Humbuk - My Journey with Natural Wine (So Far)
And now.. the end is near.. No, just kidding. But the message of the eternal classic 'My Way' rings very true in this case.
I get asked questions about my 'wine career' and my 'wine pursuit' relatively frequently. It's only natural (pun not intended) - my presence on social media is basically only wine oriented, I don't have Facebook, plus this blog. It makes sense that a lot of people draw conclusions that wine pays my bills and that's "all I do".
But the story is a lot more complicated! So here to set the record straight, a little tour de my life. In short points, cause that's how I like it.
I do not work in wine, nor do I plan on working in wine - I work (primarily) in the energy industry selling electricity and gas and managing renewable resources aka production of electricity from water and solar power plants. Plus I love to get involved in community development projects and would love to do more of that in the future. Fun energetic stuff!
I used to work with wine - I worked for a year as the F&B Manager at 5* hotel Chateau Heralec in the Czech Republic between 2011-2012. It is my family's property and I took over the position very spontaneously and as a form of crisis management to ensure that my Mom - who was in charge of the project - wouldn't have to move away from my three younger siblings at the time. The property is two hours away from Bratislava and I was living in London at the time so they would have been left alone with my father who although is a great dude doesn't know how to work a microwave let alone feed and take practical care of children. I had no idea what I was doing with 0 previous experience but we made it work. Story for another time though!
I have a very conventional wine background - If I think back to the amount of 'conventional' wine I have consumed in my lifetime, dios mio! My interest in wine started when I was 17 when my older friend Kristina used to take me for a bottle of rose after driving theory lessons every Monday. You know, normal way to learn how to drive. It was when I started working at Heralec that my interest spiked because well, it sort of had to. I had amongst other things an entire cellar of one of the biggest collections of vintage Bordeaux in the country under my management and to say that it was a challenge was an understatement. But I fell in love and started to dig in, taste, study etc. I left the job after the year to continue my college degree but the wine bug bit me hard.
I went on to do my WSET - Back in London, I missed wine and so went on to do my Level 2 and Level 3. Great experiences, but nowhere near natural wines.
I started writing about wine as a form of therapy - After my return from London, I started working and just drank wine on the side. Still no natural wine in sight. I've loved to write since a very early age - 5th grade poetry competition winner, whaddup - but under the pressure of work, responsibilities, family etc, there was no time. In 2015 however I underwent a terrible breakup. Such a cliche, I know! We broke up three days before New Year's Eve 2016 and I was devastated. In January 2016, a zombie version of myself, I woke up one day and told myself that I'm not doing this break up shit and that I need to do something in my free time to take my mind off of it all. So I decided to combine two of my greatest passions and VinoTina was born.
I tasted my first natural wine in January 2016, 15 months ago - In other words, when this blog was set up in early January last year, I still had literally ZERO idea what natural wines were. It's almost unbelievable to me at this point, but that's how it is. The moment happened in Prague with my best friend Zuzka who had discovered this world much earlier than me and well... it was a moment that changed my life.
A lot has happened since January 2016
I fell deeply and madly in love with natural wines, a term I'm using for the sake of simplicity in this case. Fell in love with these wines, the winemakers who make them, the people who drink them, work with them and promote them and the nature that makes it all possible. I've met tens of incredible people from all around the world, traveled around Europe in search of these wines, read countless articles, tasted probably hundreds of wines (rip liver). And my conclusion? I still don't know that much at all. But I will never want to stop learning and knowing more because this is a beautiful, heartbreakingly important world.
So why am I telling you all of this?
Well, my relationship with natural wine may not be substantial and long term compared to others who have dedicated a lot of sweat and tears to it but it is here to stay.
In relation to all of this, there is a project I got involved in that I'd like to introduce you to! Humbuk. I was approached a couple months ago by Miška and Robo, two people I didn't know at all at the time. We met formally at the wonderful event of Družstvo and I don't think it's a coincidence. Their wine-pop up parties organized in Prague (and in December they took Vienna by storm, soon to happen in Brno) are fantastic - you definitely must go if you like a good party and are curious about natural wine - and served as one of the inspirations for Humbuk. So what is Humbuk?
Miška and Robo, who I hope to interview on here soon so you get to find out more about them too, approached me with a simple idea - Bratislava should be a natural hub for natural wines. It is within an hour away from epic wineries in Slovakia, Moravia and Burgenland, two hours away from many more. It is literally a geographic center as opposed to say Prague or Vienna. So why doesn't the general consumer here know about natural wines and isn't drinking them by the gallons? Well, we'd like to change that.
Humbuk will be irregular wine tastings of individual natural winemakers organized in various spots around Bratislava. A casual atmosphere, music, food, lots of drinking and hopefully, lots of curious people wanting to know more. Each tasting will be dedicated to one, maximum two wineries and will be essentially a tasting of their portfolio with the winemakers directly present. A showcase of the various people involved and their beautiful wines under one homeless roof.
This is not a commercial thing - all three of us have non-wine full time jobs and are doing this 'for fun' as they say. Our aim is for winemakers that we love to hopefully reach a new audience and feel comfortable in their presentation and for people who attend to discover things they may have never thought to try. I'm really excited about this and if nothing else, very grateful Miška and Robo approached me because they have since become very dear friends of mine. I love you guys.
Our first event will take place on Thursday 27th of April! Winemaker and location to be announced. In the meantime you can follow us on Facebook and/or Instagram. And meet Vincent, our raccoon friend and mascot.
Because there shouldn't be so much humbug around wine after all.
Thank you Miska and Robo and thank you to Matej Spanik for putting together our visuals and bringing Vincent to life - you're the boss.