Yesterday I went to RAW – UK’s biggest artisan wine fair at London’s Old Truman Brewery. “RAW is about fine, natural wines that are true to where they are from – that have an authenticity of taste that most wines today have lost” the blurb reads. I was at the Brick Lane venue just after doors opened at 10 am. “Thanks for coming all the way from Harrogate” Isabelle Legeron – the moving force behind the event, said as I put on my red Trade wrist band and collected a catalogue and a tasting glass. Six rows of tables with white cloth cover the length of the large hall and producers stand behind them to pour their wines and talk about them. There are no fancy stalls or displays and it looks almost like the Harrogate Consumer Wine Fair I used to run many years ago. RAW attracts a lot more natural wine lovers though.
The catalogue says that all wines presented at RAW have to meet the following criteria:
- The entirety of the domaine from which the grapes are issued must be farmed organically and/or biodynamically.
- Grapes must be hand-harvested.
- No yeasts may be added, except in the case of the second fermentation of sparkling wines, when neutral yeasts may be used. This information will be included in the catalogue.
- No blocked malolactic fermentation.
- No winemaking additives (yeasts, enzymes, vitamins, lysozymes etc) may be used in the cellar except for low levels of sulfites. You will be asked to supply analysis paperwork detailing total levels of sulfites for each wine you are presenting at RAW. These levels will be included in the RAW catalogue and on the RAW website. If you do not add any sulfites whatsoever, the mention “no added sulfites” will appear instead.
- No ‘heavy-manipulation’ has been carried out using winemaking gadgetry such as reverse osmosis, cryo-extraction, spinning cone, and so forth.
- Most of the wines showcased will not have been fined or filtered. If your wine has been fined or filtered, it will be clearly labeled as such.
- Wines in the catalogue and online will be marked as NOT ‘suitable for vegetarians’ and/or ‘suitable for vegans’ when applicable. You will therefore be asked to give us the type of fining agent used which will be mentioned in the RAW catalogue and on the RAW website.
Most of the producers and their wines are unknown to me. May be I should have read Isabelle’s Natural Wine more carefully. I walked the length of the room trying to find growers and producers I knew. I chatted about the malolactic and loss of acidity in sparkling wines with the winemaker of Davenport Vineyards. “I pick early to keep acid level up and let the malolactic take its course” he said. I was delighted to meet Michael Seresin’s charming daughter Leah at the Seresin stand. “You must visit Seresin when you are in New Zealand” she insisted. I tasted their new sulphur-free wines Osip Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir of the 2013 vintage and Tatou Pinot Noir 2011 and liked all of them.
It was good to see Eduard Tscheppe of Gutt Oggau and we talked about the time I visited him in Austria a few years ago. The Vertuse champagne growers Pierre & Sophie Larmandier were three of their champagnes. I tasted the Longitude Premier Cru Extra-brut NV and the Terre De Veretuse Premier Cru Non Dose 2009.
At the Georgian stand I tasted wines from Teleda – a winery in Kakheti we visited last year and qvevri wines from Gotsa, Nika and Naotrebi wineries.
The most interesting new contact this year was Alta Alella winery from the tiny Alella DOC in the suburbs of Barcelona. The wines, specially the Brut Nature Cava with date of disgorgement on the back label were interesting. A visit to the winery when the HMWS is next in Barcelona would be rewarding and Laura Bret, the French marketing manager assures a “memorable visit.”
“Are you leaving already?” Isabelle asked as I collected my coat. I saw Jamie Goode on his way out too and we chatted briefly. Out side, Brick Lane was heaving and the street food market was in full swing. It was time for big, spicy pulled pork bun and a cold beer.