Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Real Wine Fair, London May 20th - 22nd 2012

This was only one of three important wine fairs taking place in May this year, the other two being the London International Wine Fair at ExCel and the third being RAW, the other Natural, biodynamic wine fair dedicated to Artisan wine producers.

All this activity was a bit of a disaster for us because we managed not even to hear about RAW until it was over and forget completely about LIWF having printed out our entrance badges months ago. Another Slotovino disaster.

All was not lost though because we spent the most rewarding couple of hours imaginable at the Real Wine Fair, meeting the actual people behind some of the wines which we have been following over the last few years:

Biondi (Sicilia)
Le Briseau
La Stoppa

and many others. We imagine these were also represented at the two other fairs which were being held at the same time or shortly after The Real Wine Fair.

With our usual limited time we concentrated on the less familiar grape varieties starting with Georgia. There must be more undiscovered varieties in Georgia than anywhere else and we were not disappointed.with opportunities to try rarities such as Kisi and Khikhvi

from the Alaverdi Monastery ("since 1011") who had been kind enough to send along a real live monk, Pheasants Tears which we had been reading about only a short time before

(Chinuri, Shavkapito, Tsolakauri and Mtsvane) and the wonderfully named Iago Bitarishvili who specialises in Chinuri.

We tasted most of these but as in our Slotovino tasting in January 2011, it was Mtsvane which stood out as being the most pleasurable to drink. Others had unique flavours and as such are well worth having.

 Some of the varieties are down to a very small acreage indeed. We wish these young and optimistic producers all possible success and can't wait to visit Georgia and experience these fascinating wines in more detail.

On our way through the Italian section we came across Corinto Nero, albeit in a blend called Nero Ossidiana. Corinto Nero is grown if at all around Messina and in the Aeolian Islands, particularly Salina, one of our favourites of these enchanted islands. We look forward to tasting a Corinto nero in purezza if possible one day.

There was also a Canaiolo Nero Rosato which was something of a curiosity.

In Room 1, we found a surprisingly large number of wines made from Terret blanc, a grape new to us grown mainly in the Languedoc. It is used in (white) Minervois and Corbieres and is a descendant from Terret noir as is Terret Gris. Here are three of them including one from Thierry Navarre of whom more right now.

Here among the Burgundies, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone etc. - Bordeaux being conspicuous by its absence - we encountered two of our heroes in real life, Thierry Navarre of Domaine Thierry Navarre, St. Chinian and Christian Chaussard of Domaine le Briseau. It was an extraordinary pleasure to meet both of them and in the case of Thierry Navarre, the opportunity to discover a Mega-Star among obscure grape varieties, Ribeyrenc.

 This goes immediately to the top of the list together with the likes of  Persan, Pineau D'Aunis, Poulsard, Grignolino, Ramisco, Encruzado, Gringet, Croatina, and a very few others among our current favourites. Ribeyrenc and Co. are varieties which beg the question as to why they are not as popular as the ubiquitous international varieties. On the strength of one sip of Thierry Navarre's Ribeyrenc, it became for us the star of the show.

M. Navarre himself is modest and charming. We have long been admirers of his Vin d'Oeillades, a wine which proves that low alcohol need have no correlation to a wine's weight of body. Oeillade is related to Cinsault but tastes quite different. Thierry Navarre characteristically champions this overlooked variety as he does Ribeyrenc and Terret Blanc no doubt among others. If we were vignerons, we would like to be Thierry Navarre!

At the moment of our encounter with Christian Chaussard, we were alone at his stand. Surely not for long. Domaine Le Briseau is responsible for two marvellous Pineau D'Aunis reds, 'Les Mortiers' - a top of the range serious example of this ancient and marvellous variety and 'Patapon' a more frivolrous and fun version as the name suggests. His third wine 'Kharakter' is his Chenin Blanc.

Perhaps undiplomatically we related our story about our French friends' negative reaction to a bottle of Patapon but M. Chaussard just noted, with baleful look that his compatriots were rather conservative. We needn't feel sorry for Domaine Le Briseau, their wines are appreciated internationally. We first encountered then at the Gramercy Tavern in New York.

For us amateurs, the opportunity to encounter these wonderful people, discover so many remarkable wines and learn such a great amount all in a short time without making long journeys was pure gold. Next year, we will not fail to visit RAW and will definitely remember the LIWF, not to mention the English Wine Fair which we also missed this year.

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