Wine Culture Magazine

Toronto just had its first festival by RAW WINE, the international celebration of natural, organic and biodynamic low-intervention vino. Could Vancouver be next?

Hundreds of wine lovers gathered at Wychwood barns for RAW WINE. photo

Toronto’s granola-crunching, organic produce-buying residents are well familiar with the Wychwood Barns in the city’s north, a frequent locale for farmers markets, foodie festivals and tastings of all kinds. On November 16, 2022, hundreds of somms, wine directors and the natty-wine loving public crowded into the bright atrium of the vintage brick building to meet top producers from B.C. (Similkameen’s Scout), Ontario (Scouthbrook Farms plus Rachis & Derma from Hidden Bench) and around the world.

Founded in 2011 to celebrate clean, additive and pesticide-free wines, RAW has in the past included Montreal on a global circuit that also includes fairs in London, New York, L.A. and Berlin, but this year was Toronto’s first. RAW’s Charter of Quality and vetting process are now considered by many to be gold-standard resources in a segment of the wine industry that is projected to grow globally by up to 10 per cent a year.

More than 60 wineries and their Canadian agents poured hundreds of fizzy, cloudy, orange and funkily fermented wines, along with a dozen more aspirants seeking distribution in the Canadian market. One of those was Magula Family Winery from Slovakia, which took part in a seminar on Slovakian wine moderated by RAW WINE founder Isabelle Legeron.

Micro-roastery Subtext was brewing excellent strong java, the Slow Jams food truck dished Filipino cuisine and busy exhibitors munched slices from the neighbourhood MAC’s Pizza between pours.

RAW WINE also included seminars and tasting panels. photo

Other seminars included an Austrian panel and tasting moderated by Alo’s Christopher Sealy, recently Michelin-christened Toronto’s best somm; and one on current market trends by Mark Cuff of The Living Vine (a pioneer in bringing low-intervention wines to Canada since 2005, and RAW’s partner in helping produce the Toronto event).

Famous labels (like Sicily’s Frank Cornelissen and COS, and Domaine Grosbois from France’s Loire) chilled alongside lesser-known natural wines from Georgia, Greece, Chile and Australia. Some surprising pours included a flight of lovely natural sakes from Yoigokochi Sake Importers, and the bartender-candy lineup of vibrant liqueurs and eaux-de-vie from Distillerie et Domaine Cazottes. (It’s Tomate gives heavenly notes to many a Tomato Martini in New York at the moment.) Laurent Cazottes, the son of the southwest France winery founder Jean, captures the essence of prune, elderflower, pear, quince, cherry and more.

Many of the producers from The Living Vine’s stellar portfolio of small and family-owned wineries could be coming to a restaurant or bottle shop near you, since Vancouver-based AmoVino Wine & Spirits has formed a partnership to bring them to Western Canada.

“RAW Toronto was an incredible experience,” said AmoVino CEO and managing director Marisa Vargas. “The energy in the room was electric, the people friendly and … it [was] easy to spend a bit of time at each table. I took advantage of spending time with all of the suppliers we are now selling in BC through our recent AmoVino x The Living Vine BC partnership.”

Could Vancouver be the next city to land on the prestigious RAW WINE fair circuit? B.C. fans of all things natural say: We’re thirsty—bring on the funk.

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