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Wilder Wines in Burlington, Wine Worth Discovering

Jan 12, 2022 08:07PM ● By Alexander Deparry
Wilder Wines in Burlington [8 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
Naturally Wild
Discovering natural and off-the-beaten-path sippers at Burlington's Wilder Wines

By Alexander Deparry

What is natural wine? Well, it's wine that is, y’know, natural. But to be a little more specific, “natural” means that the wine has undergone the least human interruption—no pesticides, chemicals, unnatural yeasts, or additives. It is wine that comes from grapes that have been left to grow their natural way before being crushed, barreled, and bottled. To be blunt, natural wine is as wine as wine gets, yielding expressions whose flavors can be described from funky, esther-y, and sour to subtle and remarkably food-compatible. Think of wine before modern, commercial farming, or the way you'd describe what wine is to a child. That's natural wine. And in Burlington, Wilder Wines in the Church Street Marketplace is your eminent purveyor. 

One of the Best

Opened in March, Wilder Wines is more than a wine shop. In fact, it was recently chosen one of America's 50 Best Wine Retailers by Wine Enthusiast, so, as you can imagine, it's more of a wine culture, a wine boutique, a little wine world. Proprietor Sipha Lam, a veteran of the service industry, fell in love with natural wine during a tasting at the Boston restaurant at which she served. Poivre et Sel by Olivier Lemasson was the wine that did it for her–earthy, spicy, natural (a new, to her, descriptor). "I don't quite understand why anyone would be opposed to trying natural wine or not open to the idea of it. It's wine before pesticides, additives, and chemicals became a thing," Lam says.

But Wilder Wines is not out to alienate any drinker from trying something they're unfamiliar with, but rather open doors to new possibilities. "I totally understand people who go to Trader Joe's and spend five bucks on a bottle, and that's just right for them. But then there are folks who go to the local co-op or grocery store and spend 15 bucks on a mass-produced bottle, likely unaware of where it comes from or how it's made." Clearly, Wilder Wines is not only in the business of selling wine but also providing learning opportunities. "We're small and very carefully curated. I strive to make this space very approachable, and when communicating with my shoppers, I don't throw around fancy wine terms. I essentially tell them my tasting notes and what I think will help them enjoy their choice." To this end, Wilder Wines offers several monthly wine subscriptions, which offer discounted deals on multiple bottles, as well as an in-store membership discount. 

First and Only

And although you may be seeing some "natural wine" sections opening in other shops in and around Vermont, Wilder Wines is the first and only completely natural wine shop in Burlington. "A few other Vermont retailers started curating small sections for different things, and that's great! If a restaurant or shop curates a natural wine program, more people will become familiar and seek it out. But hopefully, shoppers prefer Wilder Wines so that they can support a small (tiny) local business and more easily communicate with someone, versus going to a grocery store."
What's next for Wilder Wines? "Hopefully, a small wine bar whose food and wine can bring people together, potentially in a slightly larger space that can fit a few tables," Lam says, and considering her energy, positivity, intelligence, and success, I think we can all agree that that would be wonderful. Here are a few occasion-specific bottles she recommends, and who knows, maybe we'll get to enjoy them with some food in a future iteration of Lam's business. 

What are you drinking today?

Chateau Cambon Brouilly. Light, juicy, floral... all the things you want to drink year-round. 

What wine do you drink to celebrate?
Grower champagne! Like Champagne Tarlant! I don't drink champagne a lot, but when I do, I want to hear that pop, feel those bubbles, and break out the fancy glasses!

What wine would you suggest for a wedding?
I would definitely suggest a light and easy-going white during the summertime, like a Txakolina.

What's the "funkiest" one you got?
Probably the Force Celeste chenin blanc from South Africa. Hazy, unfiltered, notes of green apple, pear, herbs, and a touch of peat!

Any winemakers that continue to inspire you?
La Garigista, Iapetus, Elliston Estate, and new to the scene, Kalche! Just phenomenal folks who are turning out fantastic wines with great intentions. 

Wilder Wines
Church Street Marketplace
146 Cherry Street
Burlington, VT
(802) 540-1048

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