The natural wine trend has hit Philly in a big way, with establishments from high-end hotel restaurants to neighborhood bars pouring glasses and popping bottles with unique character all over the city. While the “natural” label encompasses biodynamic, certified organic, and other sustainable growing practices and winemaking methods that involve as little intervention as possible, it’s not really a new thing — many of the world’s top natural winemakers have been using these practices and working the same small patch of ground for generations.
In Philly, we found that beverage managers and sommeliers are stocking wines made from grapes grown without pesticides and herbicides, wines that are wild-fermented, unsulphured, unfiltered, and unfined, and even bottles from vineyards that use draft horses and solar panels to eliminate their carbon footprint — all to create the most delicious, lively, singular flavors and textures in your glass.
Check out our list of some of the best places to drink natural wines in Philadelphia.
Walnut Street Cafe, University City
Sommelier Kaitlyn Caruke takes care to keep natural wines in stock on Walnut Street Cafe’s substantial list of wines by the glass. In particular, she’s excited to pour a 2016 wild-fermented white from Curtet in Savoie, made with biodynamic Jacquère grapes. With an elegant profile that includes white flowers and crushed walnuts on the nose and brightly acidic green apple on the palate, it’s vintage that contradicts the conventional wisdom that all natural wines have funky flavors.
a.kitchen, Center City
Nearly every wine by the glass at a.bar and a.kitchen are natural wines. Try the 2016 Flora, a blend of Riesling, Muskateller, and native white grapes, from Austria’s Michael Gindl, or stay domestic with Channing Daughters’ Due Uve 2015, made with a blend of Long Island-grown Syrah and Dornfelder grapes.
Vedge, Midtown Village
It’s only fitting that Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby’s homage to all things vegetable should focus on carefully sourced vintages behind the bar, too. Try Tanzen Dame Edelzwicker Blue Cap from Bloomer Creek, a pioneer of organic winemaking in the Finger Lakes.
Good King Tavern, Bella Vista
General manager Chloe Grigri makes a point to keep at least one skin-contact (AKA orange) wine on the menu. Right now, it’s Mother Rock White 2017, a Chenin Blanc field blend from South Africa’s Swartland. And in addition to serving a list that’s mostly natural wines, they’re highlighting the funkiest selections with Keep Wine Weird, every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on their new patio this summer, pouring what Grigri calls “glou-glou juice” — super drinkable, interesting varieties that you can’t get inside the restaurant.
Kensington Quarters, Fishtown
With top-notch wine guy/general manager Tim Kweeder at the helm, the farm-to-table restaurant has drawn as much acclaim for its wine selection as its seasonal plates built around pasture-raised meats. True to form, the bottle list focuses on vintages from small-scale winemakers using organic, biodynamic and other sustainable practices.
While Suraya’s wine list primarily highlights Lebanese wines — a unique trait here in Philadelphia — they stock some natural wines, too. Try a glass of Nero d’Avola 2016, grown and made with solar power by Sicily’s Tenuta La Favola, where winemaker Corrado Gurrieri’s family has been making sought-after wines for generations.
Maison 208, Midtown Village
Sylva Senat’s airy, ultramodern concept keeps a few natural vintages on hand behind the bar. Right now, they’re featuring two orange wines — a 2015 Gris de Florette and a 2015 sauvignon-chardonnay blend — from Lucy Margaux, one of the continent’s foremost natural winemakers.
Vernick Food & Drink, Rittenhouse
Greg Vernick’s namesake restaurant offers a wide selection of organic and natural wines, with selections from American producers like Day Wines, Ross and Bee Maloof, Clos Saron, Fossil & Fawn, Broc Cellars, and Amplify, to accompany the James Beard Award-winning chef’s no-fuss New American cuisine.
Fishtown Social, Fishtown
Owner Vanessa Wong focuses on sourcing from small-scale, family-owned vineyards for her Frankford Avenue bar and bottle shop — like Day Wines, where owner Brianne Day operates a collective winemaking facility in Oregon that’s shared with other in-demand winemakers like Fossil & Fawn and Ross & Bee Maloof. Try Day’s flagship white, Vin de Days Blanc 2017, an Oregon take on a classic Alsace Edelzwicker, which has a supple texture and tones of flowers and lemon cream.
Townsend, East Passyunk
Tod Wentz’s eponymous French spot keeps a few natural vintages on rotation. Right now, they’re pouring glasses of Olivier Lemasson’s R16, a blend of gamay, cabernet franc, and Cot from the Loire Valley and selling 2016 bottles of biodynamic Le Vandangeur Masque D’une Si Belle Compagnie Meridionale, a cuvée made by the de Moors family using grapes sourced from winemakers in the south of France when their own crop was devastated by hail.
Royal Boucherie, Old City
Nick Elmi’s 2nd Street brasserie keeps a few natural selections in rotation — from France, natch. Right now, they’re pouring Teres Antique Les Secrets d’un Terroir 2016, a softer, lighter rosé from the south of France made by renowned rosé house Le Rouet.
Oloroso, Midtown Village
General manager and sommelier Gordana Kostovski always keeps a selection of natural and biodynamic wines from Spain in rotation at Tod Wentz’s tapas spot. Try a glass of Finca Parera’s Fins Als Kullons 2o17, a textured red with fruity flavors that’s perfect for summer.
Del Frisco’s, Center City
The luxe chain steakhouse features an impressively long list of natural wines, with varieties sourced from New Zealand to Spain to Oregon. Right now, they’re featuring Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc, a certified organic New Zealand bottle with hints of ground cherry and sweet meadow grass.
Teresa’s Next Door, Wayne
The top-notch bar and bottle shop didn’t get a James Beard nomination for nothing: their wine selection includes a deep bench of unfiltered, wild-fermented, and otherwise organic and natural wines by the glass or bottle. Try Poivre et Gel, a blend of Grolleau, Pineau d’Aunis, and Gamay grapes made last year in France’s Loire Valley, with hints of white pepper, acid, and earth.
Fountain Porter, East Passyunk
While the South Philly pub is known citywide for its excellent $5 burger, it’s becoming a neighborhood destination for biodynamic wines by the glass or bottle at surprisingly affordable prices: think $45 for a Demeter-certified bottle of La Collina Quaresimo lambrusco and $10 for a glass of Mother Rock’s Force Celeste, an organic Chenin Blanc from South Africa..
Hungry Pigeon, Queen Village
Beverage director Austin Boyle recommends two favorites that the Pigeon is pouring right now: a Gamay/Grolleau blend with mellow floral tones from Clos du Tue-Boeuf, where the Puzelat family has been making wines since the 15th century. He’s also got a “wacky and cool” 2015 pinot noir that the folks at Fossil & Fawn, a winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, vinified as a white and left unfiltered and unfined, giving it a pale orange color.
Greg Root’s eponymous spot is a Mediterranean-inspired wine bar where you can sip your way through a selection of an organic wines. Try Bengoetxe’s 2014 Txakolina, a white made with wild-fermented grapes grown in Basque country by a family who’s been making this one wine recipe for generations.
Tria Cafe, Washington Square West and Rittenhouse
One of the best places to get a wine education in Philly is also pouring some of the city’s most affordable glasses of natural wines. Sip a glass of Domaine de la Potine 2016, a citrusy, mineralic Sauvignon Blanc farmed biodynamically in France’s Loire Valley by renegade winemaker Vincent Ricard, for just $9.50.
Any wine on the menu at Jonny Medlinsky’s ode to fermented food and drink that’s not local is produced using organic or biodynamic methods. For the best of both worlds, try La Prima Donna 2013 from the southeast portion of a single hill at Avondale’s Va La Vineyards. This citrusy, tropical blend of malvasia bianca, petit manseng, pinot grigio, and tocai gets extended skin contact and 17 months on lees, creating a uniquely rich, tangy orange wine.
The Love, Rittenhouse
Like everything else at Aimee Olexy and Stephen Starr’s latest collaboration, natural wines are chosen with particular care, with special attention for local and sustainable wines. Beverage manager Alexandra Cherniavsky stocks vintages like the organic 2013 cabernet sauvignon from Napa’s Long Meadow Ranch, plus local selections from the Lehigh Valley’s Galen Glen and the 2014 Barbera Field Blend from Va La Vineyards in Chester County.
The Bercy, Ardmore
The luxe French concept keeps its cellars stocked with top natural wines from France. Try the grenache-syrah from Domaines Grands Bois Côtes-du-Rhône, an unfiltered blend made with organically-grown grapes harvested from 60-year-old vines.
Patrick Feury’s French-Asian concept prides itself on a substantial wine list that includes rare wines and cult favorites as well as natural selections. Sommelier Chris Marcus recommends the “delicious and crushable” 2016 pinot gris from Omero Cellars in Oregon and the fruity Combe Trousseau from California’s Stolpman Vineyard in collaboration with industry legend Rajat Parr.
Jet Wine Bar, South Street
Jet prides itself on a worldly selection of bottles, keeping as many natural selections on hand asa possible. Try a dry, sparkling glass of Zensa Brut Chardonnay NV and taste for baked apples, pear, and citrus.
White Dog, University City, Wayne, Bryn Mawr
To go along with its commitment to local sourcing, the White Dog keeps natural wines in rotation, too. Right now, you can try a pinot noir from a truly unique winery, Oregon’s Illahe Vineyards, uses solar power and harvests its 80 acres of grapes using draft horses to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels.
Barbuzzo, Midtown Village
Barbuzzo stocks natural wines almost exclusively (at sister restaurants Bud & Marilyn’s and Little Nonna’s, wines by the glass tend to be conventional but all of the bottle selections at those spots are natural). Beverage manager Terence Lewis recommends Weingut Nusserhof’s floral, citrusy Blatterle: the ultra-rare grape is grown by only three farmers in Italy’s Suditrol region, and this is the only vintage made with the grape that’s available in the U.S.
Jamonera, Midtown Village
The wines at the Turney-Safran tapas spot are also nearly all natural, whether by the glass or bottle. Lewis recommends the full-bodied, mineralic Vinatigo Rosé — “the perfect tapas rosé” — made from the black grape Listan Negro, grown in the black volcanic soils of the Canary Islands.
Fond, East Passyunk
Right now, Lee Styer’s French-inflected spot has 14 natural or biodynamic wines on its list. Order up a glass of robust, jammy Campo Malbec from 2014, or try a 2009 bottle of Domaine Rolet Arbois Trousseau from the Jura in France.