The Boston Public Market has a best-kept secret, and it’s all about drinking local. If you’re curious about exploring Massachusetts wines year-round, there’s no better place in the city to do it.
Tucked between a purveyor of smoked fish and a vendor of specialty nuts is the Massachusetts Wine Shop. The compact retail space features 80 wines (including a few ciders and mead) all crafted in the Bay State. Organized by Massachusetts Farm Wineries & Growers Association, it offers the largest selection of its kind anywhere in the region.
“It’s the first of its kind, concentrating just on viticulture and winemaking here in Massachusetts,” says manager Alan Howarth. The idea, he says, is to put the wares of small, family-run vintners in front of local and visiting enthusiasts. Howarth estimates that a quarter of the shop’s pours are made from cold-hardy hybrids while the rest of the grape-based wines are crafted from Vitis vinifera, from which most of the world’s wine is made. Here, a shopper will find everything from a $10 bottle of hard cider to a $46 sparkler made in the traditional Champagne method.
The retail space builds on momentum created by 2010 legislation that allows Massachusetts farm-wineries to sell their bottles at farmers’ markets. That change in the law has helped raise the visibility of the state’s wine industry among consumers. The shop seems like a natural extension of those efforts, so it’s surprising to realize that nothing like this existed prior to last year.
When the Boston Public Market opened last summer, the MFWGA had yet to receive its retail license, so the 20 or so members who had pooled funds to launch the shop had to wait. By the time the shop was up and running, the sleek indoor market, 40 vendors strong, was well into a groove. Fortunately, word started getting out as downtown residents discovered they could pick up a bottle along with their groceries for dinner. They like being able to try before they buy (there are daily tastings) and to learn about what’s in their glass.
One recent evening, Marco Montez, the owner-winemaker of Travessia Urban Winery in New Bedford, was pouring his wines (a chardonnay, a riesling, and a merlot among them) for “Wine Down Wednesday,” a weekly tasting featuring a particular producer. Sales are just one reason he participates. The in-person interaction is just as important. He recounts how he placed clusters of vidal blanc grapes on the counter, sharing that he had picked them just days before. “People couldn’t believe they were real!” he says. “They don’t realize we grow grapes in the region, so they walk away with a different perspective.”
Montez is thrilled that the shop showcases the fruit of his labor. “The big thing for us is that this is our stamping ground,” he says of his fellow producers. “How can we not be a part of this? If we’re going to spend our marketing dollars, what better place than the Boston Public Market?”
Massachusetts Wine Shop at the Boston Public Market, 100 Hanover St., Boston, 617-973-4909, www.bostonpublicmarket.org.