by Ian McNulty
Organic vegetables and artisanal breads need no introduction these days, but when it comes to “natural wines” people tend to have questions. Fortunately, a collection of experts in the field will soon be in town for a unique wine-tasting event, organized by Swirl Wine Bar & Market and hosted in the French Quarter at the Green Goddess on Jan. 19.
Generally, natural wines are produced using traditional techniques dating back for many generations and following a set of guiding principles rooted more in Old World vineyard wisdom than modern vineyard science and technology.
“It’s hard to point your finger on it, but there’s a purity in them that sets them apart from other wines,” says Swirl proprietress Beth Riblett. “When you taste one you know it.”
The New York-based importer Louis/Dressner Selections specializes in these wines (and here explains more about what they are and aren't), and five winemakers represented in its portfolio will be on hand for the local event, including Arianna Occhipinti and Sebastiano de Bartoli of Sicily, Eric Texier of the Rhône Valley, Jean-Paul Brun of Beaujolais and Luca Roagna of Piedmont.
“When winemakers like this come to town, it’s usually just people in the business who get to meet them. That’s great for us, but I thought how cool would it be for the public to have a chance to meet them too,” Riblett says.
The tasting follows a different format from the usual wine event sip-and-greet. The evening is split into two sessions, one at 6 p.m. and another at 7:30 p.m., each limited to 25 people. Participants join groups of just five or six people, and these groups will rotate between the winemakers, getting 20 minutes at each to sample wines, hear their stories and ask questions before moving to the next station.
That might sound a bit like a wine-tasting version of speed dating, but it’s all intended to give closer access to the visiting winemakers. It also seems like a sensible solution to managing 50-plus people in the very tight confines of the Green Goddess. Winemakers will be stationed in different parts of the building and (weather permitting) the pedestrian mall just outside as participants tour around.
Green Goddess chef Chris DeBarr will serve a selection of appetizers throughout the evening. Tickets are $75, which includes tax and gratuity. For reservations, call the Green Goddess at 301-3347.
Meanwhile, back at its Faubourg St. John wine shop, Swirl resumes its popular “Friday Free-For-All” this week after a holiday hiatus. This is a free wine tasting, held Fridays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., that always draws a big crowd. This week features Spanish wines, and it also marks the return of tapas at the wine tasting event, this time prepared by chef Richard Papier.
The local chef has done stints in many New Orleans kitchens, including Emeril’s, Herbsaint and the Delachaise, though more recently he’s been catering movie sets around town. His cooking, which he describes as “down-home multi-cultural,” takes in many different influences but is reliably straightforward and rustic. His tapas at Swirl will sell for between $5 and $7 each. He plans to make the Friday Swirl even a regular gig.