Events and Tastings

RAW Wine Fair

November 7, 2016 | Brian Freedman

In just a few short years, natural wine has gone from a small but important niche to the proverbial 500-pound elephant in the room. Or, to put it more oenologically, the unavoidable methuselah on the table.

This was made abundantly clear by the crowds at the recent New York RAW Wine Fair, held this past November in Brooklyn. As the Artisan’s team made our way through the throngs of visitors and producers on Monday, November 7th, swerving like fish swimming upstream in order to get from one producer’s table to another, the massive hangar-like space felt more like a party than a staid, stereotypical wine tasting. And when we were told that the Sunday crowds had been even bigger, we knew: Natural wine had officially made it

It was no longer the curiosity it had been just a few short years ago, the much-discussed-yet-not-all-that-well-understood niche. Rather, natural wine had broken through the preconceived notions of buyers, sommeliers, and consumers alike to become one of the major forces shaping the world of wine today.

It was clear by the people waiting three deep for a chance to hear Zev Rovine discuss the wines of Frank Cornelissen, the way the lava-flow patterns formed the vineyard from which his majestic Chiusa Spagnola red comes from.

It was clear by the universal acclaim of the breathtaking, phenomenally alive Blakeman Vineyard Merlot crafted by Donkey & Goat, a wine that ran wonderfully counter to so many false wine narratives, not the least of which is that American Merlot is dead.

It was clear by the always-full spit buckets at the Dirty & Rowdy table, the constant stream of attendees filling it with Hardy Wallace’s miraculous (and, it has to be said, fantastically labeled) bottles.

Over the course of the day in Brooklyn, it became obvious that this was more than just another in the increasingly long line of excellent natural wine tastings. Rather, the 2016 RAW Wine Fair had all the makings of a coronation of sorts for the vine-growing and winemaking philosophy that has done more to alter the big-picture wine-world discussion in recent years than any other. Sommeliers and buyers from the region’s top restaurants were there, purple teeth and all, marveling, just as the newbies were, at the range and flat-out expressiveness of the hundreds of wines that were being poured.

No wonder it was as crowded as it was both days: The Raw Wine Fair 2016 was an event at the leading edge of the future of wine. If that day in Brooklyn is any indication—which it most certainly was—then that future is awfully bright. And seriously delicious. Naturally.