Wine clubs are having a moment

People have flocked online to buy their bottles during lockdown, leading to a surge in sign-ups for big brands like Winc. More niche players are riding the wave, too.
Natural Wine Club_16x9 hero

In Barcelona, the founders of interiors magazine Apartamento have teamed up with local wine importer-exporter Alfredo Lopez to launch The Natural Wine Company, which sells tightly curated boxes of natural wine to subscribers across Europe. Here, Alfredo shares how he got into the wine game and what’s coming next for natural.

Hey Alfredo, you’re Canadian… how’d you end up selling natural wine in Barcelona?

A. ‘I was born in Canada but I’ve been in Barcelona for eight or nine years now. I grew up in the restaurant and wine industry back home – serving, managing, even on the kitchen side. About three years ago, I noticed there wasn’t enough natural wine in Canada, so I started to export it back to my province of Manitoba.’

And you eventually met the Apartamento guys that way?

A. ‘I met them here in Barcelona. We’ve been friends for years now, playing soccer and going out for drinks. We’ve always been around each other. Nacho [Apartamento’s co-founder] and I were always like, “We should do something together”. We had this idea of doing a Europe-wide – and even larger – wine club. It made sense. And so here we are.’

You guys launched mid-pandemic...

A. ‘Well, we wanted to launch for Salone [Salone del Mobile, the furniture festival in Milan] in April 2020 because Apartamento does quite a few events there. But Covid hit and we stopped everything for a month or two. We realised we could just launch digitally, so we put our heads down and hashed out all the details pretty intensively. Our first real month was June.’

How does it work with Apartamento? Is it 50/50?

A. ‘Yeah, I’ve been involved with shipping and producers and selection and all of that stuff, and then, in terms of branding and image, it’s been the two of us. They have a whole team with graphic design and web design and communication and PR people, which is obviously their forte.’

It’s killer branding.

A. ‘Our group chat is constantly blinging.’

More: Taking ownership from grape to box

Natural wine has exploded in popularity – but it’s still a tiny part of the industry.

A. ‘I think we – the “we” who drink natural wine – feel like it’s everywhere. And it definitely is in the places that we like to go. But percentage-wise, on a grand scale, it still equates to a small amount of bars and restaurants. I think that’s going to change. Fifteen years ago, who would have thought that sushi would become an international thing that you can find everywhere? It takes time.’

What’s on your radar for natural wine in 2021?

A. ‘Personally, I’m interested in New World wine: South Africa has been huge, Australia is coming up, but Chile and Argentina – no one really talks about theirs. I’m also interested in Eastern Europe. It’s harder to get and sometimes there’s a language barrier, but Eastern European wines are just so amazing. For the club, I try to include them as much as I can. Technically, Georgia is the first country to have ever made wine. But you tell that to someone and they say, “No, no, it’s Italy, France, Spain.” So I think Eastern European wine will definitely be bigger.’

I imagine those producers are also better protected against global warming.

A. ‘Yeah, I was talking to someone from Slovakia recently. This year in Spain, a lot of people lost their crops. This guy was like, “What? Our grapes are used to having snow and hail and everything in between. It’s fine!”’

Bottles to buy

Five wines on Alfredo’s mind right now.

1. Queen Mom by Pivnica Čajkov @pivnicacajkov

‘A truly special white from Slovakia.’ 

2. Purple Rain by Jan Matthias Klein @moselriesling

‘Deep sparkling red, very intense in a good way.’ 

3. Côte de Beaune by François de Nicolay @francoisdenicolay

‘Crisp, buttery – from an amazing producer.’

4. Gargo by Selva Vins @selvavins

‘A truly unique grape.’ 

5. Quarterada by Señor Vino @srvino_

‘Its first vintage ever was incredible.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 40, April/May 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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