The proof of the argumental pudding is always in the drinking. Not one of my best reinventions of an aphorism but you get my drift. Holding a two day tasting for consumers and trade is fine and dandy, but when the circus moves out of Dodge, if all that remains are fond memories and a few hangovers, the impact is soon dissipated. To make the event both more pertinent and more wide-ranging we have decided once again to run a targeted promotion in restaurants, retailers and wholesalers for the entire month of March topping and tailing the fair itself, to encourage wine establishments to list - and advertise - a minimum of two natural wines by the glass, one white and one red, from any of the growers participating in the fair. These wines might be highlighted, for example, on a separate page in the list, tasting notes and explanations provided, or even simply chalked on a blackboard in the Parisian style; meanwhile, customers, particularly those who attend on the consumer day, will be able to look on the Real Wine web site and ascertain which establishments are running the promotion.
Preaching to the converted is fine but this has never been simply a private conversation and we would like the widest possible range of restaurants and merchants to come on board, even for a brief period, and try something different. So many wine lists are not nothing if not conservative, either because too many wine buyers attempt to second-guess the taste of the public, or ossified because there is a lack of desire to change things (the default syndrome). Rarely presented by the glass or hand-sold enthusiastically, more unorthodox wines tend to get lost in the mix, yet these are the very wines that require the most exposure.
We anticipate that well over one hundred restaurants, bars, gastropubs, bistros and independent take part in the promotion - and take part enthusiastically. The fact that so many are prepared to make this commitment shows a gratifying openness to new ideas. But then it is also a win-win (or wine-wine) option. Raising awareness of interesting, artisan wine, getting customers to drink up the list (and to drink better quality) whilst at the same time offering better value.
Such promotions extend choice and persuade restaurateurs and their customers to engage with wine in a different way. It almost goes without saying now that we expect our eggs to come from free-range chickens and our vegetables to be organically grown and our meat to be free of preservatives; we want people to understand where wine comes from, why it is made in the way it is, what goes into it and what is taken out of it. Such knowledge empowers us and helps us to be more discriminating.
We will be working to illuminate the world of artisan, terroir-driven, additive-free wines. By operating through different mechanisms – via the fair itself, through the press and various media, in seminars and tastings and finally at the chalk face where customer meets wine, we will have plenty of opportunities to explain why we respect the growers and love their wines so much.
*A promotion of organic, biodynamic and natural wines in 150 restaurants, pubs and retailers throughout the UK
The Bull and Last, Highgate
SohoD'Vine Wines, Clapham
Club Gascon, Smithfield
Cellar Gascon, Smithfield
Caravan, Exmouth Market & King's Cross
Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, Baker Street
Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, Bristol, Manchester...
Brula, St Margarets
Richmond Arms, Chichester