I learned early in my career never to underestimate the power of a niche segment to transform the broader marketplace.

And never to forget that the influence of a segment, like organic food and beverages, is not in it’s percentage of the market size but the overall economic value.

This has already happened with the natural revolutions in food, body and beauty products, handcrafts, self-help, apparel, wellness and fitness, and is just starting to be the reality for natural and artisanal wine.

Pundits invariably point to the natural segment as an anomaly, interesting but too small to be indicative of a larger change.

They are missing the mark like many a VC plotting out your company’s potential on a spreadsheet without understanding the behavior and motivations of your customers.

There are few solid numbers on the natural segment but even if we guess at .5-.75% of the $60-70B US wine market, this is a niche of significant economic and defining force for the market. And the broader industry.

The times have been changing here.

A dozen, even less years ago, we consumed natural wine in a very different world. In a market defined by considerably less supply of quality product and demand we the enthusiast community for the most part drove.

The market was a textbook case of community commerce. We knew most of the players and supported winemakers like we support causes we believe in.

When Frank Cornelissen came to town it was a damn celebration that included Frank, my friend Zev Rovine of Rovine Selections (who imports him into NY), a handful of shops that catered to the likes of me. A community gathering.

Everyone at the dinner table talked about the Jura, Carso and Skerk, what was going on in Ribiera Sacra or the Canaries, and used first names for the early California natural wine pioneers.

In effect, this was a small network, melding the entire supply chain into one transparent community.

For the most part self-supporting with a trust bond up and down the chain based on transparency of disclosure about the wine being sold. We knew everyone and relied on our retailers not certifications to be the arbiters of fair trade for us.

The base is still here but the availability of quality natural wine continues to get larger and more diverse, putting us square in the middle of a renaissance of innovation and expansion.

It begs the question of who is buying this wine? Who is the new consumer?

Is the enthusiast community growing to gobble up the supply? Are the new consumers in Los Angeles, just like you but living somewhere else?

I don’t think so.

The percentage of geeks like myself remains the same but the people searching out this wine are new consumers from adjacent markets like the wellness, the millennials and the farm to table segments.

And we are at the very early tip of this explosion.

Cases in point:

I did a natural wine tasting event for 350 crypto geeks a while back. It was a revelation. The vast majority of people were smart, completely ignorant of how wine is made but serious natural foodies and many micro beer and spirit aficionados. Traditional cross over niche market phenomenon.

At Esther’s in LA for a meeting and caught the end of a natural Pet-Nat tasting. Great selection by young Somm from Brentwood who was new to the passion but smart, enthusiastic and really excited when I pointed out that Raw was coming to town in the Fall.

Welcome to the future!

It is different because it is more multifaceted. It is broader and mostly untapped. This population is not reading The Pour. Have no idea who Jancis Robinson or Robert Parker are. They might surely love my good friend Wink Lorch, but they have no idea who she is.

They are getting their info from Vogue, wellness newsletters and word of mouth.

They were brought up on the maker revolution with their own heroes. They are interested in wine for the fun of it and the connection to something new in life.

Will they fall in love with our friends from Dirty & Rowdy? Show up to have Joe Swick pour after midnight for them at 10 Bells?  Come to see Chad Stock from Minimus as the liquid poet of this generation?

I think so.

They are looking to find shops they can trust, bloggers that speak to them in their language and newsletters that connect where to go, what to buy and how to get into the community of this world.

Friends of mine in a Facebook thread a while back skewered an article about natural wine written in Vogue. They lambasted it for errors and grammar. I loved it actually and saw it as a new generation of enthusiasts embracing this thing called natural wine that makes life more interesting in their own vernacular.

As I suggested in the Facebook thread, they simply need to get over themselves.

The world is changing dramatically in every way.

Platforms for transportation, for currencies, for food supplies, for consumer-accessible neutragenomics. Not to mention our social nets and communications channels are going to change more in the next ten years then they did in the last.

It’s happening already with the crazy innovation and increasing supply of natural wine making it to my glass.  I’m thrilled that natural with all of its powerful vagueness and magic to connect people is at the center of it.

Change is good. This one especially so for everyone from consumer to producer.