Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Real Wine Fair

The third Real Wine Fair happened last weekend in Tobacco Dock in Wapping. The Real Wine Fair celebrates the world of Natural Wine, a loose term covering wines that are produced with minimal interference from the winemaker. They are typically organic or biodynamic with no pesticides, minimal sulphates, all natural yeasts, some very interesting techniques including concrete eggs and some rarely seen indigenous grape varieties. All of which lead to a very interesting range of wine that you would never see at a standard wine show. Whether or not these wines are flawed (as some would have you believe) one thing to be sure of is that there are some very unusual flavours going on in these bottles.

A slightly calmer crowd than later in the day.

We tasted a bright yellow Prosecco with a layer of yeast wisping around at the bottom of the bottle (fresh, bready and great, somehow), a fourteen year old verdicchio (a savoury delight) and some very young Portuguese wines (fruity could never go far enough). We also saw our old friend Bunan from Bandol who we wrote about last year. And there were many other long established vineyards present who have been making natural wine for a long time and probably just call it wine. Natural wine isn't a new thing or a fad, in fact not too long ago, it was the only type of wine.

Bandol white and Rosé from Bunan

But we were there to taste new wine, not go over old ground so here are a few of our favourites:

Ramones fan, Brendan Tracey is the winemaker behind Domaine le Clocher
Brendan Tracey of Domaine le Clocher is making some excellent wines and has only been at it since 2010. His Rue De la Soif Rosé was one of the standout wines. It's a hazy orangey pink wine with some pronounced ripe plum and peach flavours. His red, Une Poignee de Bouteilles, is a blend of Pinot Noir and Cos. Full on fruit here again with some powerful blackcurrant flavour. 

The Valpolicella lineup, a tempting proposition.
I'm a sucker for Amarone Della Valpolicella and Recioto, its dessert wine version from the Veneto region. These powerful wines are produced by drying the grapes on straw mats before crushing them. These natural versions from Antolini were spectacular and the 2010 Moropio Amarone was our favourite. Deep and velvety but with a lot of fruit, these are serious wines. The sweeter Recioto was a fine example of the style too, a perfect drink to end an evening. 

La Stoppa is a winery from Emilia-Romagna, with some big surprises. Not least of which was the frizzante Trebbiolo. A sparkling red wine that didn't make me reach for the spittoon which is a rare thing. However the still version did impress more and although a little younger was sophisticated and great value at £10.75. Also from La Stoppa was the lovely Malvasia Passito named "Vigna Del Volta". A dessert wine with a complex aroma and flavours of dried fruit and Earl Grey tea. The Malvasia and Muscat grapes are dried in the sun before crushing and this gives the wine extraordinary intensity of flavour.
Still or sparkling, the choice is yours.
We brought a couple of bottles from the show one of which was this strikingly labelled Chenas, Ultimatum Climat 2010 from Domaine des Vignes du Maynes. 

The tendency towards striking label design was noticeable in the natural wine world. In fact I tended to gravitate more towards bold colours and interesting text over the traditionally styled bottles. It seems to fit into the rebellious ethos of the winemakers to stick some neon pinks and slogan style graphics. 

As I've mentioned before, I love the wines of Beaujolais and Chenas is one of the crus which delivers with more power. And this example of Chenas, which we opened a few days after the wine fair is no exception. It's a deep ruby colour and there is big mature fruit on the nose. It is well-rounded, smooth but with enough tannin to give some meaty grit. It has an impressively long finish to it which was surprising for a Gamay but it seems that the natural processes and some time in oak have really given this wine bountiful character.    

Ultimatum Climat 2010

Most of the wines we tasted are available through Les Cave de Pyrene and some are on the Real Wine Website shop. If you fancy tasting some natural wine and don't want to wait for next year's Real Wine Fair then Raw Wine festival is coming up soon in May where they will be showcasing more excellent artisan wines. There is also a list of events and participating bars and restaurants for Real Wine Month here. Do try to taste some natural wine in April. It's a truly rewarding experience.


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