Friday, February 17, 2012
Real wine vs RAW wine
Those of you who attended the UK’s first natural wine fair last May might have spotted that this year there are not one but two events: RAW, aka the Artisan Wine Fair fronted by MW Isabelle Legeron and The Real Wine Fair which is being co-ordinated by the UK’s largest natural wine importer Les Caves de Pyrène.
Both parties are taking care not to slag each other off but the truth appears to be that a messy divorce has taken place due to the main protagonists inability to work together.
Legeron who styles herself That Crazy Frenchwoman maintains that hers is the real successor to the Natural Wine Fair (though both parties have agreed not to use the N word) in that it’s independent of any importers and open to producers who are not represented in the UK. She also claims that her conditions for entry are more transparent. As well as meeting a number of conditions (e.g. no fining, no filtering, only natural yeasts) exhibitors must indicate how much sulphur, if any has been added in their wines. She has also succeeded in getting the backing of two European bodies, La Renaissance des Appellations and Vin Natur.
Douglas Wregg the front man for Les Caves suggests that because consumers will be able to buy wine, their event is more consumer friendly (though Legeron counters that her fair will have a pop-up wine shop too). He also points out that because it is funded by the importers (several other leading wine retailers and distributors such as Vine Trail, Indigo Wines and Roberson are involved) it’s free to producers and that they take a less draconian line than RAW about the wines that can be submitted.
Given that event will take place over the same May weekend (20th/21st although the Real Wine Fair goes on for a third day) the situation must be pretty confusing for the natural winemakers out there. Which do they attend? Les Caves de Pyrène can presumably pull rank with their producers and members of Renaissance and VinNatur will, I imagine, throw their lot in with Legeron but if a producer falls into both camps as I guess several will, which way will they jump?
In the end I suspect it will come down to who can win the public relations war. Legeron, an energetic self-publicist, has hit the ground running with a fully fledged website and Facebook page whereas The Real Wine Fair only has a holding page to date though they are apparently due to publish more details next week. They've also taken on one of London’s most journalist-friendly PR companies, R & R teamwork.
Given the intense rivalry between the two camps it should be a pretty good couple of days for natural winelovers in London. But feathers will be ruffled, mark my words.
The Real Wine Fair is taking place at B1, 6 Victoria House, Southampton Row, London WC1B 4DA (nearest tube Holborn) and RAW at The Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane,
London E1 6QL