Drink

5 Rules for Ordering Natural Wine Like a Pro

Not sure where to start? Memorize these sommelier-approved guidelines.


ordering natural wine

Get Etinosa Emokpae’s tips on ordering natural wine. Photograph by Jason Varney

Want to order wine, but not sure where to start? Memorize these five tenets from Walnut Street Café somm Etinosa Emokpae.

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1. Don’t be scared of new words.

Natural wines can be great at introducing you to different varietals. Many are far more approachable than one might think. One of my favorites is Raul Perez’s 2015 Ultreia from Bierzo, Spain. The main varietal is mencia, and it is jam-packed with crunchy red fruit. I make comparisons to beaujolais, to make it familiar and approachable.

2. Give the wine a second.

Flaws aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Some natural wines can come off as funky when you first try them — they have complex aromas and flavors. A quick decant and a little time to breathe will solve most of those “stinky” issues.

3. Learn your importers.

If you’re new to natural wines, the best way to start finding some great bottles is by looking for exceptional importers. Zev Rovine, Selection Massale, Vom Boden, and Jenny & François are some of the best.

4. Know natural isn’t new.

Natural wine isn’t a fad or trend. Many of the techniques that natural winemakers use, such as aging in amphorae, or terra-cotta vessels, are several centuries old. Oftentimes, natural winemakers are just bringing the age-old styles into the modern world, with delicious results.

5. You are what you drink.

Just like we care about what goes into our food, we should be concerned with the wine we drink. At the end of the day, natural wines tend to have a lower alcohol content and are made in an environmentally conscious manner, which is great for our bodies as well as the Earth.

Published as “The New Rules of Ordering Wine” in the April 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.