Last year’s Rootstock Sydney festival saw thousands of foodies rush to The Forum in Leichhardt to taste goodies from top chefs and sip wine from awarded vineyards. This year the festival is back in a bigger venue, with chefs from Billy Kwong, 121BC, Berta and Three Blue Ducks.
The fact that the event is run by foodies, many of whom operate our favourite watering holes, made us curious. We interviewed Mike Bennie from the Rootstock Sydney team to hear more about how the event started. Plus we get more insider info about what we can expect at this year’s event.
Before you read any further – the event is on this weekend, and although the markets are free, the ticketed master classes are quickly selling out, so head to the Rootstock website to check out what’s still available.
Green Villages: Can you please explain what Rootstock is in your own words?
Mike Bennie: Rootstock Sydney is a food, wine, beer, coffee, arts and music festival that celebrates sustainable and artisan producers, coupled with a sense of fun and excitement. Come along and experience wine producers working towards sustainability and more ‘natural’ winegrowing. Celebrate food producers who farm organically, biodynamically or with sustainable practices. Or collaborate with like-minded chefs, artists, musicians, writers, thinkers and drinkers. All up, it’s a big festival for everyone to enjoy a lot of different things.
GV: How did it start?
MB: I’m a wine writer for publications including Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine and Winefront. I got together with Giorgio de Maria, importer of natural wines from Italy and proprietor of 121BC, James Hird of Wine Library and Vincent, and Matt Young and Linda Wiss of artisan sake importer Black Market Sake. We decided a celebration of things we loved, quality produce, natural wines and good times, was in order. Rootstock showcases these things, without the usual norms of food and wine festivals, and seeks a more vibrant expression.
GV: Where did your interest in sustainability come from? And why do you think sustainability is it so important in the food and beverage industry?
MB: Sustainability is both environmental and a spiritual connection to place. It isn’t always measured in terms of proven pecuniary worth, but in a feeling that connects responsibility to nature with a link to the toil of the farm. Sustainability, whether pitched to or proven, brings wine and food growing closer to nature, with less chemical and environmental impact. It works to protect and enhance the environment, locally and further afield.
GV: What can we expect to see at this year’s festival?
MB: You can learn from people like restaurateur Kylie Kwong, wine writer Max Allen, and famed international natural wine writer Alice Fiering. Or hang out with wine producers from Italy, France, Georgia, New Zealand, Australia and Austria and their amazing lo-fi wines. Why not spend Sunday at the incredible produce markets hanging out with the crew from Cornersmith or Marty Boetz who is bringing his Cooks Co-op farm project to life? Or catch a performance from a winemaker and sommelier as they approach left-field concepts about wine and laughter. We’ve got a rockstar-manned orange-wine bar featuring textural, exotic, extended skin-contact white wines of orange hues. We’ve added a sake bar into the mix for good measure. Young Henry’s is brewing a beer specifically for Rootstock Sydney, using old wine barrels to mature the ale, so we’re pretty excited about seeing that in our glass. Kylie Kwong is working with Aboriginal foods and food experts. We’ll also be listening to Alice Feiring and Giovanni Bietti, a composer, musician and natural wine writer from Italy, talking about wine in our masterclasses.We switched from a gala dinner, last year, to night markets running from 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday, where an insane line-up of chefs will be doing food stalls, with self-selected matching wines. The night markets bring the festival to a party crescendo.
GV: What are the most important things a consumer can look for when they’re trying to be more sustainable buying produce or wine?
MB: In the same way consumers can elect to make choices about food, they should be electing to make choices about wine. That’s one of the major principles we’re trying to highlight – if can make the decision to choose free range eggs over cage raised, then you’re buying into the process and provenance of your produce. Wine, without chemicals and heavy industrial manipulation, should be the same. Ask questions about what you are sourcing, whether it is where your lamb comes from, or how your beetroots were grown, or if your wine comes from grapes sourced from a biodynamic vineyard. Be more conscious about your food and wine consumption.
Rootstock Sydney 2014
February 8 and 9
Free entry to the markets
Check times and tickets to masterclasses
Green Villages at Rootstock
While you’re at the event you can relax at the City of Sydney’s Green Villages sustainable hub, where speed talks and top tips about food waste, green walls, and growing food can be heard from the comfort of a deck chair. See event details.