Yes, after the phenomenal success last year, RAW is back on again this year. It’s in the same location, the Old Trueman Brewery on Brick Lane, which worked really well last year. Entry will be smoother this year as lessons have been learned from last year’s show when the unexpectedly high turnout led to a build up of people waiting to get in.
RAW 2013 is being held over two days again, Sunday 19th May which is open to the public (as well as trade) and Monday 2oth May which is trade only day, although opening to the public in the evening to help get rid of any remaining wines! Isabelle has timed this fair to coincide with the London International Wine Fair once again as London is full of wine professionals from all over the world. It should be a great event with over 200 producers exhibiting once again. Tickets are £25 on the door.
Last year’s atmosphere was really buzzing, informal and fun helped by the Bohemian venue, the great choice of natural foods on offer and of course the great array of wines. There aren’t many wine fairs the public can attend where they can taste over 500 wines without the risk of a hangover! Isabelle is very strict on her entry requirements so you can be assured these wines are all natural.
The Real Wine Fair hosted by a consortium of importers (who had split from Isabelle after their original fair The Natural Wine Fair in 2011) is also on again this year, although they’ve moved it forward to March. Both fairs were on at the same time last year effectively competing against each other, and reading between the lines I think they came off second best. I attended both fairs and found them as different as chalk and cheese.
RAW was fun and vibrant, the Real Wine Fair was dull with everybody very serious and talking in hushed tones. To be fair the venue wasn’t good as it was split into several basement rooms, and turnout when I was there was very low with only a handful of people in each room. The mood wasn’t exactly lightened by the expressions on the faces of the producers who had all travelled to this fair and no doubt realised they’d backed the wrong horse! Many of the wines weren’t natural either (in my opinion), with only 3 or 4 producers with sulphite free wines – but perhaps they prefer to leave these to Isabelle while they concentrate on more mainstream wines? They do make a point of saying it’s about individual terroir with organic or biodynamic farming rather than stating “natural” so it’s very much up to the individual’s own interpretation of what natural really means when it comes to wine. For me it means no chemical intervention but perhaps for them it just means less intervention than in factory produced wines?
The Real Wine Fair is taking place on Sunday17th March (public and trade) and Monday 18th March (trade only) at Tobacco Dock, Wapping E1W 2 SF. The Monday coincides with a Wines of California tasting so trade day could be very quiet with many choosing to visit on the Sunday instead which could of course be busier as a result. While smaller than RAW they expect 100 producers and 600 wines so there’s still plenty to choose from. Food will be available from a pop up restaurant and various stalls. Tickets £15 in advance or £20 on the door.