May 31, 2012
I have personally never seen so many great producers (I think the number is in the neighborhood of 300!) gathered together anywhere before the RAW and Real Wine Fairs May 20th-22nd in London. For this I am very grateful for all the producers (the actual producers in most cases, not suited-up reps) that came over to participate in these fairs. Producers from all parts of Europe, Georgia, Australia, South Africa and even the US. Most of all I would like to thank Isabelle Legeron and Doug Wregg for organizing these two events, focusing on hands-on producers who practice minimal to no intervention viticulture and wine making.
Here are some producers that sent me home thinking and craving their wines:
Domaine Saurigny (Anjou, Loire Valley) – Jérôme Saurigny makes a Sauvignon Blanc that I have to say really left me impressed. I first met Jérôme and tasted his wines at his place in Anjou about 3 years ago, but I swear I can’t remember how really good his Sauvignon Blanc was. It is my favorite Sauvignon Blanc to date, so refreshing and showing none of the characteristics that often come associated with the grape and which I dislike. His reds were also outstanding and his “accidental” sweet chenin blanc is also worth tasting!
Roxanich (Croatia) – I have tasted these wines before, in Poland and only recently, but I have to say that they are producing one of my favorite Chardonnay’s. I tasted their Chardonnay Milva once (ok, twice in a row!) but it was so ripe, but not overripe, and juicy. No nuttiness, no butter, just juice with a little skin contact. My favorite Chardonnay from these two events (of course I did not taste all of the Chardonnay’s) Worth seeking out for sure.
Laurent Bannwart (Alsace, France) – let start with the negatives. I usually don’t appreciate the wines of Alsace (i used to, but not as of late), I also stopped appreciating Rieslings a few years ago (I personally often find them under ripe and over sulfured). Next the positives, no sulfur added to the wines and most grapes were also vinified in amphora (quevri to be exact).
So why did we wander over to taste the wines? One, they were recommended to me by a fellow taster who’s taste align very closely with mine. Two, they were recommended by a wine maker who i admire like crazy and love, and whose wines I might even fly to another country just to find a bottle (which is not easy to do).
So what can i say? I am a born again riesling lover, but not any riesling, Bannwarth’s Riesling. I tasted both versions, the one in steel and the one in quevri and i got goose bumps. All his wines were great, but his riesling really stood out. Ripe and juicy and refreshing. NO harsh acidity and no added sulfur so my eyes and nose didn’t sting.. He also produces a fantastic Pinot Noir and the best Crémant d’Alsace I have ever tasted (IMO).
One thing to note is that although his wines often had alcohol levels of 14%, it was hardly noticeable. No easy feat. This just goes to show that a well balanced wine can be well balanced at 10% or 15%.
Alaverdi Monastery Cellar (Georgia) – of course you might expect that my review would include a producer from Georgia because they were in the spotlight at the RAW Fair, but I have included this producer because this was my favorite producer from these two fairs. We must have tasted around 10 wines, each better than the previous. From light orange in color, to deep orange to a red that just blew my socks off! Each was vinified in quevri. Each was fresh, juicy and had tannins to make your teeth rattle. Each was so well balanced and structured, that I was just amazed. With all the structure and all the concentration and tannin’s, the wines all managed to remain extremely fresh and drinkable. Of course I would have killed for some cheese or some goat!
Bobar (Australia) – yes, Australia. I can safely say that I never drink the wines from Australia. Why? Because I just don’t like them – usually. For my tastes, they are too big and powerful often with too much oak. Then along comes Tom Belford to show what he can do. What?! Fresh, light yet structured wines that are completely drinkable! And he seems to understand what he is doing, like adding just a little sulfur during the wine making so that it gets absorbed and integrated into the wine before bottling. Blind, I would never have guessed his fresh, un-oaky wines to be from Australia! Great job Tom and I hope to see some bottles in Norway or Poland very soon!