May 18, 2012 0 comments
The time has come. After four months of toil and sweat, planning and prepping, the Real Wine Fair is at last upon us. As someone who (tries to) straddle a line between trade and consumer, I’ve never been more excited to promote something I believe so passionately in.
I have spent three years working or attending a large majority of major food and drinks festivals around Britain. I can honestly say, I think the Real Wine Fair will trump them all.
So, what won’t you get for your £20 at the RWF (as opposed to many of these large festivals)?
You won’t get huge commercial brands who have paid a small fortune for stands to line the organiser’s pockets flogging their flavourless mass produced muck, having dressed it up in bright packaging and catchy slogans to hide the fact it’s been jacked up with chemicals, artificial flavourings and preservatives, and flown halfway across the world from some giant warehouse in which factory workers are getting paid less in a month than we spend on a night out.
For your £20 you won’t get wines found on every supermarket shelf across Britain and made in a 2000km wide ‘super zone’ like ‘Southeastern Australia’ that have been machine harvested in irrigated deserts-turned-vineyards (again with the aid of pickers getting paid pennies and again pumped full of chemicals).
You also won’t have to trade your real money in for fake ‘fair’ money distributed by girls in bright pink t-shirts thereby locking you into spending more of your aforementioned real money.
But better to talk about what you will get for your £20 at the RWF.
You’ll get to taste hundreds of wine from around the globe handcrafted by winemakers who have actually made the wine themselves-picked the grapes, harvested the land, etc etc. in small quantities often from nearly extinct grape varieties in tiny and beautiful pockets of the world. They’ve rejected the unsustainable, unhealthy chemical concoctions of modern winemaking in favour of a return to the land. You’ll get to meet these winemakers in person and taste their wines; wines whose vineyards were ploughed by horses, or have had music played to them while fermenting, or have been aged in clay pots buried in the ground. You will be surprised by wine that tastes like nothing you’ve tasted before, but that have a quivering, pure and alive beauty to them. And then you’ll have the chance to buy these often hard-to-find wines at the pop-up shop upstairs.
For your £20 you will get taste artisan cheese, meats, coffees, breads, beers, and spirits, all lovingly hand made (mostly) locally and extremely delicious.
If all that weren’t enough to get you excited, there will be masterclasses by natural wine superstars, poster exhibitions by wine-themed artists, never-before-seen-in-the-UK film screenings, top London restaurants selling special ‘street food’ meals…you see what I mean?
–by fair organiser Doug Wregg:
Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous. –Leonardo da Vinci
The Real Wine Fair and RAW, the compatriot natural wine fest on t’other side of London, herald a new age of wine tastings. As I’ve said before never mind the quantity of fairs – feel their respective quality – and the width. These jamborees restore much-needed focus on the growers and the product; for too long many tastings (you know which ones) have been resting on their scanty laurels; they have become cosy, prim, suits-galore affairs. I have attended enough to know that this results in diminishing returns and that no amount of repackaging can disguise the fact that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. The Real Wine Fair is a different sort of beast in that it wants to cut through the hype and marketing flimflam and reconnect the winemakers with drinkers and buyers alike.
Our philosophy is very simple. We believe that wine can be a natural product, one made without damage to the soil, the environment, the fauna and flora. Much commercial wine comes from intensively farmed, chemically treated vineyard monocultures. We believe that you don’t have to put chemicals or additives in to get good wine out. In fact, if you need to, you’ve probably produced pretty poor quality grapes in the first place.
We also want natural yeast ferments which give tone, texture and identity (and unpredictability) to the wines, we don’t want additives, we don’t want subtractions and over-manipulation; we prefer the oak influence on wine to be marginal at best and we think less sulphur is better. We believe that real wine is the aggregate of all these choices and approaches – whether you call it non-intervention or calculated physical intervention doesn’t matter. We’re not in favour of exclusive charters or demanding that growers opt into a club. As soon as you impose exacting strictures you create theological and practical divisions. More rules invariably means more bureaucracy. (We are not averse, however, if growers belong to other groups which have their own charters or membership criteria.) The Real Wine Fair has evolved to bring together like-minded people; like all fairs it is primarily about enjoyment and exchange and giving people the opportunity to taste the wines and learn directly from the growers and other experts.
One should appreciate that natural winemaking in the past few years has progressed considerably with the winemakers, in general, showing greater sensitivity towards process. When the first wines were made the attitude was very much “suck it and see”. Now the there is a finer understanding about what works and what doesn’t. In the end a tweak here or a tweak there can make all the difference; with a number of vintages under their belts a large number of natural winemakers are now making consistently excellent wines.
The Real Wine Fair is more than a tasting. Teaming up with artisan food and drink producers, creating a cultural milieu for wine, and taking the wines throughout the country with The Real Wine Month, the fair seeks to promote the interests of the small growers as opposed to mass-produced brands, to gently educate trade and consumers alike about the pleasures of natural wine – when so much of what we encounter is synthetic and over-processed – and to offer a modicum of diversity in a market that favours homogeneity and Stepford wines. Politics is not about telling people what they like and what is right (which is the established view in the wine trade); it is giving people the wherewithal to make the choice about which wines they might prefer to drink. Natural wine is but a drop in the world wine ocean; but as Real Wine and RAW will prove, it is a drop that will continue to send ripples across the wine world.