I hope you managed to get through Part 1 without too much struggle. I agree that it was rather long but I hope it broke down the notion of natural wine, which is a bit confusing to grasp for many ‘wine lovers’ – hubby didn’t understand a thing in my post, haha. So I’ll keep Part 2 short..ish.
The stalls were arranged by country in one big open space, which made it easier to mingle with visitors and stumble upon different stalls, compared to last year. I didn’t take photos of all the wines I tasted but the wines that are featured here are the ones I thought worth a note. I took time, scanning the stalls, relying on my psychic power to lead me through the sea of wine and writing down tasting notes.
Though I didn’t taste them by country, I’m going to mention by region for convenience.
Now, let’s start with France.
Among the few I tried from Languedoc, Chateau La Baronne gets an honourable mention. Their wines were all vibrant with lush fruit and elegance, which people don’t really associate with the region. The producer explained in detail about the blends and methods for each wine, specially putting an emphasis on the age of the vines. ‘La Baronne Piece De Roche’, made from Carignan planted in 1892, was excellent, medium bodied, bursting with cassis, blackberry, plum jam and licorice, and very elegant.
‘Les Chemnins De Traverse’, a blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Carignan, was also delicious with fresh fruit and refreshing acidity. This one wasn’t aged in oak but was treated with regular batonnage for 6 months, and has no added sulfites and no filtration like all of their wines.
Their white, made from the Italian grape variety, Vermentino, was interesting because it was fermented both in amphorae and stainless, and spent 5 month on lees. It had an aroma of pear, peach and herbs.
The next was a series of red and white wines from Domaine Arsac from the Rhone, which was pretty good, too. The reds, especially Les Galets 2015, a blend of Grenache and Syrah, is very aromatic with intense red and black fruit, violet, thyme and minerality. Terra Occidens 2015, a blend of Merlot – hang on, Merlot in the Rhone? Raw Wine is full of surprises! – and a bit of Grenache and Syrah, had more weight than others. I’m not big on whites but their whites, Chardonnay and Vigonier were nice and pleasant as well, and an excellent value for money.
Strangely, none of the Loire wines got any notes and I feel like I missed out on something. It’s a pity that I didn’t get to try many Languedoc and Roussillon, either. The reason was that I wanted to try more Italian and other countries since they are rare to come across.
A special treat, Pinot Noir from Seresin Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand. Bursting with bramble fruit, rosehip, and spices, it was a delight to sniff and sip, bringing back my old memories of camping in NZ forests due to its vegetal and herbal undertone. I know some people don’t like herbaceous aromas in wine but I do because I love forests and also cooking with herbs and wild plants.
Out of all, Rachel Pinot Noir was my favourite, rich and earthy with silky tannins and a long elegant finish.
FYI, Momo is fermented with whole bunches whereas Leah was destemmed, and Rachel was hand-plunged twice a day and went through long post maceration, thus giving the richness and firm tannins but rounded and silky. Are you drooling?
Another special treat was the wines of Gratavinum, Priorat.
Gratavinum, 2 piR 2011, is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Cab Sauv, and Syrah, and Gv5 is a blend of the first three, and Silvestris, a blend of Grenach and Cab Sauv. All three were very unique and satisfying, with Gv5 being my favourite of all. Such powerful stuff, but with delicious raspberry jam and velvety tannins.
Now Italy! Overall, I was very impressed by the quality of Italian natural wines at the fair.
Radikon, though quite well-known in the natural wine world and recommended, I didn’t get any noteworthy impression.
I tried a series of their whites, made of Pinot Gris, Friulano(Sauvignan Vert), and Chardonnay blended with Friulano. The deep hazy colour and high tannins were tell-tale signs that it’s orange wine but I found their wines were a bit too tart and tannic for my taste. Perhaps, it needs more years to soften, as I was told they were barrel samples. I think Slatnik was the most favourable and it went through 12 day skin maceration, in comparison to 2-3 weeks with others.
Another hidden-gem I found was Ampeleia, whose story is as unique as their wines. They use diverse Mediterranean grapes grown at different altitudes and the style is quite refreshing and unconventional.
My favourite was Ampeleia 2013, which was made with Cab Franc grown at a high altitude and a small portion of Sangiovese and G.C.M.A (4 Mediterranean grapes). As complex as the blend, it had aromas of black fruits, forest floor(can’t believe I just said this), woody(not oaky) and a whiff of vegetal notes- surprise, surprise, it has Cab Franc! – and was round with supple tannins and an elegant finish. Kepos was also lovely and lighter, made mainly with Grenache and only fermented in cement tanks.
Next to it was Foradori, a renowned winery by Elisabetta Foradori, but unfortunately I don’t have much to say. All I have is ‘X’ next to the name and can’t even remember why I didn’t like the wines. Perhaps, my palate was exhausted and needed some food? I’ll try it again IF I go there again next year. Some wines are not for everyone.
Yes, it’s time for food! Upstairs were some tables of food from London restaurants and cheese!
The Singaporean woman, who I mentioned before, and I compared our tasting notes over a selection of French cheese, Reblochon, Mimolette and Comte-like Jura mountain cheese. Excellent choice for the orange wines we’d been drinking!
The only problem was the wooden knife, which was hard to cut the cheese with. Next time, I’ll go with my own Opinel knife, haha.
There was also some food at The Studio Kitchen, where I joined the newly acquainted people for the after-party and drank more wine! I set a new record that night by drinking from 10am to 10pm. Nice… though I spitted all at the fair, except a few too-good-to-spit wines.
By the way, I just got happy news from the lady and I’d like to share with you. Her new startup, Brown Bag Wines is launching next week! So please check it out if you’re based in Singapore or if you’re in wine business. I’m so excited for her because that’s exactly what I’d like to do myself in the future, and meeting her was a huge inspiration. Such a lovely, sweet lady with lots of positive energy and love!
After the short food break, I continued the tastings with Italian stalls.
Valdonica is a Tuscan winery run by an Austrian winemaker and has a modern feel to it.
Ballarino 2012 is made of Vermentino in a very complicated method where grapes are divided, 70 to 30% and blended after going through a different process, whole bunch or destemmed and new barrels or old barrels, skin contact up to 2 months. It’s said that the wine was inspired by the Corsican Vermentino he drank.
The red, Ciliegiolo 2013 was made in the same manner as the whites and spent 42 months in new barriques so it’s more powerful and complex.
I tasted some wines from rare countries, Slovenia and Croatia. Roxanich‘s whites and reds are both great with a complex nose and a rich mouth-feel due to the long barrel ageing. Superistrian was aged for 6 years before release and was a joy to smell.
But I faces some challenges with Austrian wines. I was keen to taste some Blaufrankisch and St Lauren but left the stall, confused with the Blaufrankisch, which smelled oxidised and nutty.
I tasted quite a few including ALexander Koppitsch and Meinklang but none of them stood out as amazing unfortunately. I approached Gut Oggau, which was crowded with people, and tasted their wines, too, but, I wasn’t impressed.
I finally got to drink Niepoort wines from Portugal! How could I have thought I’d be tasting this amazing wine at Raw Wine! Tasting this wine absolutely made my visit a huge success.
Poeirinho Garrafeira 2012, Bairrada, is made from old vine Baga(Portuguese native grape) aged over 100 years and was very aromatic, vibrant, freshing and DELICIOUS! Need I say more?
Maybe a thing or two, FYI. It’s fermented in lagares (as in the photo), something I’d like to do one day, and had 4 weeks maceration, 4 years ageing in big old wooden vats and was bottled unfiltered. Lote D is from a single vineyard.
Conciso 2014, Dao, is a blend of Baga and Jaen (aka. Mencia) and surprisingly pale in colour with fresh forest fruit, spices, minerality, fine tannins and noticeable acidity, though I got a whiff of flint at the beginning.
First, hello, Georgia! The inspiration for amphora(qvevri) winemaking and natural wine was there of course, and each of them had slightly different tasting profiles but what’s in common is the blinding acidity and mouth-coating tannins, which require food. Not surprised that it was the only stall having food. I recognised all of the grapes except Chkhaveri so I gave it a try. As you can see, it’s lighter than Saperavi in colour, so is the taste. Apparently, it’s very popular in Japan, like all other Georgian wines. Food friendly, sweet, and unique.. some even smell of chili paste and yogurt!
I finally got to ask the question I’d had for a long time, which was about amphora wine and gritty tannins. I drank a red, which I’d brought from Georgia and put away for 2 years, and was very surprised by the extreme tannins, acidity and above all, the intense aroma of tar. It’s said that gritty tannins can develop tarry flavours but I wondered if it was normal for all Georgian reds or it was only that particular bottle. He was puzzled by my question, saying that tannins should soften over time and Georgians don’t age wine for a long time. So I still didn’t get the answer I was looking for. Sorry for the off-topic but wine lovers have so many questions!
There were wines from Hungry, Chile, Canada, Germany but I didn’t get to try many. As the stalls were wrapping up and tasters were looking around for one last sip here or there, I decided to finally ‘drink’ some instead of spitting before heading home.
The last wine of the day, yeah! The amphora red, Grez from Vina Tipaume was an interesting one, coming all the way from Chile, so I made a note but was surprised to learn the price, which is around £50.
I think I’m done now. Certainly, I learned much more about wines at this fair than in formal wine courses and hope you did, too. Learn by experience, I mean ‘drinking’. Absolutely! So have I had enough wine over the last 2 days? NO! I want some more!
For the remaining days in London, I did wine bar crawls and discovered some good places and good wines. I’ll share some of them with you along with the exciting cheese course I took.
Bye for now, cheers!