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Natural Wine; Multicultural Tapas


  Organic vegetables and artisanal breads need little introduction these days, but when it comes to "natural wines" people tend to have questions. Fortunately, a collection of experts in the field will be in town Thursday (Jan. 19) for a unique wine-tasting event organized by Swirl Wine Bar & Market (3143 Ponce de Leon St., 304-0635; and hosted at the Green Goddess (307 Exchange Place, 301-3347;

  Generally, natural wines are produced using traditional techniques dating back many generations and following a set of guiding principles rooted more in Old World vineyard wisdom than modern vinification science and technology. The New York-based importer Louis/Dressner Selections specializes in these wines, and five winemakers from France and Italy represented in its portfolio will be on hand for the event.

  "When winemakers like this come to town, it's usually just people in the business who get to meet them," says Swirl proprietress Beth Riblett. "That's great for us, but I thought how cool would it be for the public to have a chance to meet them too."

  The tasting follows a different format than usual sip-and-greets. Participants join groups of five or six people, and these groups rotate among the winemakers, getting time with each to sample wines, hear their stories and ask questions. There are two sessions, one at 6 p.m. and another at 7:30 p.m. and each is limited to 25 people.

  That might sound a bit like a wine-tasting version of speed dating, but it's intended to give customers access to the visiting winemakers. It also seems like a sensible solution to managing 50-plus people in the tight confines of the Green Goddess. Winemakers will be stationed in different parts of the building and (weather permitting) the pedestrian mall outside. Green Goddess chef Chris DeBarr will serve a selection of appetizers.

  Tickets are $75, including tax and gratuity. Call Green Goddess for reservations.

  After a holiday hiatus, the Faubourg St. John wine shop has resumed its popular "Friday Free-For-All." The free wine tastings are held Fridays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event also features tapas prepared by chef Richard Papier.

  Papier has worked in many New Orleans kitchens, including Emeril's Restaurant, Herbsaint and the Delachaise. More recently he's been providing catering services to movie sets around town. His cooking, which he describes as "down-home multicultural," incorporates many different influences but is reliably straightforward and rustic. His tapas at Swirl are between $5 and $7 each.

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