amarchinthevines

Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc


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The melting pot of Puimisson

En Francais

In the last weekend there have been visitors to the cellars of Jeff Coutelou from the USA, Sweden, Russia and the UK. In recent times I can recall visitors from Israel, Australia, Taiwan and Japan. No doubt there have been many others. What draws everyone to Puimisson is the wine, admired and coveted from all over the world.

Mats-Eric, family and friends with Jeff.

I had great pleasure in showing the renowned Swedish writer Mats-Eric Nilsson around the vineyards looking at how the vines relate to the wines themselves. As temperatures have risen markedly in the last week it was good to see the vines in very good health despite the heat. Mats-Eric is working on a new book on wine, his previous one Chateau Vada is available now.

As you can see the Kina disappears quickly!

Within the cellar change was stirring. Whilst it is still the wines which are the flagship and main substance of the domaine there has been a shift in emphasis. The name ‘Vins et Spiritueux Coutelou’ tells the story. Vermouth (kina), gin, brandy, triple sec are now for sale. With a Coutelou twist of course. No industrial alcohol as an ingredient, meaning that labels have to carefully following guidelines. Not gin but Djinn (as in genie) for example. You may recall I reported on the making of the vermouths. There are three styles, a very dry, one with a little more sweetness from residual sugar and a red vermouth too.

To reflect this new arm of the domaine Jeff, Julien and Nathan were re-arranging barrels within the cellar to create distinct areas for the spirits. And out of that rearrangement came a new discovery for me, a port.

Made in 2012, stored in barrel (see photo above) it is in the style of a Late Bottled Vintage port. The barrel ageing had given it a hint of wood but there was a rich fruit and, as with the spirits, no strong alcohol sensation because of the natural alcohol used. Having spent some time in Porto this year and being a fan of port in general I can honestly say this wine is very good, another top quality addition to the range.

The triple sec, an orange flavoured spirit, was made in a stainless steel tank. Have a look at how it emerged at different stages from there to be allowed to settle in large bottles. The various stages are evident.

Vermouth stored in the solera cellar, the barrel on the left needs attention

With Jeff there is always change, experimenting and new wines and products. He enjoys the challenge of conjuring up and mastering the different styles. And that is without mentioning the solera system again. This really is a melting pot, a crucible of discovery. The fact that he attracts support from all over the planet suggests that many others appreciate that work and creativity.


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Real Wine Fair #3 – the beat goes on

A final gathering of thoughts on the Real Wine Fair 2019. Enjoyment featured a lot in the course of the two days. Wine tastings can be pretty straight, serious events but there was a lot of laughter and appreciation going on in Tobacco Dock. The producers I spoke with said that it had been a successful event commercially and they too had enjoyed themselves. The variety of countries, regions, soils and grapes added to the enjoyment.

As well as all those producers and wines I recommended in the two previous posts I liked the following wines very much, described in order of their catalogue number.

Austrian wines have become a favourite of mine in recent years and they were to the fore. Grabenwerkstatt produce in the Wachau, I used words like pure, fresh, fruit for a number of their wines. Two which stood out for me were Wachauwerk Gruner Veltliner 18, the vintage adding depth to the wine. The other big hit was Ried Bruck Riesling 18, single vineyard, very dry but with a hint of residual sweetness.

Muster and Jurtschitsch

Other Austrian producers to impress included Jurtschitsch, Muster and Tscheppe, a favourite of many previous tastings. Andreas Tscheppe‘s wines are consistently top quality, characterful, pure, flavoursome and thought provoking. All of Tscheppe’s bottles are worth buying, my favourite three were: Blue Dragonfly 17, a fruity, round Sauvignon Blanc; Green Dragonfly 17 from a single, higher vineyard giving more direct, melon flavours; Schwalbenschwanz Muskateller 17, a skin contact wine with lovely character of the grape supported by a dry, grippy mouthfeel, lovely and another wine to convince me that skin contact often works best with aromatic grapes.

Tscheppe wines

 

The German contingent at RWF were of particular interest to me, I have already praised the Schmitt wines. Marto Wine from Rheinhessen was also the source of some good wines, especially their 2018 Pinot Gris. Another skin contact wine, another aromatic variety, another success. Spicy, fruity and with lovely texture.

Close to my heart now and Clos Fantine from Faugères. Declaration of interest of course as I consider the Andrieu family as friends and wrote about their beautiful vineyards and wines on here a few years ago. The 2017 Faugères Tradition was on top form, fresh, fruity and with a serious side too. The 2017 Courtiol of pure Carignan was big and bold with nice tannins backing up the dark fruits, a wine to keep for a few years and enjoy. Valcabrières, the white of Terret Blanc and Terret Gris was made from 2 vintages 2016 and 17 and is one of my favourite wines, rich, fruity but dry and spicy too. I include them here on merit believe me.

From Savoie I very much enjoyed the wines of Les Vignes De Paradis and especially the 2017 IGP Savagnin, a deceptively simple wine of clean fruit with a nice acidic backdrop. On to the Loire and another old favourite, Hervé Villemade from Cheverny. His Cour-Cheverny ‹Acacias› 16 was refreshing, clean, fruit gum and citrus. Made from the Romorantin grape which 30 years ago was so scorned and is now finding recognition – climate change, better vinification and probably other factors too make the wine world ever evolving.

TWR wines

To the Southern Hemisphere. Whilst in New Zealand in 2018 I tried to visit Te Whare Ra in Marlborough but they were closed that day. So I was pleased to get to know their wines at RWF with Anna Flowerday presenting them. They are lovely wines, freshness and fruit to the fore with nice complexity. Lots to recommend including Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Syrah. However, it was their 2018 Toru Single Vineyard Blend which I enjoyed most that day. A mix of Gewurz, Riesling and Pinot Noir are co – fermented and the result was a dry, clean wine with all kinds of fruit and spice.

I tasted a number of Patrick Sullivan‘s wines in Australia, bottles such as Rain and Ada Chardonnay were much appreciated. This time though it was the 2018 Baw-Baw Chardonnay which stood out for me, a wine of real concentration and power but elegant and fine at the same time. A wine to keep and cherish.

I was fortunate to spend a good half hour with Julian Castagna of Castagna Wines. He has worked in films and now wines and made a success of everything. He’s a real character as were his two sons wowing the crowd and pouring generous samples. So many wines to enjoy here, a clear Savagnin 16, Segreto 16 of Sangivese and Shiraz for example. There were also magnificent vermouths and sweet wine too. Stars for me were 2017 Quasibianco Grower’s Selection in magnum, a delicious, full flavoured skin contact Riesling. Full yes, but elegant and refined too, bravo. And Genesis Syrah 2015, rich, round and full in a Rhone style, powerful but not heavy with flavours which lasted for ages. Top wine.

On to Italy finally. The wines of Dario Princic from Friuli are in the syle of Gravner and Radikon. I have a number of these bottles at home and was glad to taste even more at RWF. The use of skin contact has to be balanced to be successful in my view, too much and the wine can become hard and bitter. Princic consistently hits the sweet spot of extracting tannin and power whilst keeping fruit. I particularly liked his Jakot 2016, the Friulano grape. Ampeleia on the Tuscan Maremma coast is another well established natural producer, a collaboration of producers such as Foradori, Widmann and Podini. Their Unilitro bottles are a staple in my house, white and red. Here I want to end on a bombshell as my favourite wine was a Cabernet Franc, a grape I really struggle to like. 2015 Cuvée Ampeleia was a big, concentrated wine but the grapes from the highest of their vineyards have a natural freshness which enlivens the wine and never makes it tiring.

So many great wines, so many I no doubt did not get around to tasting. To taste so many great wines in all forms, red, white, skin contact, sparkling, sweet was a treat. Not to mention that wonderful Cota 45 sherry. Lessons? That there are many exciting young and new producers spreading the natural wine philosophy around the world. That more established producers should not be forgotten, their wines are often reaching new levels of excellence. That skin contact wines are appealing more and more to me, especially those aromatic varieties. That wine is fun and should be enjoyed as well as studied.

Thanks again to all who organised Real Wine Fair 2019 and to the producers for such a high standard. To the next time.

Cota4

 


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Buzzy Bs – Real Wine Fair #2

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So many good wines at Real Wine Fair, I include a selection of wines worthy of anybody’s attention and money. How to order them for this blog was the difficult choice.

The buzzy, busy Bs? Binner, Bain, Ballorin were amongst more established natural producers whose wines showed up very well.

 

Gilles Ballorin is based in Morey St. Denis in the heart of the Côte De Nuits. I liked the freshness of his wines, plenty of characterful fruit flavours, supported by a cleansing finish of acidity in the Marsannay wines but especially the lovely Fixin “Les Chenevières”. Fixin was the first Burgundy village I visited, it has happy memories and this wine lived up to all hopes.

 

Christian Binner is based in Ammerschwihr in Alsace. Yet another village which was the centre for my early visits to that region. I have been trying Christian’s wines for many years and, to my taste, they get better and better. The whole range was excellent, a lovely rosé (Si Rose) made from Pinot Gris, the beautifully named Amour Schwihr, but above all, the tremendous Rieslings, the 2016 Grand Cru Schlossburg being as fine an example of place and grape as you could ever taste. Lovely guy, and give a listen to his fun interview on the Bring Your Own podcast.

Alexandre Bain from Pouilly in the Loire is another firm favourite. His Pouilly Fumé wines are brilliant proof of how Sauvignon Blanc is a noble grape. It is mad that the authorities there make life difficult for him to get the Pouilly Fumé label because he doesn’t meet strict guidelines. The wines are superior to virtually anything else in the area. 2017 Terre d’Obus from young vines gives a real taste of the region, sharp, flinty (yes I use that word deliberately). The Pierre Précieuse 17 from older vines has more concentration and elegance whilst keeping the freshness, precious indeed. Mademoiselle M 2015 has a hint of sweetness even, very ripe, very fruity and just lovely.

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Sometimes the wine world rushes to the new and more established figures such as Christian and Alexandre can be overlooked. Do not make that mistake. These men are making wines with love and precision based on experience. Buy, buy, buy.

Other Bs were new to me but well worth sharing with you.

Social media and a mutual friend in the Languedoc, Guillaume Deschamps, meant that I have got to ‘know’ Emma Bentley without ever meeting her. It was a pleasure to finally do so along with her partner Alessandro. He now manages La Biancara after the retirement of his father Angiolino Maule, running it with his 3 brothers. The range of wines was excellent including the main Masieri white and red wines. The Garganega grape is to the fore in the whites, showing its quality in the 2017 Sassaia and Pico Bianco, the latter with oak age. Both fresh, fruity and lingering. Star of the show for me though was So San 2016, made from Tocai Rosso grapes, the local name for Grenache. Aged in barrel for 15 months this was a big wine with lovely fruit up front backed by ripe tannins which will surely allow the wine to age for many years. It was perfectly balanced, a terrific wine from one of my favourite grapes.

Gareth Belton (it begins with a B!!) and his wife Rainbo make Gentle Folk wines in the Adelaide Hills and I wrote about them last year after visiting with my friend James Madden of Little Things winery. Indeed, it was exciting to taste some of the wines because they were the very 2018s which I saw being made during my visit as harvest came to an end there. There is a terrific range of juicy, fruity and complex wines from classic Riesling (Clouds) to fresh Sauvignon Blanc (Schist), smashable rosé (Blossoms) and serious reds. Tiersman Syrah 18 from bought in fruit was one of my favourite wines tasted all weekend. Round, characterful, Rhone like rather than typical Aussie Shiraz. Lovely wine. Favourite of all though was the 2018 Village Pinot Noir with classic Pinot flavours, lovely freshness and deceivingly complex for such a joyful wine.

Bencze Birtok wines come from Hungary and left me eager to try more wines from there. Clean, fresh whites such as Riesling 17 (the 18 was even better), Kek 17 made from Bokator grapes. A lovely amphora raised wine called Keknyelu 18 with fresh stone fruit flavours. Round, enjoyable and lingering Pinot Noir 18, even better Pinot Atlas 18 from higher vineyards with more complexity, drier and purer. Best of all 2018 Rozsako (a local grape), an amber or orange wine with full, round apricot and stone fruit flavours. One of the best orange/amber wines I have tasted. This was a real discovery for me, great wines from a lovely couple.

Finally, Serbia (there’s a stressed b in the middle!). I had never tasted wines from there before but I am glad that was rectified at RWF. Oszkar Maurer is a 4th generation winemaker and I really took to his wines, highlighting 3 which was just about the highest number of any range at the Fair. The 2017 Furmint was cracking, balancing generous fruit with clean acidity, one of the best white wines of the tasting. Kadarka is one of the local grapes which Maurer specialises in tending and it provided 3 excellent wines. The oldest vines are 138 years in age, and the Kadorka 1880 was structured, fruity and generous. However, perversely enough the other two Kadarka wines were my favourites on this occasion. the 2017 Kadarka was fresh, fruity, round and just very drinkable, really good. Even better was 2017 Kadarka Nagy Krisztus, giving strawberry aromas and more fruit. There was a hint of medicinal tonic in there, it makes no sense but it’s true, which highlighted the fruit profile and added to a very successful wine.

So many great wines, believe me.

 


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April, not the cruellest month

T.S. Eliot believed it was the cruellest month but my selection of April wines proved to be generous and pleasing. Here are my thoughts, including my early front runner for wine of the year.

My first real wine tasting was in a small village in the Rhine Valley called Bacharach, in 1982 I think. It is therefore a doffing of my proverbial wine hat to open a bottle from that village. Toni Jost is one of the biggest producers there, this 2009 Kabinett was a classic Riesling, dry with a nice streak of acidity but a sweet fruit finish. I do love German Riesling, my fondness steming from that first experience 37 years ago of how diverse wine could be. In truth this was fairly routine wine, nice enough without being noteworthy. The nostalgia quotient is my only reason for its inclusion here.

 

Compare that to the 2016 Bourgogne from Fanny Sabre. I often forget how good Burgundy can thrill the tastebuds like very few other regions. There is a reason why prices have gone through the roof and my hopes of tasting Romanée-Conti have sailed off into a horizon never to be reached. My brother in law was amazed that this was natural, it was a pure Chardonnay, classic buttery and hazelnut flavours and, quite simply, very satisfying. This is a basic regional wine, nothing special about the vineyards or terroir, yet it was very well made and I am on the hunt for more of the Sabre wines.

Catherine Riss is another winemaker attracting attention in recent years, this time in the Alsace region. This 2016 Riesling De Grès Ou De Force was a bright, zesty, joyful wine. Catherine’s vineyards are spread around northern Alsace including Nothalten home to Patrick Meyer (and another of my early holiday bases). Made from vines on sandstone (grès) it delivers pleasure and has a serious side too from the acidity, a winning combination. Last time I was in Nothalten talking to Patrick Meyer he praised Catherine Riss and bemoaned that there were not more young winemakers starting out in the region because of the high price of land. On this evidence his faith is being well repaid. I’d choose this every time over the Jost. Great labels too.

By contrast the wines of Jean Foillard are well established, he is one of natural wine’s pioneers and greats, one of the major factors in the renaissance of Beaujolais as one the world’s greatest wine regions. This 2014 Morgon epitomises those points. Foillard wines imprive over several years in my experience and this was at a peak. Delicious Gamay fruit supported by fine acidity and light tannins. This is classic Beaujolais made naturally as it used to be generations ago. Classic wine.

Two other great red wines need to be saluted on here. Louis and Charlotte Pérot make wines in Cahors and (disclaimer) are personal friends whom I admire greatly. I first met them in 2015 at La Remise in Arles, one of their first big wine tasting events and, proudly, I was one of the first to praise them. Understandably they have received many plaudits since and their wines get better and better as their vineyards respond to their care. The labels change annually based on book prints, a reminder of their previous work in Paris. L’Ostal is able to make Cahors’ Malbec (or Côt) into approachable, fruity, delicious wine but with the typical backbone and structure of that region. I love these wines, this was another April success.

Sylvain Bock’s wines from the Ardèche are one of my ‘go to’ picks for enjoyment and reliability. Neck is pure Grenache, ripe but with a serious side. I have seen reports that this 2016 was the best vintage of this cuvee and I can believe it because, like all the wines I have lauded in here, there is a combination of pleasure and reflection. By that I mean, there is a serious side which makes you look closely at the wine, and think about its making not just drink it unthinkingly. Lovely bottle.

The pleasures which April wines showered upon me were greatest from one bottle however. La Paonnerie is based in the Coteaux D’Ancenis in the western Loire. The Carrogets work naturally and I have enjoyed their wines in the past. However, the 2017 Vegyes was on another level for me. Golden in colour I was convinced that there must be extended skin contact but no. The colour is the result of vines over 100 years old which provide Chenin Blanc of great purity. The vineyards have been organic since 1997, the wines are made without anything added. The result was complex. Quince flavours certainly, other fruits too but with texture and classic Loire Chenin acidity. This was a great bottle of wine.

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Loving Languedoc

After tasting wines from around the world at RAW I opened a bottle or two at home. By chance the bottles I reached for were from the Languedoc, my first love. And how richly I was rewarded.

First up was the Grenache Blanc, The Velvet Underschiste, from La Graine Sauvage in Faugères. The domaine is the work of Sybil Baldassarre and I have got to know her through Jeff Coutelou. Sybil is a trained oenologue who decided to show she can make wine as well as advise upon its making. This bottle had witty references to Velvet Underground all over the labels but the wine itself was What Goes On (sorry). Pure Grenache Blanc the 2016 had lovely tannins underpinning the apple and pear fruit. However, what made this wine stand out was how it evolved over the course of an evening. The last glass was the most delicious of all, the wine had opened out to reveal more fruit. This was a wine of real quality. I have been fortunate to taste other wines of Sybil and suggest that she is a real star to follow.

Next up was another white from Faugères, known more for its reds. Clos Fantine is a long time favourite of mine and I wrote an article about the Andrieu family and their work a few years ago after spending a couple of days with them. Their gobelet bush vines high in the Faugères hills provide clean, pure fruit. Valcabrières is their white wine from the rare Terret Blanc and Terret Gris grapes. More white fruit flavours, pears to the fore but with a clean, fresh acidity. Again this was a wine which opened up as we drank down the bottle, complex and delicious. This was a 2014 and I believe the wine would age much further but it was pretty perfect now.

And, for good measure, I opened a bottle of Jeff’s, Flambadou 2017. The pure Carignan has been a star of the Coutelou domaine for a number of years, certainly whilst I have been there in 2014. This bottle was very youthful, the wine bright purple in colour and full of fresh black and red fruits backed with soft tannins. I shall keep my other bottles for a few years to allow them to develop complexity but it is good to follow a wine’s progress. With every wine of 2017 I taste I become more convinced that it is an absolute peak vintage for Jeff, the fruit and freshness backed with tannin and depth of flavour, they are stunners. Flambadou is a great wine, this 2017 definitively so.

Make no mistake the Languedoc can produce top quality wine, these three bottles were absolute proof to me that it will always be the source of my favourite bottles. I urge you to try them and other wines from the region which is my other home.


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More from RAW

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My last post described my overall impressions from RAW, interestingly the hybrid issue has been in the news elsewhere a little, a topic I shall pick up again. To follow up I shall describe a few of my favourite wines without too much detail. If you want more technical details then the RAW site has information on each producer and wine.

Gravner is one of the most celebrated of natural domaines, a true pioneer of skin contact wine from the Friuli region. I thought these shone out against the other big names such as Radikon and Cornelissen, though I liked their wines too. Star of the show for me was my first wine tasted in the whole RAW event, Bianco Breg 2010. A blend of grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc the skin contact gave nice tannins and a firm finish but there was a lot of enjoyable white fruit flavour to add roundness.

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Brand is a well established Alsace domaine which has taken a turn to natural wine as Philippe has taken the reins. I liked a lot of these wines, my favourite was the Gewurztraminer maceration Tout Terriblement 16. As I said last time I am becoming convinced that skin contact works best with aromatic grapes and this showed lovely Gewurz notes without any of its tendency to go over the top. Lovely fruit and a long finish. (Very low sulphites)

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AMI is a newish domaine in Maranges using bought in organic grapes to make natural wines. I liked all the wines here, red and white from the basic Bourgognes to a Hautes Cotes and a lovely Maranges Premier Cru. Top of my list though was the St. Romain Blanc 17, classic Burgundy with citrus, hazelnut, cream and a delicious freshness. Definitely on my shopping list.

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Chateau Le Puy I had tasted before and enjoyed even more this time. The main cuvee from various years was lovely but my favourite was the Barthelemy 2016, from the Francs Côtes De Bordeaux appellation. There was such a depth of fruit in the Cabernet / Merlot blend, classic Bordeaux with lift! (No added sulphites). Similarly Chateau Meylet showed a lovely 2014 of real quality, not something I usually say about a Cabernet Franc led wine. (very low sulphites)

Agricola Marino has just 1.5ha of bush vines in Sicily making just 6,000 bottles. The two wines were lovely, my favourite the Turi Bianco 18 a pure Catarratto of white fruit and texture. Lovely labels too. Please someone, support Salvatore and import these great wines.

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Karim Vionnet is a well known maker of very drinkable Beaujolais. Last year in a joint venture with Domaine Viret they produced Nous, a blend of Gamay and Syrah which was generously fruity but had a lovely tannic backbone to add complexity and length of flavour. Very good.

German wines were what first got me interested in the whole topic so it was a slight disappointment that only one producer was present. However, Andi Weigand compensated in quality for lack of numbers. Some lovely wines from the Franken region using grapes such as Muller Thurgau and Silvaner. It was the latter which made my favourite. The maceration wine Skin 15 was fermented in whole bunches for 8 weeks, kept in old barrels for 3 years then refermented using 20l of juice from 2018’s harvest. The result was a perfumed, peachy and clean, fresh wine, a real joy. Unusual winemaking with no added sulphites producing great results, bravo.

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The Morins of Touraize

Domaine De La Touraize is a Jura producer and the Morins showed a series of excellent wines reds, sparkling and white. I’d happily buy them all but top of my list would be the Savagnin 15, left for 2 years ‘sous voile’, i.e. under the flor of the yeasts, the method used in sherry as well as in the Jura. The result was nutty, stony, fruity – my notes simply read ‘gorgeous!’ Possibly my favourite wine of the whole RAW event. (very low sulphites)

I mentioned Thomas Niedermayr last time as I was impressed and intrigued by his hybrid grape wines such as the Souvignier Gris. However, my favourite was the 14 Solaris 2017, (the 14 refers to the year the vines were planted). Solaris was produced in 1975 by crossing various grapes in Czechoslovakia. The fruit was clean and fresh, white stone fruit, almost green and yellow fruit gum. These were fascinating wines from the Alto Adige.

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Also from that region was Grawü, and another exciting range of wines though from more classic grapes this time. Lovely Pinot Grigio, the Bianco with Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurz in the blend was excellent too. There was another Bianco (16?) with more Sauvignon Blanc which gave more open flavours and I especially liked, as I did the skin contact Gewurz.

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Finally I must mention the delicious Banyuls wines of Domaine Du Traginer. I enjoyed their Collioure table wines but the Banyuls were something else. A lovely Rimage 17, rich and delicious Grand Cru 08 as well as a lovely Blanc 15. However, the star was a Solera 2000 which was almost clear, light in appearance but with deep, full and fresh light fruits and a rich port like finish. A special wine.

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I could mention many other wines and I feel guilty for omitting some other very good wines. RAW showed that the world of natural wine is expanding and improving in reliability and quality. To counter the most common criticism of natural wines I should also mention that amongst the 350+ wines I tasted I only detected three with a problem of mousiness and one with a very slight cork taint. Any of the wines mentioned here would enrich your wine collection.

 

 

 

 

 


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RAW impressions

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Two days at RAW London, the natural wine fair which has become part of the establishment with fairs now taking place around the world. Isabelle Legeron’s work in organising the fairs as well as her excellent book ‘Natural Wine’ and other media work has helped boost the reputation of winemakers who work organically, biodynamically and naturally and she deserves much credit.

In a way that success is a two edged sword, Sunday afternoon’s public session was very crowded and parts of the The Store were very hot, not the best tasting conditions. Monday’s trade day was much more manageable and I was able to get to almost all the producers I had shortlisted. I shall be commenting on some of those in the next article, however, I wanted to give some general impressions first.

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Simon Woolf interviewing Isabelle Legeron

Perhaps it was the fact that I spent a bit of time and lunch with Simon Woolf that orange or amber wines were to the fore of my RAW experience. Seemingly every producer is working with skin contact wine, some have been doing so for generations, some for years, some making their first experiments. Simon’s book ‘Amber Revolution’ is one of the best written wine books of recent years and I highly recommend it. As for the wines themselves, well they varied greatly. Once again I was struck by the success of skin contact wines using aromatic varieties which seem to add extra layers of aroma and flavour compared to others. Successful examples here included Riesling (Domaine Brand in Alsace), Gewurztraminer (Brand and the Alto Adige producer Grawü) and Silvaner (Franken producer Weigand). Make no mistake orange wines are here to stay.

Hybrids and cross bred grapes are gathering some attention in the wine world with climate change and disease resistance amongst the reasons for their cultivation. It was interesting to taste a few examples here notably two examples of Souvignier Gris. This grape is a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bronner, the latter a white grape produced from hybrids Merzling and GM6494 (a romantic name if ever there was one). Slovenian producer Batic and Alto Adige’s Thomas Niedermayr both had examples (they were unaware of each other’s bottles until I told them). The results were excellent in both cases, creamy but fresh white wine with plenty of good aroma and flavour. This is certainly an area of winemaking which will be interesting to see unfold.

Niedermayr wines to the left, the left bottle is Souvignier Gris, a photo showing its pink grapes is in front. The Batic example is the white bottle.

The growth of quality winemaking in Central and Eastern Europe has been well documented, the evidence was clear once again at RAW. Austria has been a source of excellent wine for a few years now, Georgia too. Add in the Friuli / Slovenia region for orange wines, Czech, Hungarian and Swiss producers too. There were some lovely wines and the story behind wineries such as the Czech Jaroslav Osicka is inspiring, a family working in organic ways, determined to do things right whilst struggling against bureaucracy and attitudes from those in authority and colleagues too. Osicka, Batic, Balog, Natenadze’s were all wineries which offered good wines from these regions and which I would recommend. My friend David Crossley regularly reports upon the growth of such wines and I recommend his report on Osicka and others here.

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The continued success of natural wine’s big guns continues unabated. The likes of Radikon, Gravner and Cornelissen attracted large crowds on both days, rightly so. These are fascinating, unique wines. Cornelissen wines have become more consistent to my taste in recent vintages and they were showing very well. In the hunt for the new let’s not overlook the established stars.

Similarly I was struck by how much classic wine regions shone for me at RAW. My favourite ranges of wines were probably the Burgundies of AMI and the Saint Emilion wines of Château Le Puy and Château Meylet. I would not have imagined that to be the case even a year ago. These classic regions have a new wave of producers, such as AMI, who are working in organic, biodynamic and natural ways and the results are great. Expensive, perhaps, but delicious.

Finally, fairs such as RAW always throw up surprises and new discoveries. I had no intention of visiting Sicily producer Marino but an empty table on a crowded day proved fortuitous. I really liked the two wines of this small domaine, the Turi Bianco in particular. As is so often the case lovely people make lovely wines, a young couple deserving of success. I was pleased to see David liked them too in his report. Other pleasant surprises: the Welsh producer Ancre Hill, with a terrific Orange Wine (of Albarino grapes) and two PetNats; a new Languedoc producer to me, Mas Lasta with fresh, flavoursome wines including a white wine made from Grenache Noir; the excellent Banyuls wines of Domaine Du Traginer.

By Monday afternoon my tasting abilities were exhausted. As usual there were regrets at missing one or two producers but I had enjoyed myself and came away confident that RAW winemaking is in a healthy place with new, exciting producers and ideas emerging to join the wealth of talent already established. I shall be sharing more of my particular findings next time.

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