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RAW fair 2013 – my thoughts

Posted on
28. May, 2013

For quite some time now, Britain’s capital has also been one of the world’s capital of natural wines movement (organically or biodynamically grown). Many bars and restaurants in London have excellent natural wines on their wine lists. Some of those are: AntidoteBrawnTerroirsGreen&Blue40 Maltby StreetSt. JohnHibiscusDucksoupTom AikensHampshire HogElliot’s cafe  … and many others – from very simple places to “haute cousine” restaurants. 40 Maltby Street is a simple, but great place, run by one of the British natural wines importers – Gergovie Wines. They hosted very nice tasting on Saturday, May 18 with good selection of wines, including Čotar and Klinec from Slovenia.  Barranco Oscuro wines from Sierra de la Contraviesa-Alpujarra over Granada, Andalusia, Spain, were amazing discovery for me. Their vineyards are apparently the highest (altitude) in Europe, climbing up to 1368 m above sea. Valenzuela family produces truly fine wines (sparkling, white, rosé and red), with amazing elegance and harmony, concentration on nose and palate (quite hard growing conditions), freshness (surprisingly nice acidity) and beautifully rounded tannins in case of red wines. International as well as local varieties can be found on the estate. 

RAW fair, was first organized last year, by Isabelle Legeron, MW and her team. It’s the biggest natural wine festival in London, possibly even in Europe. The second edition took place on May 19 and 20. Over 170 artisan wine growers offered about 600 wines for tasting. The wines, which are a result of organic or biodynamic work in a vineyard (no use of chemical herbicides, pesticides, artificial fertilizers, no irrigation…), the wines where minimal interventions are being used during vinification process, meaning nothing has been taken out and nothing has been added, except minimum quantity of sulfur (SO2) or in some cases none. Growers arrived from Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK and Slovenia. My country missed excellent opportunity to present its culinary gems beside our wines. One hour presentation was planned and announced, but organizers (Slovenian Tourism Organization, embassy??) screwed up totally, so we (Slovenes) got embarrassed big time, instead of being proud of our homeland. Luckily, as usually, we were very decently presented by our vignerons: Klinec, Čotar, Nando, Štekar, Batič, Klabjan and Mlečnik. I’d hear nothing but compliments, coming from people from all over the globe, regarding our wines, both on Sunday, which was open for general public as well as Monday, which was “trade” visitors day (oenologists, importers, distributors, restaurateurs, journalists, bloggers…). In my opinion, Vitovska from Čotar is one of the best slovenian white (macerated) wines, but there were great white macerations coming out of hands of other Slovenes as well. Some of them, like Nando Eugen belo, 2008, Klinec Rebula 2009, Mlečnik Sauvignonasse 2009, Batič Pinot Gris 2011 were still very young and need another year or two in the bottle, but there is no doubt – the guys know their job very well and they do it on the highest level. You love chardonnay? Mlečnik presented 2008 vintage, already magnificent, with great ageing potential. I must mention Slovenes from italian side. Terpin, Radikon and Bensa (La Castellada) were on the RAW this year. No special presentations and comments are necessary. Wines are great.

– Mlečnik, Chardonnay 2008 –

mlečnik_chardonnay_2008 

There were maybe a couple of dozen growers more last year, but also quite some wines which should never be there. Faults and bad quality were just too obvious.  Big improvement on that field this year, which shows growers are getting better at what they do on one side, but there was probably also more strict previous control from organizers on the other side. That’s my opinion of course, based on tasting about 200 samples, which would be something like one third. 

– RAW fair 2013 –

RAW_2013

Last year, I exposed my nose and palate mostly to Italian and Georgian wines, while this year I focused on French producers. I didn’t even start well, when I was already shocked by Benoit Tarlant. I’ve known Tarlant champagnes for quite some time now, tasted them on RAW last year and have always liked them, but Benoit went over the top this time. Zero Brut Nature, based on 2007 vintage was simply fantastic, with nice apple – citrus taste, beautiful structure and body, continuing to long aftertaste with tender bread crust notes. Rose Brut Nature, based on 2008 vintage has different, more strawberry-apple fruitiness, obvious minerality, but is slightly shorter then the white. “BAM!” is speciality among champagnes, with none of the main three champagne varieties (chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier) included. It’s made of pinot Blanc, and two very rare varieties Arbanne and Meslier (Petit Meslier). Nice citrus-apple flavour with gentle, very pleasant bitterness. And for the “grand finale” – Cuvée Louis, Extra Brut, 1999. Absolutely fantastic harmony of maturity, ripe apple taste, bread crust (long ageing on lees) terciar aromas with extraordinary long aftertaste. Soon in our store!

– Cuvée Louis, Extra Brut, 1999 –

cuvee_louis_tarlant_1999

 

I tasted some excellent wines from Burgundy, both whites and reds, which proved once again, that Burgundy is terroir, which was obviously made for wine growing, meaning, that even growers with average knowledge can come out with very good wines – sometimes. This was confirmed by Eric Texier, great vigneron from Rhone, who says, that he has to put in much more effort on his territory, comparing to Burgundy, in order to achieve similar or comparable quality. Imagine the wine, coming out of hands of a grower from Burgundy, with highest level of knowledge, skills and experience, good position of vineyard, putting maximum efforts in his work. Elegance, structure, body, often most beautiful minerality, phenomenal acidity, shortly – wines which can surely be found elsewhere as well, but not very easy. “Those guys from Burgundy are some lucky bastards!” says Eric Texier. Catherine et Gilles Vergé, Sarnin-Berrux, Domaine Guillot-Broux, Château Génot-Boulanger were great discoveries for me.

I tasted great wines from Château le Puy (Bordeaux right bank), which can also be found in our web store, and new discovery – Domaine Leandre Chevalier, who left AOC Bordeaux by his own free will, following his conviction he can make better wines outside stringent, sometimes too rigid rules of appellation and I can’t say he’s wrong. Great wines!

Many excellent wines come from less notorious or famous parts of France: Bergerac – west from Bordeaux, Loire, south Rhone, Provence … but this topic calls for special post.

– great wines from Bergerac – 

bergerac

There were of course also wines with vinegar resemblance (volatile acids), with harsh, “green” tannins, which will become soft and rounded like NEVER, wines with too oxidative notes, so wines, which are the result of: lack of knowledge and experience, trying to hide behind “natural wine” label. There will always be individuals, trying to use the opportunity and hide their bad quality under labels and statements like: organic, bio, biodynamic … but not for long!  Some bloggers and wine critics use such wines for criticism and doubt of natural wine in general, but most of them get a taste of their own medicine soon, praising some wine, which is maybe not present on natural wine festivals or consortiums, but has been grown and vinified exactly the same way. Does someone in his right mind really think, that they are destroying and poisoning their soil and vines with artificial fertilizers and chemicals, that they use selected yeast at houses like Domaine Romanée-Conti or Château Petrus? OK. I gave two extreme examples, but you will find many less famous cellars in France and elsewhere, making wines free of chemistry, without attending fairs or being part of consortiums like Renaissance des Appelations, VinNatur or similar.

Another example, now regularly present on natural wine festivals though, are Emidio Pepe wines from Abruzzo. They’ve always make wines with minimum intervention, no use of chemicals and without (!) adding sulfur. So it’s nothing new in “no added SO2” approach and absolutely possible, under conditions, where grower knows exactly and very well what he’s doing, is absolutely accurate at his work and makes sure, hygiene is on the top level, which doesn’t mean the cellar should be sterile though. Already in Verona I tasted Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1977, which was perfect. Impeccable, with nice terciar notes, no sight of overageing with  freshness still great. Emidio Pepe cellar is also the best possible proof, big wine can be made from Trebbiano, despite what many so called experts say. What a delusion! 

– Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Emidio Pepe – (Chiara Pepe)

emidio_pepe_montepulciano

I atended “No added SO2” talk with tasting of wines, where no sulfur was added. Once again we could convince ourselves such wines CAN age beautifully, and given the right conditions, they can be transported anywhere. It’s very important and big topic, which is why I plan special post on that in the near future. This time only this: among others (Guettier, Riffault, Maule, Cornelissen, Pepe) we tasted sylvaner 1947 vintage, from Strohmeier, Austria and the wine was so alive, full, fresh … it left us all speechless!

I hadn’t known much about sakes until now, beside the fact it was fermented rice or rice wine. Dick Stevens’s lecture “RAW Sake” opened totally new world of enjoying beverage, which is the result of alcoholic fermentation of (in this case) rice, or better still – rices. Hundreds of varieties are being used for sake. Company Yoigokochi has been importing great sakes from Japan for years and offers fantastic, organically grown sakes on several European markets. We’d tasted five sakes during the lecture, afterwards I went to their table and tasted at least twenty more. Such a richness of flavours – from very bready, pie like nose and palate to totally fruity ones (apples, pears, exotic fruit, marmelade…) which was incredible discovery for me. I really didn’t expect something like that from the drink where rice is a base. The knowledge on sakes is unfortunately very poor, even with Japanese chefs, which makes good sake even more difficult to find. We might put some of them in our portfolio, particularly after guys from Yoigokochi confirmed their presence at natural wine festival, which I will help Marko Kovač to organize. He organized very nice Label Grand Karakterre last year. It will take place in Zagreb on November 30 and December 1. It will be bigger than last year, but more details will follow in the very near future, this time just one more thing – Marko and I plan the festival to be alternately organized in Zagreb and Ljubljana. So Zagreb this year and Ljubljana in 2014.

– Sake – …

sake_organic



For quite some time now, Britain’s capital has also been one of the world’s capital of natural wines movement (organically or biodynamically grown). Many bars and restaurants in London have excellent natural wines on their wine lists. Some of those are: AntidoteBrawnTerroirsGreen&Blue40 Maltby StreetSt. JohnHibiscusDucksoupTom AikensHampshire HogElliot’s cafe  … and many others – from very simple places to “haute cousine” restaurants. 40 Maltby Street is a simple, but great place, run by one of the British natural wines importers – Gergovie Wines. They hosted very nice tasting on Saturday, May 18 with good selection of wines, including Čotar and Klinec from Slovenia.  Barranco Oscuro wines from Sierra de la Contraviesa-Alpujarra over Granada, Andalusia, Spain, were amazing discovery for me. Their vineyards are apparently the highest (altitude) in Europe, climbing up to 1368 m above sea. Valenzuela family produces truly fine wines (sparkling, white, rosé and red), with amazing elegance and harmony, concentration on nose and palate (quite hard growing conditions), freshness (surprisingly nice acidity) and beautifully rounded tannins in case of red wines. International as well as local varieties can be found on the estate. 

RAW fair, was first organized last year, by Isabelle Legeron, MW and her team. It’s the biggest natural wine festival in London, possibly even in Europe. The second edition took place on May 19 and 20. Over 170 artisan wine growers offered about 600 wines for tasting. The wines, which are a result of organic or biodynamic work in a vineyard (no use of chemical herbicides, pesticides, artificial fertilizers, no irrigation…), the wines where minimal interventions are being used during vinification process, meaning nothing has been taken out and nothing has been added, except minimum quantity of sulfur (SO2) or in some cases none. Growers arrived from Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK and Slovenia. My country missed excellent opportunity to present its culinary gems beside our wines. One hour presentation was planned and announced, but organizers (Slovenian Tourism Organization, embassy??) screwed up totally, so we (Slovenes) got embarrassed big time, instead of being proud of our homeland. Luckily, as usually, we were very decently presented by our vignerons: Klinec, Čotar, Nando, Štekar, Batič, Klabjan and Mlečnik. I’d hear nothing but compliments, coming from people from all over the globe, regarding our wines, both on Sunday, which was open for general public as well as Monday, which was “trade” visitors day (oenologists, importers, distributors, restaurateurs, journalists, bloggers…). In my opinion, Vitovska from Čotar is one of the best slovenian white (macerated) wines, but there were great white macerations coming out of hands of other Slovenes as well. Some of them, like Nando Eugen belo, 2008, Klinec Rebula 2009, Mlečnik Sauvignonasse 2009, Batič Pinot Gris 2011 were still very young and need another year or two in the bottle, but there is no doubt – the guys know their job very well and they do it on the highest level. You love chardonnay? Mlečnik presented 2008 vintage, already magnificent, with great ageing potential. I must mention Slovenes from italian side. Terpin, Radikon and Bensa (La Castellada) were on the RAW this year. No special presentations and comments are necessary. Wines are great.

– Mlečnik, Chardonnay 2008 –

mlečnik_chardonnay_2008 

There were maybe a couple of dozen growers more last year, but also quite some wines which should never be there. Faults and bad quality were just too obvious.  Big improvement on that field this year, which shows growers are getting better at what they do on one side, but there was probably also more strict previous control from organizers on the other side. That’s my opinion of course, based on tasting about 200 samples, which would be something like one third. 

– RAW fair 2013 –

RAW_2013

Last year, I exposed my nose and palate mostly to Italian and Georgian wines, while this year I focused on French producers. I didn’t even start well, when I was already shocked by Benoit Tarlant. I’ve known Tarlant champagnes for quite some time now, tasted them on RAW last year and have always liked them, but Benoit went over the top this time. Zero Brut Nature, based on 2007 vintage was simply fantastic, with nice apple – citrus taste, beautiful structure and body, continuing to long aftertaste with tender bread crust notes. Rose Brut Nature, based on 2008 vintage has different, more strawberry-apple fruitiness, obvious minerality, but is slightly shorter then the white. “BAM!” is speciality among champagnes, with none of the main three champagne varieties (chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier) included. It’s made of pinot Blanc, and two very rare varieties Arbanne and Meslier (Petit Meslier). Nice citrus-apple flavour with gentle, very pleasant bitterness. And for the “grand finale” – Cuvée Louis, Extra Brut, 1999. Absolutely fantastic harmony of maturity, ripe apple taste, bread crust (long ageing on lees) terciar aromas with extraordinary long aftertaste. Soon in our store!

– Cuvée Louis, Extra Brut, 1999 –

cuvee_louis_tarlant_1999

 

I tasted some excellent wines from Burgundy, both whites and reds, which proved once again, that Burgundy is terroir, which was obviously made for wine growing, meaning, that even growers with average knowledge can come out with very good wines – sometimes. This was confirmed by Eric Texier, great vigneron from Rhone, who says, that he has to put in much more effort on his territory, comparing to Burgundy, in order to achieve similar or comparable quality. Imagine the wine, coming out of hands of a grower from Burgundy, with highest level of knowledge, skills and experience, good position of vineyard, putting maximum efforts in his work. Elegance, structure, body, often most beautiful minerality, phenomenal acidity, shortly – wines which can surely be found elsewhere as well, but not very easy. “Those guys from Burgundy are some lucky bastards!” says Eric Texier. Catherine et Gilles Vergé, Sarnin-Berrux, Domaine Guillot-Broux, Château Génot-Boulanger were great discoveries for me.

I tasted great wines from Château le Puy (Bordeaux right bank), which can also be found in our web store, and new discovery – Domaine Leandre Chevalier, who left AOC Bordeaux by his own free will, following his conviction he can make better wines outside stringent, sometimes too rigid rules of appellation and I can’t say he’s wrong. Great wines!

Many excellent wines come from less notorious or famous parts of France: Bergerac – west from Bordeaux, Loire, south Rhone, Provence … but this topic calls for special post.

– great wines from Bergerac – 

bergerac

There were of course also wines with vinegar resemblance (volatile acids), with harsh, “green” tannins, which will become soft and rounded like NEVER, wines with too oxidative notes, so wines, which are the result of: lack of knowledge and experience, trying to hide behind “natural wine” label. There will always be individuals, trying to use the opportunity and hide their bad quality under labels and statements like: organic, bio, biodynamic … but not for long!  Some bloggers and wine critics use such wines for criticism and doubt of natural wine in general, but most of them get a taste of their own medicine soon, praising some wine, which is maybe not present on natural wine festivals or consortiums, but has been grown and vinified exactly the same way. Does someone in his right mind really think, that they are destroying and poisoning their soil and vines with artificial fertilizers and chemicals, that they use selected yeast at houses like Domaine Romanée-Conti or Château Petrus? OK. I gave two extreme examples, but you will find many less famous cellars in France and elsewhere, making wines free of chemistry, without attending fairs or being part of consortiums like Renaissance des Appelations, VinNatur or similar.

Another example, now regularly present on natural wine festivals though, are Emidio Pepe wines from Abruzzo. They’ve always make wines with minimum intervention, no use of chemicals and without (!) adding sulfur. So it’s nothing new in “no added SO2” approach and absolutely possible, under conditions, where grower knows exactly and very well what he’s doing, is absolutely accurate at his work and makes sure, hygiene is on the top level, which doesn’t mean the cellar should be sterile though. Already in Verona I tasted Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1977, which was perfect. Impeccable, with nice terciar notes, no sight of overageing with  freshness still great. Emidio Pepe cellar is also the best possible proof, big wine can be made from Trebbiano, despite what many so called experts say. What a delusion! 

– Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Emidio Pepe – (Chiara Pepe)

emidio_pepe_montepulciano

I atended “No added SO2” talk with tasting of wines, where no sulfur was added. Once again we could convince ourselves such wines CAN age beautifully, and given the right conditions, they can be transported anywhere. It’s very important and big topic, which is why I plan special post on that in the near future. This time only this: among others (Guettier, Riffault, Maule, Cornelissen, Pepe) we tasted sylvaner 1947 vintage, from Strohmeier, Austria and the wine was so alive, full, fresh … it left us all speechless!

I hadn’t known much about sakes until now, beside the fact it was fermented rice or rice wine. Dick Stevens’s lecture “RAW Sake” opened totally new world of enjoying beverage, which is the result of alcoholic fermentation of (in this case) rice, or better still – rices. Hundreds of varieties are being used for sake. Company Yoigokochi has been importing great sakes from Japan for years and offers fantastic, organically grown sakes on several European markets. We’d tasted five sakes during the lecture, afterwards I went to their table and tasted at least twenty more. Such a richness of flavours – from very bready, pie like nose and palate to totally fruity ones (apples, pears, exotic fruit, marmelade…) which was incredible discovery for me. I really didn’t expect something like that from the drink where rice is a base. The knowledge on sakes is unfortunately very poor, even with Japanese chefs, which makes good sake even more difficult to find. We might put some of them in our portfolio, particularly after guys from Yoigokochi confirmed their presence at natural wine festival, which I will help Marko Kovač to organize. He organized very nice Label Grand Karakterre last year. It will take place in Zagreb on November 30 and December 1. It will be bigger than last year, but more details will follow in the very near future, this time just one more thing – Marko and I plan the festival to be alternately organized in Zagreb and Ljubljana. So Zagreb this year and Ljubljana in 2014.

– Sake – …

sake_organic