As many of you will know there were two simultaneous “natural” wine fairs held over the same weekend in May in London recently, RAW and “the Real Wine Fair”, each organised by the organisers of last year’s Natural Wine Fair who went their separate ways this year. There was much speculation which would be the better fair.
RAW was organised by Isabelle Legeron (Master of Wine, “that crazy French woman”) at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. The venue was superb – all in one big room with white walls, bright and airy with natural light, and just the right temperature. This is important for such a big tasting with over 200 exhibitors as it takes time to get round so many wines, and it’s good at times to get out of the crowd and get some space and cool down.
The atmosphere was fantastic with a real “buzz”. There were some great wines on taste too and all had their sulphite content displayed in the catalogue so the visitor could make their own informed judgements on which were truly natural and which had added chemicals. The food available was also delicious, mainly French in style. There was also a French natural brewery present and their beers were fantastique – perfect for cooling down at the end of the show. All in all it was a really enjoyable fair, and also very productive by all accounts. There were over 3000 visitors and many of the wineries looking for representation in the UK say they got some serious interest.
I think Isabelle should be very pleased and very proud of what she achieved. We look forward to next year’s show.
The Real Wine Fair
This took place in the basement of Victoria House, which was a maze of separate rooms. As a result the atmosphere didn’t quite have the same buzz. According to the figures fewer visitors attended this fair (despite it running a day longer) which may have also contributed to the more sedate atmosphere. We asked about the sulphite content of the wines as it wasn’t displayed in the catalogue, and the first wines we tasted contained plenty although they couldn’t tell us how much. Some of the stalls were manned by staff from the conglomerate of UK importers rather than the winemakers themselves so we found they couldn’t give us specific information about each wine. We found this to be less of a “natural” wine fair and more of a “biodynamic” fair, and they are two very different things.
We were pointed in the direction of the four “sulphite free” producers out of the 200 or so exhibitors, but we weren’t impressed with their wines. Given that we had tasted quite a few quality sulphite free wines at RAW, to have such a small number at this fair of a comparatively low quality put the two fairs into perspective for us. All in all we found the fair a little disappointing and after a few hours we actually left and went back to RAW.
I expect next year’s RAW will be a sellout. It may be that other people enjoyed The Real Wine Fair and took something positive from it but between the two I don’t think there’s any question which was the more imformative, the more enjoyable and perhaps most importantly the more natural.