When you start getting into natural wine, it’s easy to associate this winemaking style with a certain aesthetic. Many natural wine labels are playful, cartoon-adorned with scribbled text on clear bottles of brightly colored, cloudy wines. We gravitate towards stacked cases of chillable reds, glowing orange wine, and crown-capped bottles that can look more like a lava lamp than a bottle of wine. These wines can be delightful, juicy, and challenge current notions of how wine can or should taste, but they aren’t the only natural wines you’ll find at our shops. You know the expression, “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, when it comes to looking for natural wine, this adage applies just the same. But, if you can’t judge a wine by its label, how do you know if it’s produced naturally?
The answer is simple: get to know the importer.
We love our importers at Dedalus Wine. Importers are ambassadors for winemakers. An importer travels to wine regions, meets winemakers, tastes their wines, and then brings them stateside. At Dedalus Wine, we're fortunate to be able to join many of our favorite importers on their trips to Europe. While on these trips, we meet winemakers, tour their vineyards and wineries, taste an assortment of wine, and select the bottles we want to carry at our shops. These unique opportunities allow us to get to know the winemakers and their families, and learn about the food-and-wine cultures where these wines are made. This level of familiarity with many of the winemakers we champion at Dedalus Wine allows us to tell their stories and contextualize the wines we sell.
Importers are an integral part of the wine industry. Wine importers will spend several months a year tasting and visiting with their winemakers. The relationship between winemaker and importer is an extension of family. If you trust the palate and ethos of a particular importer, it can give you, as the consumer, some insight into the wine. This is true even if you aren't familiar with the labeled region, the producer, or the specific bottle.
Importers can be very particular about the wines they represent. Each importer has their own aesthetic, palate, and checklist for the types of wines they choose to represent. So, if you like one wine from an importer, chances are you’ll find an assortment of other bottles and producers you’ll love in their portfolio.
HOW TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE IMPORTER
-Turn to the back label of the bottle. There you'll find the importer name, usually accompanied by their company logo.
-Search the importer’s website to learn more about their philosophies and company mission. This can tell you more about what they look for in a wine and what they care about most from farming practices to winemaking styles.
-Read about the individual producers in their portfolio. Because importers spend so much time with winemakers, these producer profiles are often incredibly detailed. You can find photos and anecdotes from winery visits. You’ll also find technical information (sometimes shortened to “tech info”) which tells specifically where and how each wine was produced.
-Ask your local wine shop. At Dedalus Wine, we have strong relationships with the wine importers, and their wines, we represent at our shops and on our wine lists. We’ve traveled abroad to visit winemakers with these importers, and have tasted through their portfolios at length. If there's a particular wine importer you've enjoyed wine from in the past, let us know. We can help you explore something new in their portfolio that we know you'll love.
GET TO KNOW SOME NATURAL WINE IMPORTERS
Whether you’re a classics wine drinker, new to natural wine or a natural wine devotee, you’ll find a range of hand-crafted, expressive wines from these importers at our shops.
The following importers represent natural wines, defined by wines that are made with: hand-harvested grapes, native yeast fermentation, and low-intervention farming and winemaking methods.
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
For some, Kermit Lynch might not immediately come to mind when thinking about natural wine, but for those in the know, Kermit can be considered one of the OGs of natural wine importing. When he traveled to France in the 1970s to find wines for his small shop in Berkeley, California, he broke the mold (and wrote a book about it.) Kermit searched for honest wines made by real people that represented a sense of place. He found wines made by passionate, hard-working growers on a quest to produce excellent wines, naturally.
Kermit Lynch represents some of the best wines from France and Italy. Thanks to the work of this prominent wine merchant, these wines are also some of the most well-known. They have defined quality wine for a new generation of drinkers. These wines give us a glimpse into French and Italian wine and food culture. They’re authentic-- you feel like you’re at the winemaker’s table when you pull the cork on one of Kermit’s wines.
This revolutionary company started with a love story between a Burgundian and a New Yorker. Inspired by the small, family-owned wineries near Denyse’s hometown in Burgundy, France, in the 1980s, Denyse Louis and Joe Dressner sought out to represent the “vigneron indépendant.” Representing winemakers from countries across Europe, like France, Italy, Germany, and Portugal, and parts of the New World, including Chile, this portfolio offers drinkers an opportunity to explore the work of talented tastemakers from around the world who believe that great wine starts in the vineyard.
José Pastor Selections
Over the past two decades, José Pastor has led a mission to rescue lesser-known wine regions and local winemaking traditions from extinction throughout Spain. This natural wine collection highlights the work done by small farmers to resurrect abandoned vineyards, reinvigorate indigenous grape varieties, uncover forgotten winemaking practices, and ultimately, represent the soul of Spanish wine. During a time when chemical intervention was favored and commercial, homogenized winemaking was the norm, these makers have represented the avant-garde, the “New Spain.” In this portfolio, you’ll find a range of styles from familiar regions, like Rioja and Ribera del Duero, but also from less familiar places, like the steep, terraced vineyards of Galicia, the mountainous terrain of Sierra de Gredos, and even the ancient winescape of the Canary Islands. The wines from José Pastor Selections offer a unique opportunity to (re)discover Spain, and each time we open a bottle from this importer, we feel like we’re part of the rescue mission.
Paris Wine Company
Started by California wine-buyer-turned-sommelier in Paris, Joshua Adler, Paris Wine Co seeks to tell the stories of small-production winemakers taking over multi-generational, family domaines who insist on farming organically and fermenting naturally. This portfolio represents the next generation in France. Based in Paris, France, Paris Wine Co is technically a wine exporter. By operating in France, they get to work closely with their growers. They work to build community, connecting French winemakers to wine distributors in the US who will celebrate, share, and sell their wine. We love the excitement of drinking the new perspectives from classically well-known places like Beaujolais, Burgundy, the Rhône and the Loire Valley.
Matt Mollo and his team work to represent the untold stories of Italy. SelectioNaturel imports small-production natural wines. They work with traditionally-made wines, championing growers who look to their ancestors to inform how they farm and make wine. These village wines celebrate regional nuance, unique terroir, and ancient winemaking. At Dedalus, SelectioNaturel has gained a reputation for delivering compelling wine that makes you feel like you’ve been transported back in time to uncover something special.
This company has one mission: import the best natural wines. They look for wines that are exciting, well-made, and indicative of place. They work with small wineries that farm organically or biodynamically and represent a cult-worthy line-up of innovators, risk-takers, and terroir-obsessed makers from Europe and North America. In 2012, out of a desire to make high-quality natural wine accessible, Selection Massale launched a label called La Boutanche. In collaboration with individual winemakers, this project aims to make natural wine more accessible, offering wines bottled in liter for around $20. Each label playfully depicts an animal that represents a particular winemaker in the Boutanche collection. Some label art you'll find in the collection: a pig in a Hawaiian shirt, a gorilla in a leather jacket, a grasshopper double-fisting, and a badger taking a selfie. Each year the collection grows. These wines are juicy, energetic, and are turning on a whole new generation of wine drinkers. This is the playful side of natural wine and it’s a great entry point into the sometimes intimidating world of wine. We turn to these screw-cap liters of natural wine for casual nights spent with friends.
Other Importers Who Champion Natural Winemakers
Jenny & Francois Selections, Zev Rovine Selections, Rosenthal Wine Merchant, and Grand Cru Selections
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