I am delighted to report that the inaugural Natural Wine Fair which we co-hosted with 4 other innovative wine merchants (Les Caves de Pyrène, Aubert & Mascoli, Dynamic Vines and Wine Story, since you ask) in Borough Market from last Sunday until Tuesday was an unreserved, barn-storming success albeit one that was fairly exhausting for the organisers and exhibitors.
Carefully scheduled to attract visitors who might also be attending the leviathan London International Wine and Spirits Fair in Docklands, the NWF surpassed our expectations in terms of foot-fall and we have received heaps of positive feedback. In fairness luck played a fairly major part here as the venue, in the satellite Jubilee Market, is only partially covered and either heavy rain or broiling sun would have been problematic. As it was we had 3 days of hazy sunshine and soft breezes which made for a very pleasant environment in which to taste wine and fraternize with wine makers and merchants.
The first day of the fair was aimed at private customers who paid £18 each for the chance to taste up to 500 organic and bio-dynamic wines and meet the people who make them. There was some trepidation amongst the organisers as to whether we would attract enough visitors but some terrific press coverage beforehand helped boost advanced ticket sales and many more people turned up to pay on the day. With over 700 people attending on the Sunday the fair had got off to a superb start although we were under constant pressure to ensure there were ample clean glasses throughout the day.
There was a good turnout from on-trade buyers and journalists over the following 2 days and we were delighted when Jancis Robinson tipped up on Monday afternoon and decided to interview and film the only New World wine maker present, Ron Laughton, of Jasper Hill vineyards in Heathcote, South Australia. Ron featured quite prominently at the fair because he was also the guest speaker at a talk on the New World Perspective on Natural Wine where he was introduced by NWF organiser and Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron. Ron gave his forthright opinions on everything from compost to irrigation observing that ‘if you need to irrigate you’re in the wrong place’.
Jancis also gave the thumbs up to Pascal Labasse’s Jurançon Sec: Domaine Bellegarde 2010 and Fredrik Filliatreau’s red Samur: Château Fouquet 2010 both of which she has short-listed as a strong contenders to feature at a gala dinner at her alma mater, St Anne’s college Oxford, later in the year.
Marc Imbert from Domaine de Torraccia in Corsica attracted a steady stream of visitors eager to taste his dry white and red blends (made from Nielluccio and Sciacarello) as did two celebrated Provencal wine makers Sylvain Hoesch, from Domaine Richeaume, and Laurent Bunan from Mas de la Rouvière in Bandol. Xavière Brugière’s Pic Saint Loup L’Arbouse drew praise from the Tate Gallery’s wine expert Hamish Anderson and if that weren’t enough Gérard Basset (Master of Wine and World Champion Sommelier) singled out his white ‘Les Mûriers’ as showing particularly well. Bruno Ribière’s ‘rich and nutty’ white Grenache was another wine that Jancis rated highly and she averred that it could go well with cheese – a theory I intend to test imminently.
The Natural Wine Fair certainly scotched the myth that low-interventionist wines are all cloudy, feral and funky and made by blokes with bushy beards - there were a handful of those on show of cousre but they were a tiny minority illustrating that Natural Wine movement is a very broad church and its popularity is increasing. The Natural Wine Fair had a definite buzz and the fresh feel of something innovative backed by bags of enthusiasm and goodwill and bit of good luck to boot. I for one can’t wait for the next one but I must remember to order more glasses!