Saturday, May 14, 2011

How to sell natural wine

I've been meaning to go to the Wholefoods store in Kensington for a while having heard it had a good range of organic and natural wines and finally made it this week which is part of Natural Wine Fortnight in the UK.

Like many other shops and bars they had a couple of natural wines open to taste - a Roagna Langhe Bianco and Dolcetto d'Alba, a bargain at £3.99 a glass and £13.99 a bottle, but it was their overall approach to natural wine that really impressed me.

First, they keep bottles with no added sulphites in the fridge.

They explain what natural wine actually is

And best of all, they flag up bottles which are low in sulphur which manager Peter Hogarth defines as under 50mg per litre with a Low SO2 label. This excludes a few bottles, he admits, which are natural in style but finds it a practical working definition.

He must stock about 30-40 wines that could be classified as natural but he's not doctrinaire about it and says there are several that he hasn't taken on that he knows would be too hard a job to sell. And he encourages customers to ask him or his colleagues if they're thinking of buying a natural wine so that they can explain what to expect and how to handle it.

I tasted a few others from their range of which I was particularly impressed by the Domaine de l'Ocre Rouge Pinot Noir 2009, a really gorgeous Pinot which had just come into stock and which I believe will sell for £17.99.

There's also a nice little wine bar where you can drink any of the bottles in the department for just £5 corkage with a plate of cheese or charcuterie from the next door counter - or a tartine. Apparently it's known as the Hidden Gem wine bar. With good reason.

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