Vini Birre Ribelli 2014: Brothers in Booze

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I’ve just got back from the Vini Birre Ribelli tasting in Brussels. A wonderful few days, some amazing wines and beers and, happily, a great turn out for what is Belgium’s first real natural wine fair. A huge pat on the back to Patrick Bottcher and his team for the organisation. Fantastic to see the different nationalities (French, Italian and Belgian) coming together and to see beer and wine folk side-by-side. Brothers in booze.

I actually really like Brussels as a city – it is more relaxed and open than Paris. Even just on the restaurant-front, I ate Korean barbecue at Maru, traditional at Orphyse Chaussette and playful cuisine (think a choucroute hotdog and boudin noir burger) at Le Garage a Manger. Gosh, these were happy days.

Here are some of the other (inedible) highlights:

Visiting the Cantillon brewery with Jean Van Roy – especially tasting his two experimental batches using Stephane Tissot’s vin jaune barrels.

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Chatting with Réné Sépul about the most recent edition of his book Mange Bruxelles – a kind of insider’s guide to the best restaurants in Brussels.

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And you may find it rather strange but I love the Flemish Radio Nostalgia. In France, Radio Nostalgie plays Jacques Brel on loop and Cherie FM plays the kind of female drivel that would make even the most courageous want to start cutting their wrists. The Flanders-based Radio Nostalgia, however, had the most uncanny knack of knowing exactly when I needed to hear Cher’s “Strong Enough” or “Brown Sugar” from the Stones. Driving home in my little Renault Clio, going through the backstreets of Brussels with the music blaring, was fantastic!

The other thing that I realised this weekend was that in our industry, there are an awful lot of bruvvas-from-anotha-muvva.

Guillaume Deschamps (left, who blogs and works for Domaine Dujac in Burgundy) and Pietro Russano (right, the boss at Paris restaurant Retro-Bottega.)

And Ivo Ferreira (from the Domaine L’Escarpolette) with a mysterious twin – who is he?? (At the final winemaker dinner on Monday night.)

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Donald Edwards (left, sommelier at the Peckham Bazaar restaurant in south London) and Alexandre Ravays (right, importer and distributer of natural wines in Belgium.)

Even if you overlook the facial hair, the similarities are uncanny, aren’t they? What a great weekend and what a fantastic industry we work in!

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