Carole Bryon, the “Lady of the Grapes”

Suzanne Frost

Some industries are still very behind when it comes to equality. Parisian Carole Bryon had a livelong passion for wine but wondered why there are so few female wine makers in the industry. Her new wine bar ‘Lady of the Grapes’, a long harbored dream that will become reality in Covent Garden this month, will champion female wine makers and support all women in wine from the vineyard to the shop. The carefully-curated list features 80 different wines, 15 of which are by the glass, paired with a food menu designed by chef-restaurateur Victor Garvey. The deli will sell many of the wines to take away, as well as cheeses, charcuterie and fine grocery products. Carole’s aim is to ensure each and every customer has a delightful epicurean experience whilst supporting female winemakers.

London Calling: Tell me a little bit about your path and how you came to be interested in wine!
Carole Bryon: I think wine was always one of my favourite drinks because I am French and it is part of French culture. In my family we always had a bottle on the table and one day when growing up, I wanted to know more and I wanted to try it and it became my thing! I really appreciate wine and would always do wine tastings when I had guests over at my house. Even at 20 years old I was a really good hôtesse! I had a different career at the time, I was an art director in advertising. Later, when I approached my 30s I wanted to do something else and I had this idea for a wine bar. 

LC: Wine making is a real philosophy, isn’t it?
CB: Wine makers are living for that. Small vineyards that make small quantities are really passionate and proud of what they are doing.

LC: What does it take to be a good wine maker? Do you need a good nose or good instincts?
CB: Obviously a good palette to understand what they are doing. And a passion for nature is the main thing, I guess.

LC: But it definitely has nothing to do with being a man…so you are championing the ladies!

CB: I think from vineyard to shop to sommelier we are still seeing more men than women, in the whole industry. When I started working in wine I was really asking the question why? There is really no reason. I guess it is alcohol and people maybe see it more as something for men… Even if things are changing there is still this mentality and the countries that produce wine are a bit more macho, I suppose. I think women wine makers have to challenge this, by making really good wine and carving out their place in the industry and proving that they are capable.
LC: How do you pick the wines for your menu, what are you looking for?
CB: Two important things: I really like to shine a light on female winemakers, but not solely, we are going to have a balance of around 60% on our wine list.  I don’t want to discriminate anyone, there is a lot of good wine made by men! I like the idea of parity. I am just championing the women a bit more because they are not being represented anywhere. And the other thing that is really important for my wine list is that the wine is organic, biodynamic, all natural. The grapes have not been treated with any chemicals or pesticides. Even for the food, we are working only with organic products.

LC: Do you travel a lot and visit all the vineyards?
CB: Not all the time. But whenever I am travelling I obviously like to visit vineyards. At the moment, we use suppliers that are already importing. Later, we might consider to import as well. But for the moment there is enough to do here with the wine bar! 
LC: Is it mostly French wine?
CB: We have a lot of French wine of course and the food is also French orientated but Lady of the Grape will stock wine from everywhere, even small countries. I want to offer an international variety and let people discover wines they’ve never tried before.
Lady of the Grape will open on 16 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden on 27 July. Only evenings for the first two weeks, from 5pm Monday to Saturday. Then 11-11 Monday to Saturday in August and seven days a week from September.

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