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


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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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A Tour Down Under, conclusions

It was always going to be the trip of a lifetime but, my word, it lived up to that billing. There are so many positives to Australia and New Zealand. I couldn’t help thinking that these young nations are energetic, vibrant and forward thinking in comparison to so much of Europe. Links with Pacific and Asian countries are to the fore and that will be their future though they retain a tremendous affection for their European links. The many people who were more than keen to talk with us were rightly proud of their countries, eager to find out about our trip and delighted to hear our enthusiasm. Positivity abounds.

The people themselves were such a highlight, as I have said before, they are helpful, polite and know how to enjoy themselves. The climate is obviously helpful in encouraging outdoor lifestyles, admittedly we were very lucky with the weather on our trip.

The wildlife was a constant joy, seeing kangaroos, koalas and kiwis in real life was just marvellous. Birds, fish and shark were stunning. Please look after them.

Above all though it was the joy of their natural landscapes which will live longest in the memory. These are jaw droppingly beautiful countries with such variety from coastlines, mountains, equatorial forest to the wonders of the Barrier Reef. Add on man made wonders such as Sydney Harbour’s Bridge and Opera House, I find myself smiling just thinking about them all.

Regarding wine. To be honest overall I was a trifle disappointed with so many wines and wine lists. The safe, conventional and commercial are everywhere. Perfectly drinkable wines but lacking excitement. However, dig a little and quality emerges. From Kalleske in the Barossa to Hans Herzog in Marlborough and Domaine Road in Otago I found conventional wines that were very good to drink. The highlights though were from the emergence of a natural wine scene in both countries. Kindeli, Cambridge Road and The Hermitage Ram in New Zealand were certainly highlights. Shobbrook, Sullivan, Tausend are names to look up in Australia.

In a way though I was spoiled early on. The Adelaide Hills was the source of so many of my favourite wines of the trip. There is a lively community of producers, supporting each other, who are making exciting, vibrant clean wines. Gentle Folk, Jauma, Manon, Basket Range, The Other Right are just some of the names to seek out. Add to that list the excellent bottles of my friend James Madden of Little Things wines. I am biased but his wines were amongst the best I tasted during this trip. The brilliant Chardonnay, refreshing PetNat, complex Field Blend were all in my top wines.

Australia and New Zealand have young winemakers looking to break with traditional methods. Behind the wave of producers in Europe perhaps but starting to create an impression and proving to my mind that there will be some wonderful wines to savour in coming years. It is no coincidence that most of these producers have worked in Europe, for example James at Jeff Coutelou’s. They will use that learning, adapt it to their local conditions to make their interpretation of Australian and New Zealand wines. I buy into their vision wholeheartedly.

Thanks to everyone we met for making the trip so special. Above all thanks to James, Sam, Flo and Pat for sharing their home with us and being so generous. And to Howard, a great chef, host and friend.