Real Wine Fair - Part 1 - Beyond Hipsterism


Last weekend Real Wine Fair (RWF) held its 2019 edition bringing together a record number of 175 “organic, biodynamic and natural” producers. The definition’s acknowledged lack of precision is less important than the fact that the general ethos was perceptible and clear as soon as you set foot on Tobacco Dock: the event had, as it always has since it was first held in 2012, an atmosphere of relaxed celebration offering a unique opportunity to interact with artisanal vignerons from all over the world.


Organised by Les Caves de Pyrène, the importer that pioneered and led the ‘natural wine movement’ in the UK (and arguably beyond), the exhibitor line-up was obviously heavy on the company’s extensive boutique portfolio. But RWF has long opened its doors to other key specialist players in the British market, such as NewComer Wines, Portuguese Story and Modal Wines.

The diversity of producers and origins is a testimony to the vibrancy of London’s wine scene, capable of attracting, understanding and enjoying a uniquely wide range of nectars. [If any anti-Brexit manifest were still needed RWF would be one of its ultimate expressions!]

The shop at Real Wine Fair - selling wine and coolness factor

The shop at Real Wine Fair - selling wine and coolness factor

RWF naturally is (all puns intended) territory of social media lust, with crowds flocking to the producers currently leading Instagram feeds. If two years ago it was impossible to move around the Austrian tables, this year’s popularity contenders were the American, South African and British producers. Will Davenport and Ben Wallace (of Tillingham) surely had a busy couple of days. As did Testalonga’s Craig Hawkings, who on Monday evening had no wine left, a worn voice and a sore shoulder.

But RWF has thankfully become – and perhaps unlike Raw – much more than a ‘Millennial” camera-clicking gathering. The wines on show are not (only) linked by their coolness potential and its audience has long ‘graduated’ to a larger group of urban wine cognoscenti, seeking wines that express a sense of place, show complexity and are sustainably produced.

It’s impossible to list all of the amazing wines we tasted and warm-hearted producers we talked to; we apologise in advance for the rather small highlights’ section. Please see it as an invitation to discover more:

  • Will Davenport was showing his Diamond Fields Pinot Noir to end all discussions on whether good red wine can be produced in England. Another wine we thoroughly enjoyed at his table was the the intense and textural Pet-Nat;

  • one of the loveliest, gentlest men we’ve met, Andreas Tscheppe also makes some of the most elegant wines in Styria. His Green Dragonfly Sauvignon and his Segelfalter Gelber Muskateller are wines we’d gladly drink every day.

  • Pedro Marques, owner and winemaker of Vale da Capucha, presented new experiments with ageing processes that bring yet more elegance and texture to his wines. The Wine Gang’s Ines Salpico hosted one of the fair’s masterclasses and Pedro was, not by chance, one of the selected producers, being as he is at the forefront of Portugal’s “quiet wine revolution”.

  • Adegas Guímaro, releases some of the most precise and underrated wines from Ribeira Sacra, Galicia. Tasting their new releases once again confirmed their unbeatable minerality and depth;

  • Mas de Daumas Gassac was at RWF comfortably padded by its almost cult status. A pour of 2009 Rouge would explain why they’ve attained it.

  • the Sicilian cohort was, as always, strong and unavoidable. Arianna Ochipinti, COS, Marco de Bartoli, I Vigneri and Vino di Anna keep delivering beautiful expressions of the island’s rich and uniquely diverse terroir.

  • whilst we already knew almost all of the participating producers, we were swept away by a new discovery: Iberieli, a family winery from the west Georgian region of Guria. All the wines are fermented in qvevri but don’t expect any ‘funkiness’: these are fine grained, gently crafted wines with a classic touch to it. At a post-fair dinner at which their rosé was served blind all the wine geeks around the table were ‘sure’ it was a French pour!

Were all the wines on show good? No, certainly not. There were unimpressive wines being poured, some perhaps faulty. But not more than in many prestigious Bordeaux tastings. If the anti-natural wine army wants to discuss volatile acidity, then one must discuss brett as well.

Real Wine Fair has become one the key events of the European wine calendar and last weekend confirmed and consolidated its status. Uncompromising without being dogmatic, relaxed without being sloppy, geeky without being pretentious, it brings an impressive array of producers and wine lovers under the same roof.
We are privileged to have it in London and are already looking forward to 2020!

— posted by Ines Salpico

don’t miss Part 2 of our Real Wine Fair overview in which Anthony Rose
will take a look at the great sparkling selection (and Pet-Nat craze)

Ines Salpico