Back in 1994, I joined a small, dedicated French-wine import company that would later change its name from International Gourmet Corp – as we moved away from including olive oils and vinegars in our offers – to European Wine Group. Our focus was bringing to America what we discovered in the artisanal, family-owned and operated estates of France’s most dedicated of boutique wineries. Expanding our selections to include Spain and later Italy, our name would change to signal our broadening collection, but our focus would never stray from our roots as a primarily French-wine focused operation.

During the 1990s, the job of selling wine was a different animal than it is today. I would spend 5 days a week on the road; visiting distributors on Mondays, their retailers on the following days, and wrapping up my weeks in front of those same distributor’s restaurant clients. If I made it home by Saturday night, I was lucky. Monday came, and I was on another plane, off to another city, checking into another hotel and lugging another set of samples through the streets of yet another bustling city or rural town. There were no Skype meetings, no teleconferences, precious little use of e*mail and most of us still preferred pagers to cell phones.

But perhaps the biggest difference between the prehistoric 1990s and today’s techie style of sales was the reliance on one particular method of promotion in particular. In the 1990s, Robert Parker, Jr aka The Wine Advocate was THE mode of transportation to the top for your wines as an importer/wine-maker/any type of person in the wine business. A rating in the range of 90 points or higher by the man with the golden palate practically guaranteed your wine a place in this country’s wine shops, no matter the size or scope of that shop; you could also bank on a place at the table in just about any style restaurant you sauntered through. Yep, the points got the placements!

Today’s importers face a very different challenge, however. Finding placements in a terribly crowded marketplace, further complicated by an ongoing recession, has forced importers, especially the relatively new ones, to change their approach. The new methods employed by innovative importers reflect this imperative need for creative marketing. Thanks to attacks from bloggers, authors such as Alice Feiring and other professional wine publications, Parker points simply don’t pull the weight any more. Indeed, to place the wines, you need another gimmick.

Enter the phrase, “Natural Wine”. Back in the 1990s, we conservative importers never dreamed of this moniker. We used terms long-considered staples of the industry. Words such as artisanal, boutique, family-owned, un-fined, un-filtered, terroir; these were our selling points. We described our wines with full sentences and long, sometimes drawn out, presentations. Then we concluded the dog-and-pony shows with the coup de grâce, the omnipotent PARKER POINT.

Today, gifted importers turn NOT to Parker, and NOT to long-winded discussions of earth, soil, climate, hillsides, blah, blah, blah. They turn, instead to describing a method of wine-making that succinctly describes every wine offered in their portfolio. Rather than take wine after wine in their presentation and labor over the specifics of Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, Languedoc, Jura, etc, etc, these new wave, highly educated importers spend their time talking it up with young, hip retailers on the theories of “Natural Wine” practices and how those transcendental ideas make better wine. And seeing as these brave new souls of the import world have the writings of Feiring and other respected journals and magazines on their side, perhaps they’ve tapped into a whole new method of self-promotion. And if the placements are coming, that’s the whole point!

One of these new wave importers, whose wines I’ve personally consumed – and loved – on many occasions, is offered below. And while we still cannot find them here in Texas (so typical for our antiquated three tier system and the useless distributors in this State), a search of, or better yet, a call to them personally will do the trick:


Jenny & Francois Selections: 

Importer of Natural Wines

Natural Wine Revolution Prevails!


2009 chemins de bassac isa Rose 

2006 Domaine des 2 anes corbieres fontanilles 

Link to full article:


Precise elegant wines from Domaine Binner 

Excellent natural white – Derain’s Allez goutons

COTURRI 2007 Testa Vineyards Carignane

Domaine Des 2 Anes 2008 premiers pas Corbieres

Link to full article:

Jenny & François Selections
o: 646 775 6400
m: 646 322 4254
Paris: 06 11 10 28 56

Biodynamic Updates – And Some New Wines to Try


We’ve just returned from our scouting trip to Virginia and my mind this morning is swimming with ideas.  The local wine scene in Richmond is vastly different than the one evidenced by consumers in the metropolis where I currently reside, with the most obvious contrast being the abundance of boutique shops adorning the landscape.  From one corner of that beautiful city, with its trees as tall as skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, boutique wine shops, offering wines I’ve come to love over the past many years and decades, open the consumer’s eyes to a world of wine completely unknown in this big city where I reside.

As my family and I researched the market, we discovered that Virginia, in particular Richmond, is quite suited for the type of business we wish to bring to the good people of this friendly region.  And having visited with more than a dozen locals, each with their own personal insights, it would seem that while the market is ripe for what we have in mind, our product selection – not to mention location – is going to be crucial. 

Of the nearly dozen stores I spent time visiting, only one (that’s 1) offered the community the types of biodynamic wines that will be the focus of our new venture.  Opportunity?  I certainly like to think so.  Especially when one considers how over-priced the offers were.  Pricing these naturally made wines that far above national average only serves to diminish the marketability of these wines.  And let’s face it, these are not mainstream wines in the first place.  Most biodynamic wines are from places the average consumer has never heard of – or at the very least rarely considered – and we as advocates of these great vinous specimens need to price these wines as consumer-friendly as possible if we’re to ever have a shot at repeat purchases.  Selling an $18 Loire Valley Pineau d’Aunis for $24, simply because you have no competition (yet) is not likely to encourage repeat purchases.

That being said, I did notice there were other, even more obvious opportunities in the market, speaking on the biodynamic front in particular.  And understanding California’s hesitance to jump on the wagon so adored by the Europeans, resulting in fewer biodynamic wineries out West than what we find from across the pond, it’s probably reasonable to see so few wines of the genre adorning shelves not only in Virginia, but anywhere these days.  West Coast offers of the biodynamic sort were quite difficult to locate while in Virginia, just as in many states.  But now that I’ve returned home, to my cellar, I once again bring to your attention the work being performed by one of the best.

His name is Coturri, and his wines, from some of the purest and most biodynamic in California, are among my favorites.  Drinking Tony’s wines, as I hope many of you reading this will resolve yourselves to do, secures his place as a leader in the natural wine movement.  His wines not only “speak” of their origin, they quite literally scream of place and time.  His Pinots prove that yes, indeed, with attention to pure, vineyard sustaining practices while harvesting with an eye towards balanced acidities and lower sugars, this country can very well offer the Burgundian palate a wine they’ll love.  And at price points that make most “simple Bourgognes” appear over priced.

Try these out friends, and let me know what you think:


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Some Smashing New Discoveries


These past several days have most certainly inched along.  These have been ones spent working through the final pages of the business plan.  And these are the dreaded yet absolutely vital dozen or so pages known as the “financial” section, where the passionate prose takes a back seat to pure numbers; where the left-brain oriented folks will grasp the business plan firmly in hand and have their most satisfaction.  More than 150 hours of the most mind-numbing number-crunching work has resulted in balanced books, 5 years of projections and Certified Public Accountant approved cash flow statements and so much more that span 5 years in to the future.  And through it all, I’ve managed to find the time to discover the road to some pretty amazing new discoveries on the wine front, too.

Those who’ve followed along have no doubt noticed my unabashed recognition for the biodynamic wines making headlines these past many weeks and months.  I’ve long preached the benefits and merits of the organic and natural stuff, but the advancements in the world of biodynamics, where wine-makers are taking the organic movement to a far greater level, and where we’re all witnessing an ever-expanding brother/sister-hood of members, is offering the interested and eager wine-consumer of this new generation some of the most intriguing wines of our life-time.  Where once the term organic wine conjured up notions of barely palatable juice, the work of extremely high-profile wineries in the field of biodynamic wine now elicits excitement as the world becomes ever-increasingly awakened.

So you’ll all understand my obvious bit of interest at the arrival of an invitation in the form of an email just a couple of days ago.  This invitation set in motion my perusal of a website.  A website dedicated to bringing to the American wine drinker a group of wineries currently flying just a bit under the proverbial radar of the “big” wine critics.  And the moment I performed my first search of the collection, I wanted to be a part of the action. 

If you’ve listened to the murmur that’s rustling about down in the basement of the wine world today, you may have heard the little tale some like to call, “The Bloggers VS. Robert Parker.”  We bloggers have taken to proudly reviewing more and more wine these past years, with yours truly having been in the prose authoring business for more than a decade.  And while I certainly have no official magazine to call my own, I take pride in my work behind the keyboard.  Having the mighty Parker attack we bloggers, therefore, is one of the reasons I am proud to become a part of the wine critiquing community – if even on a scale as tiny as the one I’m joining today.

My hope is to introduce to my readers – whomever you few and greatly appreciated may be – some of the great biodynamic, organic and natural wines that I’m coming across through my travels these days.  And to introduce these wines to you through a wine website that you may order these products through so that you may have them delivered to your home with a peace of mind that these are wines that I personally enjoy and endorse.  Perhaps these wines have never seen the pages of the “big” reviewer, but that, to me, is all the more reason for we wine DRINKERS to seek them out.

The first group of wines I wish to bring to all of you tonight include two wines from the great naturalist Tony Coturri.  Tony works with several vineyards, both in the state I currently reside as well as his home state, some being certified organic with others certified as biodynamic.  He is one of the very few wine makers I’ve ever met who consistently discusses the importance of sugar to acid balance in his grapes at the time of harvest.  And while this may seem quite elementary, indeed it actually appears to have escaped many folks of the vine as they look for the almighty high sugar levels in their grapes for the end result of high scores.  Tony is a natural yeast proponent, knowing that natural wine can only be made with its indigenous yeasts, making him all the more one of my favorite wine producers.  Indigenous yeasts identify a wine and speak of a wine’s region / terroir / local conditions; to rob the grapes of their natural yeasts is just as detrimental as the use of land destroying chemicals or over cropping and extreme yields.  Drink these wines from Tony and you’ll be ready when I discuss my next round from him…

Also in the offers are three wines from the man known as “Mr. Green.”  Paul Dolan has been the leader in organic and now biodynamic wine making in California for more than 30 years – that’s not a typo folks, 30 years!  Since the 1970s, Dolan has been working to turn California wine making organic and his vineyards in Mendocino are certified both organic as well as biodynamic with the Dark Horse Ranch being certified biodynamic since 2005.  If ever there were a single wine maker based in California elected as THE president of the American biodynamic movement, Dolan may quite possibly be our Nicolas Joly.

I hope each person taking the time to read this short and heart felt passage will take a moment to consider these wines for your next adventure: 


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Once you’ve tried them, I fully expect a full report…
Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier