrub, daffodil bloom. I grew up with snow days in the spring in the Sierra Nevadas and the daffodils would always be the first in bloom.  

Okay, now, can you tell us a bit about your winemaking background? I'm a second generation biodynamic farmer and winemaker, following in my father's footsteps. I grew up on my family’s 90 acre ranch in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California, where we steward a 15 acre vineyard and winery, named Narrow Gate Vineyards. I studied winemaking at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and then spent the next few years traveling to work for different winemakers. After my first vintage working in the Edna Valley in 2014, I graduated from Cal Poly and went to Beaujolais for the 2015 vintage. After harvest, I spent the first six months of 2016 working for a vineyard and winery on the south island of New Zealand and then the last six months at a winery in the Willamette Valley. After Oregon, I worked for a small winery on Howell Mountain in Napa for the majority of 2017, until I launched Lady of the Sunshine. For that, I moved back to San Luis Obispo and started farming and making wine from the Chene Vineyard, which I'm converting to biodynamic farming practices and consider the home vineyard for Lady of the Sunshine. 

We often interact with customers who are intimidated by the world of wine and its lexicon. Growing up surrounded by wine, can you provide any insight on that challenge?  In my experience, wine has always been something that's approachable. It was a part of a lifestyle, my childhood, it was always an element of a meal. It's a rabbit hole, with endless stories that are filled with different varieties, regions, terroir, and styles. It’s a lifelong pursuit of exploration.  Anyone can enjoy a glass of wine, that’s the beauty of it.  
 
How did the collaboration with Domestique happen? How did it end up as a carbonic Primitivo? Jeff approached me with the opportunity at the beginning of last year.  I pitched three different vineyards that would yield three different wines and he was most drawn to my family’s property, Narrow Gate Vineyards, which was special for me too because it would be the first time that I'd made wine from the vineyard. It's been farmed with biodynamic practices since 2005, we graze cows on the property, we make our own compost and biodynamic preps. The vineyard has very diverse volcanic soils, loaded with quartz, located above the snow line at 2,500 feet in elevation. My father typically uses all the grapes from the property to make wine but we have about an extra acre of Primitivo that we were able to use for this project. The goal was to make a fun, fresh, chuggable red wine and we achieved this with carbonic maceration. 
 
Terroir, a big word in wine that can send somms rambling and normal people running. What influences your ideas and beliefs around terroir? It wasn’t until I started farming that I felt like I truly connected to the real joy of making wine and, when I reflect, where I experienced terroir for myself. It wasn’t until I was spending every single day in the vineyard, tending to the vines, the soil, the weeds, experiencing the rain and sunshine and wind and heat, that I felt I truly understood how a wine can speak of place. It helped bring the idea of terroir full circle for me, that’s why I want to farm as purely as possible so that I can capture the sense of place of where the wine comes from. It’s the idea of being a vigneron, which directly translates to winegrower or the person that is closely linked to the vine. Being a vigneron, and a part of every step within the vine to wine cycle, has been what I have fallen in love with and has been my terroir revelation.  

Recently, I was reading the new D’Agata book and he said, “if the grape variety is the vehicle, then terroir is the driver.” Looking at terroir from this perspective, what considerations went into the planting of Primitivo back in 2001. My father planted the vineyard in 2001 after transplanting our family from Southern California to the Sierra Foothills of Northern California. He chose the Sierra Foothills for its continental growing climate and for his ultimate love of Rhone varietals. He's always been captivated by Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, which actually make up the majority of the plantings at Narrow Gate. The dramatic climate of the mountains at 2,500 feet in elevation bring a strong summer heat and harsh winter with snow most years, weeding out several grape varieties that cannot thrive in these extremes. Being at the base of the Sierra Foothills Mountain range, the majority of the growing year has a big diurnal shift with hot days and cold nights. Primitivo has a very close resemblance to Zinfandel, which was planted in homage to the old California plantings of Zin that can be found throughout the region.

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Five From Lugo

Five From Lugo

It somehow happened that this week's newsletter is focused entirely on women: Gina, mothers, Sefika. And we wanted to keep the trend going with Meri Lugo. Meri is the GM at Little Serow, my neighbor, and a woman of great taste (and kindness). We asked her to make another list to keep us out of the vicious hamster wheel of mass media.

Jeff's wife, Julia (another badass woman), described Phoebe's list from the other week as the smartest thing we've ever put in the newsletter. Hope you enjoy another copy and paste situation from a brilliant woman.

  1. I don’t know when we’ll all be able to revel in live music again, so I find myself returning to T-Pain’s legendary and surprising Tiny Desk Concert from 2014 -- he imbues his club bangers with vulnerability and humor.
  2. I’ve been trying to wean myself off Amazon purchases for a while, and it seems more prudent than ever to support smaller vendors. This is one sobering reminder why.
  3.  It’s hard to not fall prey to the endless Instagram scroll, but I always delight when I happen upon a Kate Baer poem. She’s able to tap into what it’s like to be a woman, a girl, a mother --  a human being. Her new book of poems comes out in November and I can’t wait.
  4. When I don’t have the wherewithal to read, but can’t bear to listen to anymore news-based podcasts, I’ve been turning to Phoebe Reads A Mystery. Phoebe Judge, from the excellent Criminal podcast, reads a chapter per episode of classic mystery novels – Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes and such. Her voice keeps me company while I do the seemingly interminable dishes. 
  5. If I’m going to lose half a day falling down a Youtube wormhole, I can’t think of a better world to get lost in than Li Ziqi’s. The NYT’s amazing Tejal Rao just penned her own quarantine-inspired ode to the Chinese Youtube star, who grows, forages, preserves, and ferments her own food in an idyllic countryside farm. The sparse music and lush scenery feel positively escapist to this apartment-dweller.  
^thank you Meri! (other words by Rebekah Pineda)

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TAKEOUT of the WEEK

TAKEOUT of the WEEK

ALEX: Altanta born, fluent in three langauges, hired at Domestique two weeks pre-COVID
Takeout: 
Yookge Jang (spicy beef stew), $18
Pairing: Chateau Peybonhomme L'Amour du Risque Pet Nat, $23

As May approaches, I find myself reaching for the things that bring me comfort. April was full of nervous energy and uncertainty. Thinking about food became an exercise in creative resourcefulness as opposed to something that brings joy, celebration, and communion. I spent April thinking of sourdough starters, turning veggie scraps into stocks, and 63 different ways to eat chickpeas.

Tonight, instead, I reached for the sense of community that I feel so detached from this month. I miss all my talented friends and the dynamic food scene that has kept me grounded in this city for so long. Tonight, I relied on an old late night favorite, Mandu.

Within the hour, fermented kimchi, fried pork mandu, and sticky-sweet rice dumplings graced my dining room table, and the smell of spicy beef stew filled the air. In the fridge, I reached for the only thing guaranteed to pull everything together: A large glass of bubbles. Tonight it was “L’amour Du Risque” by Chateau Peybonhomme, a Pet-Nat Cab Franc coming from the largest certified biodynamic estate in Bordeaux. Off-dry, foamy bubbles filled my glass. Then peaches-and-cream on the tongue followed by a touch of minerality. My pandemic-related anxieties faded, replaced with a moment of normalcy.

Tonight, we devoured the food and cheerfully finished the wine. Tonight, we didn’t worry about dishes or leftovers. Tonight, for a couple of hours, all was right in our house. 

- Alex Bianco

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Learning to love the South (of France, naturally)

Learning to love the South (of France, naturally)

Early into my hospitality career, the wines of Southern France often served as an afterthought or a cheap and easy nuits d’ivresse. It wasn't a lack of respect for them, rather the stark fact that I worked in a restaurant that only carried domestic producers and my outside of work wine drinking focused elsewhere. In Pittsburgh, for years the spot for natural wine was Bar Marco, an Italian-tilted slice of heaven residing in what was once a firehouse. The place has hosted a who’s who of industry luminaries but the person who introduced me to natural wine was Dom Fiore, the ultimate champion of natural wine. The first wine he ever poured me was Tu Vin Plus Aux Soirées, a Cab Franc and Malbec blend by Fabien Jouves with a label that fondly reminds me of Space Invaders. That’s precisely when I started believing that this "region" was far more than wines you buy when you can’t drink what you really want or need to get drunk. But it took me some time to figure out why.

I started at Domestique in October 2018 and pretty much immediately fell in love with the wines of Les Deplaude de Tartaras. I’m not sure if it was the beautiful labels (perhaps TBH), but the story I tell is that I saw their wine Mine de Rien and had to know more about the super obscure grape variety it held within (Mornen Noir). Over the next few weeks, each cuvée of theirs in the shop was on my list of wines to drink and each week I grew more impressed.


Once I started looking into why that was, it took me down a rabbit hole of reading about dry farming, organic-friendly climates, polyculture, and old vines. These are things that France's South has in spades. And they're what makes it such a hotbed for compelling natural wines that are both classic and vin de soifs. The only reason they don't usually get the respect (and, luckily, prices), at least historically, of their natural wine cousins to the North is because they fall below a certain latitude.

Jouves and Deplaude are two of the more important producers to me personally, but they are of many who are pioneering a new age of natural wine in the South. This is an area where it's all possible for anyone who is willing to work for it and make a name for themselves. What we have here at the shop is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to explore. I just hope you’re curious.

-Eric

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