Carole Bryon of Lady of the Grapes
In honour of International Women’s Day (Friday 8th March 2019) and The Raw Wine Fair (Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th March 2019), I thought it no better time than to talk to the Lady who has brought both of these things together.
Lady of the Grapes is a cozy Wine Bar and shop found at no 16 Maiden Lane in Covent Garden. Aptly named LADY of the Grapes, the focus here is to support women winemakers. If that wasn’t enough, the wines need to fit into the categories of Organic, Bio-dynamic and Natural to get a chance to sit on the shelf in here. You will get around 15 choices of wine by the glass, prices start from £5.50 a glass and £20 a carafe.
You will nearly always find Carole Bryon, Owner of Lady of the Grapes buzzing around the Wine Bar and for those odd free moments, stuck with her head in a book as she tackles the WSET diploma.
With a background in art, but a childhood influenced by her families love of wine, it was inevitable that as her passion in the Art industry diminished, her inquisitiveness for wine increased. As time went on, with a heightened awareness, she found herself asking; why is one wine so enjoyable but another so disappointing? When her friend opened up a wine bar in Paris called Passarito, this was enough inspiration for her, and she started her wine training with The Wine & Spirit Education Trust.
So, I sat down with Carole to find out why she felt the need to open an Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wine Bar, focused on women winemakers.
Why do you focus on women winemakers?
I have found that when a winery has a couple making the wines (whether husband and wife or brother and sister) it is always the man whose name is written down or seen as the producer. Women are always underrepresented in this industry. However, this is not a 100% female only wine list. About 30% of the wines here are from male winemakers. The idea of feminism is not to take over or exclude anyone – that’s not the point. Exclusion is not part of feminism. It is just about representation.
Just two weeks ago we had the lovely winemaker Francine Klur from Domaine Klur come with her winemaking husband Clement. Yet it is Clement who is known as the winemaker and the face of the winery. Francine has a great energy and is part of the Association of women winemakers called DiVINEs which is centred around the wines in Alsace, promoting women and the Alsacian wines and I am in full support of this.
Do customers often ask you about the differences between Organic, Bio-dynamic and Natural wines?
Yes, we have this quite often. Many people think they know but it is still quite abstract for them. I always explain that being organic means you can only use a certain amount of natural chemicals; as an example, copper, which you can find in nature. Then we have biodynamic, meaning you can still use copper and sulphur, but less than organic. It is much more about philosophy which integrates the vine with the universe. You harvest following the Lunar calendar, focusing on the ecosystem and even larger elements: everything impacts the planet. Then natural wine is just pure juice. You need to work harder as you can’t use anything to preserve or protect, and so you need impeccable hygiene, or your wine is going to turn to vinegar very quickly.
Do you have problems with many natural wines turning to vinegar?
No not really. Occasionally we do have some gone off bottles, but we send them back. The knowledge of natural winemaking has got so much better now. Sometimes we have problems with fizziness in the wine, but after 5-10 minutes the fizziness disappears. If a customer doesn’t like it, I offer to decant it and the fizziness will disappear. Generally, if a natural wine is oxidised it is because it is done on purpose. I don’t accept that people can just say; ‘the wine is weird – oh yea it’s just natural’. No! You must recognise the grape variety and the terroir. Natural wine is not an excuse to do bad wine. To do natural wines you have to be the best winemaker. So here, there is a lot of wine that people wouldn’t even realise it tastes different from a ‘conventional wine’.
Do you enjoy telling the story of how these wines are made and what makes them special?
It is a great part of the job; To explain the region, why they plant that specific grape variety, how long the family has been there. We really try to give a bit more information, and that’s what people love. Awakening the customers imagination is important. There are so many people that go on holiday and taste an amazing wine, bring back a case, and then it doesn’t taste as good when they get home. So, what we need to do is bring the vineyards to them to give them the same feeling.
The Raw wine event happening this weekend in London is showcasing the best Natural, Bio-dynamic and Organic wines. What would be your advice to the consumers, on what to taste or region to try?
Definitely the Georgian section. It is just amazing. They age the wines in amphorae’s and mature the wines in the soil. It was great last year. Also, I think it’s good to go and try some of the wine stars of the natural wine world. I recommend trying Frank Cornelissen – Sicily’s rock star of winemaking.
Are you doing anything here to celebrate the Raw Wine Fair?
We are doing an After-Raw party with people who have been there. We will be selling loads of natural wines by the glass out of Magnums. The ageing is always different in a magnum, so we are excited to show people these wines.
Here is the hard question – Do you have a few favourite wines here?
Favourites? Oh, that’s complicated. Perhaps Radicum from Venezia-Guilia, very close to the Slovenian border. Or Gravner which is also from the same area. Both are doing great things. Then there is one with a sad story: Domaine de Baudon from Swizterland. The label is part of the story. There was originally a couple making the wine and you can see from the label that the vineyard is very steep. To go to the vineyard, they need to take a Funicular. So, it’s a complicated vineyard to work on. The husband bought a small tractor and the hills were too steep. He fell and died. So now his wife is making the wine by herself. You drink to the memory of him. The wine is amazing so mineral because of the altitude and the mountains.
With all these great stories are you ever drinking ‘conventional’ wine?
I always drink organic. If I am invited to somebody house, I will drink what they offer to be polite, and of course it can be very tasty but to me, I feel I am drinking poison because there is just so many chemicals inside. You just don’t know what is inside the bottle.
What wine myths do you enjoy debunking?
Simply, Bio-dynamic and natural wine does not mean it is weird. It’s a healthy way to make wine.
And lastly if you could have the perfect wine date, what would it be?
Definitely out of the house, because I don’t want my husband to cook! (Laughs alot) It would be in a really nice restaurant with a 5 course menu and a sommelier recommended wine pairing with each course. But maybe we will start with a glass of champagne too.
Lady of the Grapes opened on July 28th 2018. Carole told me this is the first Lady of the Grapes but hopefully it will not be the last.
Anyone interested in visiting Lady of the Grapes you can find more info on her website: https://www.ladyofthegrapes.com/
If you fancy attending the Raw Wine Fair this year, tickets can be purchased at: https://www.rawwine.com/fairs/london-2019/
“To do natural wines you have to be the best winemaker”