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Where Y'Eat: In New Orleans, a Culture of Wine Far from the Vines

It's Time For Wine
Jeff Kubina

Wine has been a spiritual symbol through the ages, and it’s also been used a status symbol for those who can afford the most expensive bottles. But for plenty of people I know, wine is also a simple yet persuasive symbol of hospitality.

To see what I mean, take a stroll down my block in Mid-City after another hot day starts cooling down. In doesn’t happen every evening, but on the right evening, people pushing strollers or walking dogs or returning from a jog are hailed from porches by their neighbors, who wave wine glasses like signal flags. Up they come, dogs, babies and all, and an ad hoc meet-and-greet is afoot right there between the potted plants and porch swings.

You could do the same with a can of beer or, for that matter, a glass of lemonade. But there’s something to the ritual of wine – the semi-full bottle waiting on the sill, the offered glass, the decision to uncork another – it adds structure to the simple act of hospitality -- structure and maybe a little symbolism of welcome.

If the porch scene is a small expression of this, the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, or NOWFE, draws it on a much larger scale. This annual wine festival is now in full swing, and it’s mostly back to form after two years of pandemic changes.

There are seminars, parties, wine dinners, and wine tastings – both exclusive and enormous. All the details are online at

But one key distinction of our own wine festival here in New Orleans, is the way it entwines with this city’s identity as a food destination. Food is everywhere on hand during NOWFE events. And it’s New Orleans restaurant culture, with equal parts tradition, playfulness, rigor and, perhaps above all, welcome, that imbues the local festival with its distinctive spirit.

Though we don't produce much wine here in New Orleans, we sure know what to do with it - at a tasting, at the table, or even on the front porch.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.