Monday, 1 April 2013


THE REAL WINE FAIR

I had a great day last Monday and headed off to a totally unfamiliar bit of London, the old docks of the East End and in particular Tobacco Dock for the Real Wine Fair.   The first thing you see, once you have found the entrance to a rather austere building, is an old clipper in a dry dock – and the space is great for a large tasting, with natural light and a high ceiling.  So it felt busy, without being overcrowded.   The Real Wine Fair is the brainchild of Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrène, but the exhibitors included wine growers with other importers.  Doug is passionate about real wine – And I asked him what the criteria for the exhibitors are.  

They are reasonably straightforward:

 Growers should work without chemicals in the vineyards and be as environmentally sensitive as they can.

Winemaking should involve indigenous yeasts as far as possible as these yeasts are the signature of the vineyard and the vintage.

 Ideally there should no additions to the grape juice during the winemaking process other than a little sulphur.
 Within this range there are some who work entirely without additions and others who use what is necessary (although in a minimal fashion) to make a stable and decent tasting. We saw a wide spectrum of styles at the Real Wine Fair.

What unites the growers is that although they may have different approaches they all strive to make wines that respect the environment and the terroir, wines that taste more "natural" (less extraction, less oak, less oenological manipulation).’

And there you have it.

There were wines from Languedoc Roussillon to try, but only one estate that I have never mentioned in my blog, so no new discoveries.    

Lidewej van Wilgen from Mas des Dames had some new vintages.  She is particularly pleased with her white wine in 2012, as she has treated herself to a brand new oak barrel – it must be a particularly high quality barrel, as it gave her wine a lovely rich rounded quality, while retaining a fresh balance of acidity.  The wine has only just been bottled and promises well.

Her new rosé was looking good too, with some fresh herbal notes and hints of the garrigues.

John Bojanowski from Clos du Gravillas was there, with his delicious wines – see earlier postings for more details.

Carole Andrieu at Clos Fantine  was showing two wines, Faugères Tradition and Valcabrières Blanc, from Terret Blanc, which were very natural in flavour.  The Valcabrières is an extraordinary orange colour, with some wild flavours,  and the Faugères has a fresh acidity as well as a hint of volatility that I quite often find in a natural wine.    See my earlier blog. 

I was less familiar with the wines of Zélige-Caravent, a Pic St. Loup estate created by Luc and Marie Michel in the village of Corconne.  As well as being very natural, the wines were not very conventional Pic St. Loup, with Syrah conspicuous by its absence .

2011 Jardin des Simples was pure Cinsaut, with the perfumed cherry fruit of that variety, with a touch of VA on the finish.

2010 Ellipse was a blend of 40% each of Grenache and Cinsaut,  with 20% Carignan.   It was fairly light with ripe cherry fruit, and no great depth.

2010 Manouches, Vin de France rather than Pic St. Loup,  was 80% Aramon with 20% Cinsaut, and tasted ripe and inky, with quite a dense finish.

Tom Lubbe was pouring his wines from Domaine Matassa, in the village of Calce.  He also makes the wines of Domaine de Majas, higher up in the Fenouillèdes hills at 500 metres.   Those vineyards are not only cooler, but they also get three times as much rainfall as Calce, which is at a lower altitude.

Domaine de Majas Blanc is a blend of Macabeo, Rolle and Carignan Blanc.   Refreshingly no oak, with some herbal hints, and a rounded body.

And the red wine from Domaine de Majas is a pure Cabernet Franc, which lovely ripe cherry fruit and a sappy finish.

As for Domaine de Matassa, Tom was showing two white wines:

Cuvée Marguerite is a blend of Muscat d’Aléxandrie and Muscat à petits grains, with Viognier and Macabeo.  A ripe peachy nose and palate, with some herbal notes and good acidity.

The second white, a Côtes Catalanes Blanc was rounded and herbal with some concentration and a resinous note from some ageing in wood. 

2011 Côtes Catalanes red:  medium colour; quite firm and leathery nose and palate, with good depth and a natural edge.

And the other Languedoc estate was Mas de Daumas Gassac – more on them in due course.    

The unexpected excitement of the Real Wine fair was the group of twelve producers from Georgia – there were orange wines galore and a host of unfamiliar grape varieties, Georgia apparently has 525 indigenous grape varieties, so there was an opportunity to taste, not only Rkatsiteli and Saperavi, but also Chinuri, Kisi, Mtsvane, Tavkvevri and Shavkapito, amongst others.  Earthenware jars, qvevri, are used for fermentation and most of the white wines spend a month or maybe as long as six months, not just on the skins, but with stalks and pips as well.  The flavours are intriguingly different and unusual, with quite firm tannins, which you do not normally find in white wine.  They may be an acquired taste, but were none the worse for that.  Some of the reds enjoyed a long skin contact too, but their flavours are more conventional or recognisable, with Saperavi producing some lovely peppery flavours, but sometimes with quite austere tannins.  And I think this is the first time that I have ever been served wine by a monk at a tasting.  He came from the Alaverdi monastery in Kakheti, one of the principal wine growing regions to the east of Tbilisi.

I also ventured to Santorini for the wines of Hatzidakis, with another unfamiliar grape variety,  Aidani, with some fresh herbal notes.  There were some lovely wines from Sicily. Anna Martens’ wines from Etna were fragrantly mineral and the Marsalas  from the estate of Marco de Bartoli, now made by his son, are always a treat.  I finished the tasting with my good friend, Elisabetta Fagiuoli, from Montenidoli in San Gimignano.  Her Vino Fiore Vernaccia di San Gimignano was as delicious as ever.   

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