“Who wants some of this?!” yells a guy wearing blue denim jeans and a ripped, red flannelette. He passes a long, skinny bottle of white wine with a strange looking label over a seething mass of party people’s heads. A hand reaches up from the mob, five fingers grasping desperately for the bottle. It eventually, finally, finds its way into the clutching paw and disappears below. A tray loaded with burgers and shoestring fries is about to be thrown over a woman’s head as she knocks back a glass of wine like it was a shot of tequila.
“Hey man! You should try this! It’s delicious…”
Elsewhere, up at the back of the room, someone shouts out something about skin and contact, but the gist of it gets lost underneath the pounding thrash of drums and riffs from Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’ that throttles the stereo speaker cones.
The rumble of well oiled humans’ trying to communicate with and over each other, as well as the music and the bar staff, only adds to the noise and rock and roll vibes of this particular Saturday night in Sydney. Tonight, the room is full of some of Australia’s – and the world’s – best winemakers. They’re all hear because of Rootstock Sydney, a sustainable food and wine festival held nearby at Carriageworks.
This is the unofficial after party at Mary’s in Newtown.
Rootstock Sydney is a wine event like no other… well, in Australia at least. In London they have RAW, and the Real Wine Fair, which, in turn, were inspired by La Remise, and Salon des Vins de Loire, in France. But, even these few pioneering wine events don’t even come close to the intoxicating, quintessentially casual, larrikin-esque nature of Australia’s most prominent natural wine celebration.
“The wine mutates into a murky orange colour that smells weirdly like cherries and ginger, and tastes strangely like clove and elderflower…”
Held over two days in the cavernous, industrial space known as Carriageworks, Rootstock Sydney shines a light on good wine. Wine that is natural, organic, and biodynamically grown, with a mindfulness towards sustainability, from regions all across the world, particularly Australia and New Zealand. It promotes sustainability in the growing, processing, and consumption of food and wine, and culture… It’s a bit like Slow Food meets the Meredith Music Festival.
“Hey man! You should try this! It’s delicious…” shouts a tall, thin man in a flat cap and a loose fitting t-shirt. Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’ continues to thrash out of the speakers above our heads, and is far too loud for him to hear my protest. With a Mary’s burger in one hand, he pours a luminous looking wine out of a bottle by Tom Shobbrook called, Didi Giallo – a skin-contact riesling from the Adelaide Hills – right into my schooner glass, which is already filled half way up with the glorious red colour of Lucy Margaux’s, Domaine Lucci Sangiovese, another wine from the Adelaide Hills. The two liquids mix together and the wine mutates into a murky orange colour that smells weirdly like cherries and ginger, and tastes strangely like clove and elderflower.
The festival started as a small idea to share good, honest wine between friends – Giorgio De Maria of 121BC, James Hird from well loved Sydney restaurants, Buzo, Vincent, and others, and International Man of Vinious Mystery, and Tracksuits, wine writer Mike Bennie.
“Rootstock Sydney is a wine event like no other…”
“We wanted a festival that was fun but also educational, and had an agenda and message,” explains Mike Bennie. “We wanted to help people explore the broad church of natural wine but also to anchor it into the context of food, produce, farming, sustainability and an overarching exploration of process and provenance in the things you consume.”
This year sees Rootstock expand a little further beyond the cloudy realm of natural wines to include a whole raft of other primary producers, brewers, chefs, artisans, and creative’s from a multitude of different disciplines, yet all to do with sustainability.
“There are so many moving parts to this year’s festival,” says Mike. “There’s a raw and artisan cheese pavilion that focuses solely on producers who have their own dairy herd and produce cheese paddock to plate. An extraordinary collaborative coffee pavilion that brings together some of Australia’s best roasters, single origin sourcers and baristas.”
“The orange wine bar and the sake bar return alongside a natural-ferment, sour beer bar…”
Rootstock Sydney exploded onto the Sydney wine scene back in 2013, on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the Italian Forum in Leichardt. There were winegrowers and makers from all over the world, especially from Australia and New Zealand, talking all things natural, organic, and biodynamic in the world of wine. The tiny room was full to capacity with people, wine, and good vibes. Twelve months later, Rootstock Sydney moved to Carriageworks and welcomed over 13,500 people through its gigantic industrial doors over two days. This year, this same space will again host even more people, wine, and good vibes, with a whole lot more awesome things in store…
“There is so much more than wine at Rootstock Sydney, this year,” explains Mike Bennie. “Bars, of course, return to Rootstock with wine, beer and drinks available all day. The orange wine bar and the sake bar return alongside a natural-ferment, sour beer bar. And, of course Young Henry’s and Birra del Borgo/Nomad are alongside with their brews, as well.”
There are farmer’s markets within the festival itself, which are free for all to experience over the course of the two days.
“There is so much more than wine at Rootstock Sydney, this year…”
“There’s a huge farmer-chef collaboration in our markets,” says Mike. “Visitors can walk straight into Rootstock Sydney and begin engaging with farmer’s, primary producers, and chefs for free. You can shop at them like traditional markets, but chefs will be alongside the farmers with dishes and advice on how to cook and create with their produce.”
Rootstock Sydney also features an exciting collaboration between the Yuin people (an indigenous community from the South Coast) and author Bruce Pascoe, who will be showcasing some examples of indigenous produce and ingredients, then cooking and preparing some indigenous dishes to share.
Aussie natural wine superstars, Tom Shobbrook, Lucy Margaux, and Patrick Sullivan, will be there, along with biodynamic pioneers, Castagna, Cullen, and Jasper Hill. Burn Cottage, Rippon, and Millton will also be there from New Zealand, with loads of European producers, including Pheasant’s Tears from Kakheti, Georgia.
The full list of wine artisans, brewers, farmers, chefs, and other creators can be found on the Rootstock Sydney website.
Rootstock runs over two days on November 28th-29th at Sydney’s Carriageworks. Tickets at rootstocksydney.com
D// – The Wine Idealist
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