24 September, 2018
Women and Natural Wine
What natural and biodynamic wines are, and why Maison May hosts a dinner series around them
We hosted our second dinner at Maison May in a series dedicated to women & natural wine. We began this series in the fall of 2017 with the intention of discussing natural wines – what they are and why we think they should be the standard for what we put in our bodies. Having women to speak who import or make wine has been a crucial piece to this, as it shifts and refreshes a conversation within the male-dominated wine world. Our co-hostess this summer was Camille Rivière, a wine importer originally from Paris & the Loire Valley who is now based in Brooklyn, traveling frequently to France to search for wines to bring back to her clients in the US.
As soon as we had all settled into our first glasses and found our designated seats at the dinner table, Camille and Catherine introduced the evening. With a lovely familiarity and friendship between them, they introduced our second wine and explained how each of the wines was made – some differently than others, but each with care on small, biodynamic farms and without any help from chemicals. Throughout the evening, we came to understand through their stories what made these natural wines so precious and so worthy of an evening of celebration. Heaps of beautiful asparagus, white tile fish with dill sauce, and bright bowls of salad accompanied them, finished off by Armando’s famous Goat Cheese Cheese Cake.
A natural wine is a bit hard to define but should always abide by the following principles. It:
- uses no chemicals: not on the grapes; and not in the wine once the grapes have been picked from their vines [and this is where the “organic” label placed on some bottles can get a bit muddled – even if the grapes themselves are organic, it doesn’t mean that the entire process is chemical-free: the “organic” label only refers to the grapes themselves…]
- is farmed and produced not only without the use of chemicals but also in deep relationship with the earth & the surroundings of the vineyards.
- is often produced on a very small scale – by individuals rather than corporations; therefore, not many cases of the same wines are produced, and often Camille must befriend these wine-makers – visiting them for years on end! In remote places! – before they sell her a few cases of their wine. (still, not the worst job) – the point is, they truly care about their product, and they want to really trust the people that they decide to sell it to.
None of this can be encompassed on a label or tag on a bottle, making it hard for consumer to recognize what wine to buy. This is where reliable wine importers like Camille come in – if one knows where to find her wines (and there are several other good natural wine importers) it is easy to find delicious natural wines.
But why should we make the extra effort to search for these wines when we could go to the liquor store around the corner and buy a fine-looking bottle of rose?
Catherine feels passionately about this; and Camille, who spends years culling relationships with wine-makers so as to gain enough of their trust to be able to share their wine with the wider world, clearly does too. Catherine’s saying is that wine is food. Wine should be something that gives us life, that gives us energy. Biodynamic wines, she says, should be thought of like the foods that we source for Maison May: grown by the local farmer who you have built a rapport with, who tends to it carefully and tenderly, and who would never even think to contaminate it with a chemical that might artificially make it look bigger or more “perfect,” or yield a higher quantity of crop. When you take a mindful sip of this beautifully-made wine (or a bite of that food), it transports you to the place where it was grown: it contains the energy of that place – like a crystal – with no chemicals to dilute it away. And in turn it feeds you, gives you life. Just as anything you put into your body should.
We hope you’ll stay tuned for our next natural wine dinner, coming this fall. Many more stories and insights to be shared.
We are pleased to share our wine dinner menu with you:
Wines selected by Camille:
Bénédicte et Stéphane Tissot Crémant du Jura Extra Brut Rosé (non dosé)
Domaine des Terres Promises Coteaux Varois en Provence, Apostrophe Rosé 2017
Le Petit Domaine de Gimios Vin de France, Rosé 2016
Chateau Massereau Bordeaux Clairet 2016
Garden Feast prepared by Armando:
Roasted Asparagus & Baby Carrots – Taragon Gribiche
Ricotta & Duck Prosciutto Foccacia – Green Goddess & Dried Fig
Spring Lettuce – Sunflower Seeds & Cioga Beets
Olive Oil Poached Tile Fish – Dill Vinaigrette
Goat Cheese Cake – Blue Berry Coulis