Jirka Jireh on How to Get Smart About Natural Wine - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Jirka Jireh on How to Get Smart About Natural Wine

In the September/October 2021 issue, Jennifer Fiedler explores how the pandemic has changed the way wine pros and amateurs learn about wine. For Jirka Jireh, caviste at Ordinaire in Oakland, California, that meant creating a series of natural wine classes for BIPOC members of the wine trade industry called Industry Sessions. We caught up with Jireh to get her recs for more resources that everyday drinkers can tap into to expand their understanding of natural wine. Here, in her own words, are her tips.

My first recommendation is always wineterroirs.com. This blog by freelance photographer Bertrand Celce is an encyclopedia of information on natural winemakers all over the world. I love clicking through posts from past years and it is the first place I go to get a visual of the winemaker and the region.

My next stop is Google maps. When you’re drinking a new natural wine, search for that winery and it will pop up. I love virtually visiting the streets where wineries are located and seeing what distances they are from other wineries and specifics of the landscape. You might notice that you like wines that happen to be made in coastal regions or perhaps you love wines that happen to be in alpine evergreen places with a high elevation. Sometimes when I’m searching I’ll see a nearby winery that I’ll catalog in mind to look into later. 

For discovery, I really enjoy Kae Whalen and Sam Zimman on their IGTV show, Gay Wine. They open the latest amazing natural wine bottles that have dropped in California and share a ton of knowledge on the producers and the vintage with true respect to the culture. Two palates that I respect very much and just a refreshing take from two amazing queer wine pros. Check them out @kaewhalen on Instagram!

At the end of the day, the best way to learn about natural wine is to drink it and ask questions. Local wine shop wine clubs are the best because you can talk to the people who pick the wine in person. With so many natural wine shops and lists at restaurants, you’re sure to find the one that speaks to you and your discovery style. Or join your local natural wine shop’s wine club! You’ll learn so much. Ordinaire does a killer club, and in New York, Peoples has an interactive club as well. If you aren’t in any of those cities, Mysa does a really good exploring natural wines and teaching members just starting their natural wine journey, and Whitney Pope does a really good job of creating educational content and sharing beautiful natural wines on her page @whitandwine.

If you want to take it a step further, check out Children’s Atlas of Wine for classes on natural wines. Children’s Atlas is interesting because they’re the only in-depth natural wine education that is accessible to everyone, and quite frankly, the only one that encompasses current history about what is happening in natural wine because James [Sligh] is actually speaking with the winemakers and putting together a lesson plan for you. They ship you the bottles and have weekly classes online. 

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