Rootstock (Sydney), a natural wine fair, focuses more on the vineyard in 2016

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Late last year I had a lovely time attending Rootsock Sydney. It’s a lovely not-for-profit wine fair focusing on natural wines. One of the very best.

I really enjoyed it, but I was a bit worried by the obsession with winemaking processes in defining ‘natural’, and in particular with the fixation on sulfur dioxide levels. In a blog post, I suggested it needed to return to he vineyard.

This year, they’ve shifted the emphasis. It’s now not just about what you do or don’t do to your wine. There’s a welcome emphasis on farming well, too. To quote from the guidelines to the producers:

In 2016, we are focusing more strongly than ever on the vineyard and fruit sources – this festival we will only admit wines coming from organic (as Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products, AS 6000-2009 or organic / biodynamic certification) farming – if you have mixed sources for farming, we understand, but wines to be shown must be from sustainably farmed vineyards.

For the sake of transparency, we will indicate producers using mixed sources (organic and other) as ‘in transition’, but only wines coming from organic fruit sources and 100% hand harvest only can be shown at RS16.

From 2019 RS will exclusively invite producers 100% natural farming (as Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products, AS 6000-2009 or organic / biodynamic certification).

This is a smart and sensible step. The natural wine movement should be focusing more on the vineyard. And good natural winemaking preserves the characters of the vineyards, capturing them somehow in the wine. Bad natural winemaking results in wines that taste more of the process: ‘natural’. Sometimes, effective use of SO2, particularly at bottling, can help with this.

These are the winemaking guidelines for participation at Rootstock:

Only indigenous yeasts on all production.
No additions such as enzymes, acids, sugars and tannins.
No heavy manipulation or winemaking technology (reverse osmosis, spinning cones, etc)
No fruit concentration, or raising alcohol levels
Minimal use of oak. No wood chips.
No clarification or fining through additions.
Filtration kept at minimal and must be noted.
We encourage producers to add as little sulphur as possible where no wines on show at RS2016 can be more than 50ppm total sulphur.

This looks like as sensible definition of natural wine that I have seen. It could be a model for other natural wine fairs to follow.

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