Raise a glass with: Chelsea Fitch, founder-owner of Where's Fred's
Chelsea Finch, founder-owner of Where's Fred's says natural wines are flourishing. Here's how to encourage customers to take a sip.
You have probably tried natural wine and not even realised. Not all natural wines are obviously labelled as organic or biodynamic, even though the producer is committed to practicing the methods. It is a time-consuming process, following strict regulations, to become organically certified, while some regions such as Jura in France and Barolo in Italy practice natural as a standard.
To encourage more of an adoption from the consumer I think it's about sharing knowledge and education in a humble way. While also encouraging guests to be open-minded to make the change and try new things, accepting that the grapes also take on the natural expression and flavours of the land, so do sometimes taste different and have a broader range of ‘acceptable' flavours or have sediment in the last pour because it hasn't been filtered.
All of the wines on the menu at Where's Fred's have a level of naturalness to them; we work with suppliers that know the producers and the stories of their vineyards. We have a beautiful Chateau Musar Red from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon on the menu. This wine is produced by the Hochar family and their philosophy is of respect for the environment, the vineyards are managed with minimal human interference. On the nose, it has developed ripe fruit and a bold taste profile of juicy, black fruits plus mocha and leather with a lasting finish.
We also have a younger, organic producer that is not yet certified but creates a delicious Palomino from Cadiz in Spain. El Pinto creates excellent value wines, from sustainably grown grapes, that will be identified with the characteristic of the area. It's a favourite at Fred's – an easy-drinking white wine, it's crisp and bright-ending with a distinct nuttiness and chalky minerality from the terroir.
The most important thing we do to make exploring these wines attractive is to serve them by the glass; natural and low-intervention wines can be comparatively expensive, so even the most open-minded drinker might be hesitant if it means buying a bottle. But by the glass, it's much less of a gamble.
Those of us who champion natural wines have, I think, a responsibility to make discovering and enjoying them as easy as possible; saying disparagingly that – for example – people's "palates aren't ready" for natural wines isn't going to encourage anyone, it just feels clique-y.
I'm optimistic about the potential for natural and low-intervention wines to become more popular and more widely available. It just needs us as operators to encourage drinkers to take the first sip.
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