Those lucky enough to be in London for the Bank Holiday had a chance to go to an superb event at the Round Chapel in Hackney, organised by Tutto Wines and Gergovie Wines. Both importers, along with a handful of others, have done much to create a space for natural wines in the London market – 15 years ago wine-drinking here was neatly segmented into high-end Bordeaux and Burgundy, set against high-alcohol, often New World, rotgut sold to the masses at off-licenses. Natural wines, with their exacting standards of facture, respect for the land, artisanal approach, and sheer contagious enthusiasm, have brought in younger, cosmopolitan drinkers and really breathed life into the wine scene here. While events like RAW have popularised natural wine, bringing in producers from Germany, Austria and further afield, Tutto and Gergovie have maintained a distinct Italian and French focus. On the retail side, Noble Fine Liquor, closely associated with Tutto, has made Broadway Market in Hackney pretty much the hottest place to buy top-end, often idiosyncratic producers, particularly from Italy. A short distance away, the eno-bistrot Brawn, by another natural wine pioneer Ed Wilson, keeps Columbia Road amply fed & watered. Lastly, south of the Thames, Gergovie’s food venture 40 Maltby Street, with its phenomenal but simple food and tiny menu, the place to go, even as Borough Market has descended into a tourist-driven fracas of selfie-sticks and ‘street-food’.
Rant over…so this event was organised primarily for trade and growers, almost entirely from Italy, France, and Slovenia. It was in an awesome de-consecrated Victorian chapel off Lower Clapton Road, across from Noble’s second venue P. Franco. I can’t find much on the history of the chapel, but it had distinct echoes of the fine early Christian basilicas found in Constantinople and in Northeast Italy, the old Exarchate of Ravenna. The room was hung with the lovely posters that have long been a feature of the London and Paris natural wine shops/enotecas, and are so sorely missed in the hyper-commercial (and somewhat more restaurant-based) New York wine scene. There was a distinctly aesthetic vibe to the whole thing, from the posters, to the small-scale but utterly conscientious attitude of the growers, and even to some of the London-based staff, artists working part-time in the food and wine businesses around Maltby St.
We ended up mostly sticking with the Italian stalls, with no disrespect intended to the others ! Food was essentially a holocaust of rabbits, grilled outside by 40 Maltby Street’s awesome team. The evening ended at Brilliant Corners in Dalston, where wine crosses audiophile vinyl.
In keeping with the superb spring day, it all got a bit out of hand, with a bit of a Dionysian rendition on the preacher’s pulpit. A tender respect for religious sentiment restrains me from a pic…
There were a number of other Italians that I didn’t manage to get pictures of – like Skerlj from the Carso in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, and of course all the wonderful French winemakers. We also missed, but are looking forward to see at RAW, some others: Cornelissen, Radikon, Lamoresca, Quarticello and so many more from other regions in Italy.