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TASTING SEMINAR/Panel Discussion: What, Really, is a "Natural" Wine?

  • Cumberland Club 116 High Street Portland, ME, 04101 United States (map)

DETAILS: “Natural” is the hottest, and most hotly debated, term in wine today. Many contemporary wine enthusiasts — groundbreaking importers, sommeliers at the highest levels, forward-thinking retailers, servers and beverage professionals in exciting restaurants and wine bars — have embraced “natural” processes as the driving force behind their portfolios, wine lists and offers. It’s also a thrilling category for ordinary, open-minded drinkers who are interested in new styles and up-and-coming wine regions, as well as those who care about environmental sustainability and their own personal well-being.

Despite the widespread interest, there is much confusion about what the term “natural wine” actually denotes. Sulfites are part of it. So are considerations around organic and biodynamic viticulture, yeast and other fermentation factors, harvest practices, aging vessels, oxygen management, and much more.

There’s little consensus on precisely what constitutes a “natural wine”, but this panel discussion with some of the country’s most prominent and highly respected minds on the subject will sort through the issues with experience, insight and passion. You’ll leave far better informed about what’s at stake in the natural wines movement — both what’s agreed upon and what’s up for debate. Topics will include viticulture, vinification, history, ethics, and of course taste! Throughout the panel discussion, we’ll be pausing to taste wines that reflect a broad spectrum of delicious and fascinating natural wines.

You’ll leave this panel discussion captivated by the wines themselves, and inspired by a mind-broadening appreciation for the myriad forms wine — however it’s named or defined — can take. If you're a wine professional or amateur enthusiast, and you care about wine’s history, present, and future, this is an event not to be missed!

Joe Appel — wine director for Rosemont Market and Bakery, a group of six grocery markets in southern Maine that focus on locally grown and produced foods, handmade breads in a traditional European vein, fine cheeses and charcuterie, custom butchering of pasture-raised animals, Maine seafood, and exceptional small-scale wines and beers. For five years he wrote a weekly wine column for the Portland Press Herald, and his wine writing has been published in Saveur and The Art of Eating magazines. He loves wine, can communicate about it pretty well, and is good at getting interesting people to say interesting things.


Alice Feiring — Alice Feiring is a New York-based, award-winning writer who has been writing about wine since 1990. Known as a longtime champion of vin naturel, she is the author of six books all of which focus on authenticity or naturalness, whether about Georgia (For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey Through the World’s Most Famous Wine Culture), or bedrock (The Dirty Guide to Wine: Following Flavors from Ground to Glass). Her next book, a handbook for the kind of wines she drinks, will be out in 2019. A past wine correspondent for Wall Street Journal Magazine and Time, she mostly focuses now on her books as well as writing and publishing, the definitive natural wine newsletter, and occasionally penning essays on life, love, wine, and plumbing.

Ned Swain — Ned Swain fell in love with wine while studying in Florence, Italy as a teenager. On his return to Maine he lucked into a job at the Blue Hill Wine Shop and worked for David Witter: a man who played a big part in creating the fine wine market in Maine back in the 1970s and 1980s.  Ned moved to Portland in 2002 at the age of 21 to expand Devenish Wines, although he had no experience in sales or distribution. Ned grew up in and with the southern Maine restaurant scene and quickly realized he was happier and more successful when he focused on wines that he was passionate about regardless of whether or not anyone had heard of the places they came from. As the food scene in Maine continued to develop, Ned focused more and more on wines that tasted like the climate, soil, and culture of the specific place they came from.  Eventually many of those wines began to be called “Natural”.  Ned has had the opportunity to watch from the inside as the Natural Wine movement in America coalesced and gained momentum. Most recently, Ned has been running across parts of Italy and visiting small producers along the way, in preparation for writing a food and wine travel book.

Byron Bates — Byron Bates is a longtime buyer of natural wines, having curated lists in New York City for restaurants, hotels, clubs and bars since 1999. His programs were recognized by the New York Times, where he was a regular panelist, for bringing the natural aesthetic to an unexpected audience through venues like small clubs and large hotels. In 2014 Bates started importing wines under the moniker Goatboy Selections which he runs with business partner William Fitch, also a longtime buyer of natural wines. Bates also is a partner in the Rivertown Lodge in Hudson, N.Y. 

Chris Campbell — After some reckless stints in the world of publishing and film, it was eventually self-determined that the safest place for Christopher Campbell to do his work was behind bars. During his “incarceration” behind the predictably worn surfaces of mahogany, pine and marble, Chris found his calling as a purveyor of drinks in the city of Manhattan. Wine became his medium of choice—after much exploration.  A love for people, food and wine centered him professionally. The friendships he forged with winemakers met during his years working at Bar Jamon planted the kernel of an idea, and eventually he built an import business of his own, C&P Wines, with a focus on terroir-expressive wines of Spain. As a Spanish-speaking, white, Irish Catholic kid born in New York, Campbell's passion for the wines of Spain threw many for a loop. But Chris felt this was the case in point for his mission: to offer good wine at good prices, with a sense of place.  Portugal was the next frontier, and the full Iberian offering was realized in 2014. In 2016, when the opportunity to merge C&P Wines with Village Wine Imports took shape, Chris Campbell added Italy and France to his quiver, while his mouth watered with the possibilities to prove his favorite point: “Good wines leave a mark.”

Fred Mullins — Fred has sat in many seats within the business of wine, from being a partner in a small artisan importer, a wine director and buyer for retail shops and restaurants, a portfolio manager, and now the Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont manager for VIAS Imports. He considers himself lucky enough to work with and alongside some of the best and brightest in the wine world. His passion for wine goes far beyond personal enjoyment, to a focus on sharing knowledge and enthusiasm so that others might benefit. Fred considers wine a discipline that requires deep expertise and attempts at objectivity, while simultaneously demanding open-mindedness amidst wine culture’s continual shifts.

COST: $35
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