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Natural wines don't need quirky category, argues Real Wine Fair founder

Published:  05 February, 2014

Natural wines are now 'part of the furniture', says one of the Real Wine Fair's founders in the run-up to the 2014 event.

Doug Wregg, one of the event's founders, told Harpers that this year's Real Wine Fair is set to be bigger than ever, with 130 growers already signed up to attend, up from 110 last year.

"You don't have to put natural wines in a quirky category any more. These are wines that taste good," he added.

Wregg said it was better to highlight the wines in a positive way "rather than separate them out as if they're non-wines". "They are a part of the furniture now. One day almost all wines will be from organic vineyards. It's something eminently practical."

This year's event runs from April 13 to 14 at London's Tobacco Dock in Wapping, and will host an array of seminars, along with street food, pop up wine bars and a Georgian banquet, known as a supra, in the evening. A virtual real wine bar will run online for the month of April. Real Wine Month will also run throughout April, and will be on a "slightly bigger scale" this year, according to Wregg.

On the Sunday the fair is open to consumers and trade, with consumers generally making up about 60% of visitors. Wregg said: "The people who come are really passionate about wine and stay for hours. It's hard to get around 500 to 700 wines in just a couple of hours. It's meant to be a friendly tasting rather than having the pressure of ploughing through lots of wine relentlessly."

He said the strength of feeling behind artisan food and drink was driving the real wine movement too. "The word natural was emotionally loaded for some people so we use 'real'. These are growers who work in a certain way and have a hand-made individual approach. It's a fertile event that generates discussion about the movement without getting on a pedestal and shouting at people."

Real Wine Month is now one of the biggest wine promotions in the UK, and attracts a broad cross-section of venues from Michelin-starred restaurants to local pubs. "It's great to have a wine fair that's a two-day event, but you've got to be tasting these wines throughout the year or it doesn't have the same impact." He said that between 170 and 220 venues had signed up, including 30-40 independent wine merchants, online retailers and even wholesalers. "We're looking for over 200 outlets this year," Wregg said, based all over the UK.

Wregg said that exhibitors were joining the fair from all over, but that the Loire was the "beating heart" of the movement, while Burgundy was also incredibly strong. The Italians have a very organised approach to natural wines too. But he said while Australia was growing rapidly, there was also a "very embryonic" movement in South Africa's Swartland.