“Fun. Foremost, wine is fun. Beyond that, some new knowledge about wine producers and their personalities,” says Mike Bennie, wine writer and one of the organisers of Rootstock, on what the average person should aim to gain at the festival.
Rootstock, a one-day event tagged as a 'sustainable, artisan wine and food festival', sounds far more niche than it really is. “‘Sustainable’ and ‘artisan’ was a way for us to let people know that the theme of our event tended to smaller fine wine producers who farm their own land and use organics and no chemicals in their winemaking,” says Bennie. Really it’s an insight into and celebration of sustainability and small producers.
Acknowledging that the definitions of natural, biodynamic and the like tend to be hotly debated, there’s an obvious difficulty in creating a festival around such a concept. “That's why we wrote our own manifesto, saying what's important to us and that these basics need to be followed in order to be part of Rootstock. [For] example, no chemicals and exclusive use of indigenous yeasts...” says Giorgio De Maria of 121BC, also at the helm of Rootstock.
It’s not about shutting people out, but rather, dissolving a divide. “‘Natural wine’ as a term tends to draw a line in the sand – an us and them feeling which we wanted to avoid,” says De Maria. “Instead, we hope that by tasting wines from the line-up of producers, people can get to know more about their philosophies on wine and farming.”
There is a true sentimentality and emotion tied to the very concept of food and wine here. De Maria muses that his hope for the average attendee is to “experience a flavour that blows his mind away…or that [makes] him cry because it reminds him of a specific experience in his childhood”. And with such an array of passionate providores to stir you, maybe that’s not so out of the question.
Marketplace and Music
It would be unusual for a food festival to forgo a market. Rootstock delivers exactly that and then some, including bread, fresh produce and even beer. But the market will also boast stalls from the likes of Hartsyard, Kitchen by Mike, Sample Coffee, Reuben Hills and Three Blue Ducks, among others. You could hazard a guess that it's not quite your typical market fare. Bluejuice will perform a free set, adding to the upbeat vibe. But a more conceptual piece called Sounding Terroir will intriguingly “challenge the orthodoxy of terroir” by means of a layered musical composition.
Wine Festival and Orange Bar
The Wine Festival portion may be ticketed at $40 (discounted if you buy online rather than at the door) but it includes tastings with more than 30 producers, so it’s really not too shabby if you can pace yourself. However, for those unwilling to commit to more than a glass: Orange Bar will be like channel surfing through varieties of extended skin contact whites. Served by the glass, the list and sommeliers will rotate throughout the day, giving you a little bit too much incentive to pop in several times just to make sure you haven't missed anything. Orange Bar is open from 11am to 7pm, so plan your day-drinking accordingly.
The Masterclasses are for the real wine enthusiasts, hosted by a host of wine identities. The classes are divided into themes of food and wine, and producing wine. Tickets are limited so make sure to book ahead. Each 45 minute class is $30 including wine and is an invaluable way to get your viticulture and oenology geek on.
Splash out with a ticket to end the day at the long table dinner. It’s a communal celebration of good food and wine, involving five courses served up by four chefs from restaurants championing produce-centric dishes: Luke Burgess from Hobart’s Garagistes, Ben Greeno from momofuku seiobo, O Tama Carey from Berta and Mat Lindsay from the yet-to-be-opened Ester Restaurant & Bar. Of course, it’s the kind of dinner that warrants nine different wines.
Rootstock is on Sunday February 17 at the Italian Forum Cultural Centre, Norton Street, Leichhardt.
Wine Festival: 10am–5pm
Masterclasses: From 11am
Orange Bar: 11am–7pm
Dinner: From 7pm