Jersey City resident Dante DeCicco is always on the hunt for a new natural wine to try. The long-time wine enthusiast spent years searching the limited market for any bottle he could get his hands on. Last January, he, along with friend and fellow wine lover Greg Edsall, turned their passion into a business plan when they created the Natural Wine Shoppe, an e-commerce, direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine shop focused on creating a one-stop outlet for natural wine.
“We were natural wine enthusiasts, just working to hunt down the wines that we loved or wanted to try,” DeCicco says.
In the United States, the term “natural wine” has no official regulation, but is generally defined as wines made without additives, using minimal sulfites and usually organic fruit. In conventional winemaking, says DeCicco, producers “manipulate the wine, whether it be through temperature control, adding [commercial] yeast, or adding food coloring or sugar, among other things.” In contrast, natural wines undergo fermentation using only native yeast found on the grape, or ambient yeast that exists in the winery. The wine is then bottled with little to no added sulfur, and without fining or filtering, which accounts for the layer of (harmless and drinkable) sediment commonly found at the bottom of a bottle. “They’re very drinkable and approachable,” says DeCicco. “This is stuff that’s really to be enjoyed with good company.”
For years before launching the Natural Wine Shoppe, the shop’s co-owners were only able to drink the then difficult-to-acquire wine in a very limited fashion. Even as natural wines have gained popularity in the last couple of years, DeCicco explains that often, he and Edsall would have to visit four or five specialty stores just to fill one case with the kinds of wines they were after. “We weren’t able to find what we were looking for all in the same spot.” With the wine shop, which ships to most states, including New Jersey, DeCicco says, “Our philosophy was always to make a lot of good natural wine accessible to as many people as possible.”
The vibrant colors and artistic, eye-catching labels on the natural wine bottles (which range in price from $16.99 to $99.99) make for beautiful inventory, but the Natural Wine Shoppe makes sure each bottle is more than just a pretty face. “We do the work to sit down and find out what’s good and what’s not good, and what’s just a flashy label. We really have to do our due diligence when putting something up on-site, or selecting a line,” DeCicco says.
DeCicco, who grew up in North Jersey, says he inherited his taste for natural wine from his Italian family, who made wine in their home cellars without any additives—not to sell, but to enjoy themselves. Now, for the wine shop, he follows what winemakers are up to, anticipating new releases to continually add unique and in-demand bottles to the site’s collection.
Some fan-favorites on the site include their collection of orange wine, a wine that gets its striking color from white wine grapes staying in contact with their skins during the winemaking process. Orange wine is often an entry point into the natural wine world for the shop’s customers. Australian natural wines are also having a moment, notes DeCicco. “There’s a lot of young Australian producers that are really making some quality wines.”
While a brick-and mortar-shop may eventually be in the company’s future, the all-online platform has been especially successful during the pandemic, as more consumers seek convenience and safety by shopping online for essentials. And it doesn’t keep the duo from interacting with customers. DeCicco, who runs the Natural Wine Shoppe’s social media accounts, spends a lot of time chatting with patrons. “We are absolutely there from top to bottom to help customers select bottles, make recommendations, create curated cases, whatever they need. It’s been an absolute blast,” he says.
To learn more about natural wine and the Natural Wine Shoppe and keep up with current inventory, visit the shop’s Instagram or website. Right now NJM readers can use the code NJMONTHLY for 10 percent off three bottles or more.Click here to leave a comment