People for whom English is not a first language, and/or those who do not use social media may not be familiar with the letters WTAF. For the benefit of those readers, according to the Urban Dictionary, they stand for ‘What The Actual Fuck’ a brief and rudely vivid way to express extreme surprise. Anything less startling would qualify for the even more concise WTF
WTAF now has an alternative meaning, however: it also refers to a young group of six UK-based wine companies called World Traders for Alternative Formats all of which offer wine in packaging that goes beyond traditional glass bottles.
In case of any confusion, perhaps I should make clear that the choice of a potentially shocking name and initials was no accident; the businesses in question - BIB Wine, Canned Wine Co, Copper Crew, Graft Wine Company, More Wine and When in Rome Wine - all knew precisely what they were doing.
Just as they knew that hosting their first tasting to coincide with the COP26 meetings 400 miles - or 640km - further north in Glasgow would attract more media attention than if they’d held it a few weeks earlier or later.
Provocatively, the group stated that “It is an open secret in the wine industry that the only way to make a significant step towards sustainability in wine is to move away from glass bottles" WTAF, they explained, is "a group of like-minded wine brands [in] an alliance to help reduce the industry's carbon footprint".
Sadly, other commitments prevented me from attending what I was told was a great event, with some very tasty wines. But I was absolutely there in spirit. I loved everything about it: the environmental credentials; the long overdue promotion of alternative formats; the way these businesses were collaborating; and the choice of a name that was so clearly targeted at an audience we desperately need to engage with wine.
Cans, Bag in Box and pouches – but especially cans - are still seen as transgressive by far too many traditionalists, so why not promote them using an unashamedly transgressive term?
WTAF simply reverses the wine trade tradition of saying that, if you want to taste classed growth claret, you had to dress up in a suit and tie and attend an event hosted by a St James’s merchant in a smart London club.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with those tastings – I’ve enjoyed and learned from far too many to criticise them – but they only represent part of the industry, and anyone who wants to help wine compete more effectively with spirits, beer and hard seltzer should welcome initiatives like this.
And, with all due respect, maybe anyone who disagrees should STFU.