When Rootstock Sydney kicks off this Saturday it will bring you some of the most appealing natural wines around. But unlike other food and wine festivals, this won’t just be a round of sip and spit with a few food stalls on the side: Rootstock is also a chance to meet some of the world’s most interesting producers. In partnership with Broadsheet, the two-day festival will be hosting six interactive masterclasses. Each one will be an open discussion with a corresponding tasting session. Here’s what to look forward to:
Pipeño – Chile’s ancestral, historical wine style
Rootstock’s first and probably most unique talk introduces Sydney to Pipeño, a traditional wine-making style from South Chile. The three producers coming to Rootstock are part of a collective who’ve resurrected the wine-making traditions of Chilean’s past. “Their fruit is sourced from bush vines, which were planted originally by the first Spanish immigrants,” says Mike Bennie, Rootstock’s co-founder and co-organiser. “The wines are fermented in traditional old wooden vats and then bottled very quickly after fermentation to be a young, fresh, vibrant wine style.” It’s an incredible opportunity to try – and learn about – some wines that are extremely rare in Sydney. “They're only really drunk by locals. This is probably the first time anyway has done a masterclass on Pipeño anywhere outside of Chile, if they have ever done one there,” says Bennie.
Exploring provenance – a conversation and tasting around the importance of quality ingredients
If ever there was a summary of Rootstock’s intention, this is it: three producers with an uncompromising attitude to natural processes and one chef who champions the ingredients they, and creators such as them, produce. “This talk is a distillation of what we've been working towards, which is getting people to focus on the base product,” says Bennie. The line-up includes Tom Shobbrook (Tommy Ruff & Didi Wines), Ashley Huntington (Two Metre Tall), John Wurdeman (Pheasant's Tears, Georgia) and Kylie Kwong, who will be discussing the importance of their base ingredients. There’ll also be tastings: starting with steamed dumplings stuffed with native produce, then a sour beer from Huntington and wine from both Wurdeman and Shobbrook.
Jurassic parts – wines of the Jura region
Ten years ago, nobody outside of France would have heard of Jura. Now it’s known for some of the world’s cult wine producers. “This very agrarian region is suddenly the hottest wine region on earth, almost. It's a wonderful story,” says Bennie. “Most of these producers are just farmers who have produced wines for generations in their family lineage.” Bennie and the Rootstock team have brought in Philippe and Tony Bornard, two producers who Bennie describes as “the apex of Jura’s wine producers”.
Gurandgi munjie – Aboriginal agriculture
Last year at Rootstock Sydney, we learnt of pre-colonial Aboriginal agriculture and how the first bread ever made was likely to be Australian. That was thanks to Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe. Since then Pascoe has been working on a project to revitalise Australia’s indigenous farming traditions with young Indigenous Australians. This year he’s back to talk about the project’s progress. “He’s been establishing farms to try and grow and sell traditional produce. Particularly focusing on the staples, tubers and grains,” says Bennie.
Pascoe’s aim is to have native yam daisies and bread made with indigenous grains on every table in Australia. Rootstock will at least give him a chance to get it into our minds and mouths. The talk will be accompanied by a tasting prepared by chef Pasi Petanen, probably involving some kind of baked good based on native grains.
Nebbiolo resistance – authentic wines of Piedmont
This talk will be a drinkable journey through the Piedmont wine region presented by Olek Bondonio. “Sandy blonde hair, shorts, T-shirt, a weird tan and bad sunglasses. An archetypal surfer who produces wines that go against the grain in Piedmont,” says Bennie. The “grain” in Piedmont has, for a long time, been to produce wines of incredible power. Bondonio and his peers will be pouring wines with a cleaner, subtler taste brought on by minimal intervention production and experiments with alternative grape varieties.
Bull boar sausage – Australia’s unique cultural heritage in a humble snag
“Most people probably aren’t aware that within our culture of barbequing – Bunnings sausage sizzle, school fete with a barbie – that there's this totally original sausage that's been produced since the mid-1800s,” says Bennie. The producers are migrants from the Italian side of Switzerland. That’s not to say this is a Swiss product though. These snags don’t exist in Switzerland; they come from a few families (passed on through many generations) in rural Victoria. “People will say ‘ah, this is just a session about sausages’ but it’s not really – this is a pretty firm stance on what you could call Australian food culture. It's an appropriation of the landscape through the veil of cultural traditions of somewhere else,” says Bennie. The sausage, a spiced mix of beef, pork and wine, is so unique it’s actually Australia’s first listing in the Slow Food International Ark of Taste. The talk, led by generational snag-maker Gary Thomas, will be part history lesson, part sausage tasting and part sausage-making lesson.
Tickets to each talk can be purchased at rootstocksydney.com/talk-test.
Rootstock Sydney will run from Saturday November 28 until Sunday November 29 at Carriageworks in Eveleigh. Tickets are on sale now through Rootstock's website.
Rootstock Sydney is a not-for-profit organisation and festival and relies heavily on the support of a vibrant community for its success. The team is currently scouting for volunteers to help the chefs, winemakers, producers and festival organisers. You can enjoy the event as part of being a volunteer. To register your interest and for more information, see rootstocksydney.com/volunteer.
Broadsheet is the proud media partner of Rootstock Sydney, and is excited to present the Broadsheet Masterclass Series.