Dip Your Toes in the World of Natural Wine With This Outdoor Festival

Farmhouse Fest Wine Fair offers the very best way to explore the sometimes-daunting world of low-intervention vino.

Like all of us here at the magazine, I’m a fan of Bar Susu: it won our Best New Restaurant the year it opened and it’s been a fave spot (when we can get it) ever since—even in the new (temporary) digs at 2650 Main St.

But even I—the so-called wine editor—was a bit daunted by the all low-intervention wine list on my first visit. Usually there’s a handful of producers I know well on even the nattiest wine list—Lapierre, Radikon, Meinklang, or local heroes Rigour & Whimsy, Else, Scout—but looking at Sommelier Brittany Hoorne’s list, I’ll admit to being a little lost. Like, a lot lost.

So I did what everyone should do in such a situation—I asked the somm for help. She ended up choosing a dynamite bottle that everyone at the table loved.

Such is the sometimes-welcome, sometimes-daunting world of immersing yourself in the orbit of low-intervention wine (there’s no hard definition on what a low-intervention wine by the way—but I’m using it as a blanket term for producers who embrace organic or biodynamic methods and eschew as many additives—commercial yeasts, sulphur—as possible). Even seasoned oenophiles face the prospect of starting back at the beginning of their wine journey. Add to that that most low intervention wines ain’t inexpensive (it costs a lot more to do a lot less) and you have a situation where many people skip the natural wine altogether. And that’s a shame, because some of the most exciting and innovative winemakers are embracing low-intervention techniques, and to ignore the trend is to miss out on some seriously great juice.

The solution? Wine festivals that embrace low-intervention wines, like the inaugural Farmhouse Fest Wine Fair that’s happening this Sunday at UBC’s apple orchard. There are 27 international wineries that the aforementioned Ms. Hoorne has curated from New Zealand to Portugal to Greece to North America, and they represent some of the most interesting producers you’ll taste in BC.

Again, there are a bunch of wines I don’t recognize—which is exactly why they’re perfect for a day of tasting/exploration. Some are hardcore natural, some are simply trying to make wine with the deftest touch they can, but they’re all expressing a viewpoint in the way the Meomi does not. I do recognize a few labels from the portfolio of local wine importer and one-time VanMag columnist Pete Marshall of Sur Lie (Mac Forbes, Koerner), which is an excellent sign, but for the most part I’m going in blind, which is awesome.

I encourage you to embrace the uncertainty as well.

Tickets start at $80 and are available here.