Miami’s Go-To Natural Wine Store: Meet Lucio Bueno of Lucio Wine Shop
Looking for natural wine in Miami? Chances are a friend or a friend of a friend (or someone on Instagram) will instantly recommend Lucio Wine Shop, complete with a “He’s the best!” in reference to owner Lucio Bueno.
Located in the Little River neighborhood, Lucio, previously a wine and charcuterie store, has quickly become a haven for natural and low-intervention wines in Miami, owing to its expansive selection and Bueno’s hospitality and congeniality. It is not uncommon to find natty wine fans posting their latest purchases on Instagram, tagging Lucio, and in return, having the friendly owner repost it on the store’s account.
Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, Bueno studied at Hofmann Culinary School in Barcelona, Spain, where he developed his career as a chef for over 18 years. He moved to Miami in 2015 to be close to his parents who were living there at the time. He became acquainted with Miami’s food scene by cooking at restaurants in South Beach and Wynwood. (Kyu was his last.)
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Lucio offered complimentary wine tastings on Fridays and Saturdays, but has since been strictly observing CDCP/FDA rules. Bueno has rearranged the shelves so customers do not touch the bottles, all of which have been disinfected. No more than two customers at a time can enter, and everyone must wear a mask.
We chatted with the genial owner of the namesake shop on his background, how the former wine-and-charcuterie store became a natural wine shop, his favorite natural wines, and what Miami customers are buying these days.
Wine Traveler (WT): How and when did you get into wine?
Lucio Bueno (LB): As a chef and gastronome, wine has been part of my life since I started studying. My oenology tutor at Hofmann introduced me to wine tasting and I began developing my own criteria as I paired dishes to specific wines. Wine is an essential part of my life.
WT: Please tell us about how Lucio Wine Shop started.
LB: A beautiful storefront opened up in Miami Shores and my parents and I decided to open a gourmet/wine shop in April 2016, an idea that had been mulling in our minds for some time. At first, we carried a selection of small producers’ natural cheese and charcuterie, and of course, a very precise selection of wines from elite distributors in the Miami area. We couldn’t compete with the big box stores in volume or price, so we focused on selected wines that were not available there. We compensated the volume/price disadvantage with a personalized care of our customers, making them feel at home in a cozy environment, with regular wine tastings and paired tapas to discover different flavors and sensations.
WT: We noted on your website that it’s a family-owned business. Are your parents involved as well?
LB: Yes, it totally is a family business. Both my parents are partners in the business but only my mother has an active role in the administration. During the wine/gourmet shop phase, we also had the “Artist of the Month” exhibit in the shop. Many local artists exhibited their work at no cost. We put the wall, they put the work. Both my parents have careers in theater and the art world in general.
WT: How and when did you get into natural wine?
LB: I worked in a Basque restaurant, Euskal Echea, that specializes in pintxos located in the Barrio Gótico in Barcelona. They regularly serve cider fermented in the ancestral method. I started to develop a taste for natural fermentation. Naturally fermented wines are well known in Catalunya. The region is home to very important producers. I fell in love with the enormous and unpredictable range of flavors that a naturally fermented wine can produce as opposed to the more controlled, hence more predictable, of the conventional ones.
WT: How did Lucio Wine Shop pivot from being a wine and charcuterie store to one that is focused on and specializes in natural wine? Is it safe to say that Lucio is the only/main natural wine store in Miami?
LB: We gradually started to shift our references from more conventional wines to natural ones because they offered a more exclusive and refined selection. Our clientele responded fairly well but it was a small selection. When we moved our store from Miami Shores 10 blocks down to Ebb and Flow, a more urban less neighborly destination [in Little River in April 2019], I decided to commit and reduce the scope in one sense; no more delicatessen/charcuterie, but open it in another, a specialization in natural wines. It was a gamble because I didn’t know how large a niche natural wines would be in Miami but certainly it was an unattended niche. And, yes, I think it would be safe to say that Lucio Wine Shop is the only main natural wine store in Miami. There are stores that carry some natural wine references, but we specialize in natural wines only.
WT: What do you think makes Lucio Wine Shop different from the other boutique wine shops around Miami?
LB: I think people who enjoy natural wines tend to flock. There is a sense of comradery, of cult toward the strangeness of natural wines. Sometimes they smell too strong or taste too bitter and that’s part of the charm. So, being an only natural wine shop sets it apart because you can come visit to talk about natural wines, to meet other people, to check what was the reaction of other clients to the same wine you bought last week. I don’t sell natural wines because it is trendy. I am a firm believer and consumer. There is a kind of magic, an alchemy, in a first fermentation. No alteration, no chemicals, no post-production. Both producers and consumers believe in the method to produce a natural wine and it’s not easy. I think this creates a sense of community around the people that consume natural wines and the shop is a center, a point of reference for natural wine consumers in Miami.
WT: Please tell us about some of the bottles/ wines that you carry. Any particular favorites?
LB: At this moment, I am hooked on pét-nat. Nonetheless, I can say that some “oranges” or skin-contact are also very seducing. I would say that these are among the top wines that I like and carry: Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, Ancestral Enjoy by Mariano, Kobal Bajta Belo (Orange) 2017, Les Foulards Rouges – La Soif du Mal 2017.
WT: Since you started, how do you think the Miami market has been receiving natural wine? What are trends/habits that you’ve noticed among consumers these days?
LB: It’s a growing market. It’s beginning to bloom with much more to grow. Younger people are more conscious of what they consume, of chemicals in the food. Wine has been part of human culture for thousands of years, but consuming natural wines, no chemicals, is now part of that consciousness. Miami, at this moment, is very much into skin-contact wines. People look for “orange” wines to pair with their favorite foods.
WT: What are your favorite natural wine pairings with food? How do you personally like to enjoy it?
LB: For me, a pét-nat with a good table of pica-pica Española, that is, Jabugo ham, tortilla (Spanish omelet), cured oveja (sheep’s cheese), manchego, and of course, pan tumaca (bread with fresh tomato)—and some friends for a good conversation—are all I need.
Lucio Wine Shop is located at 207 NE 82nd Terrace, Miami, FL 33138, USA. Phone (786) 212-3867 or email [email protected]