Two things resounded for me from the 2015 RAW fair: 1) the generally high standard of natural wines now on offer and 2) the alarming number of young blokes wearing the same blue workman’s blazer – so many that it almost came as a surprise when I looked down and saw that I wasn’t wearing one.
RAW is truly the hipster’s wine fair, housed within the whitewashed warehouse walls of the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, it teems with egregious facial hair, tight trousers and tattoos, and lording it through it all is what you might call the wine hipster’s deity, the Sicilian amphora winemaker Gabrio Bini, unmissable with his silky, snow-white locks and moustache, lilac-tinted glasses and psychedelic shirt.
Bini is no mere fashion icon, though. His wines, which were guzzled up long before the wines of the rest of the 100+ winemakers at the fair (similar story for the wines of Frank Cornelissen and Elisabetta Foradori), are extraordinary creations: long skin-maceration in amphora which are buried in the soil for several months at a stretch. The resulting wines have a structure and spicy exoticism that is rarely found anywhere else. They aren’t cheap, but demand for the wines of this flamboyant silver fox clearly outstrips supply.
RAW definitely seems to be creating more of a buzz among young wine drinkers with every passing year. It’s been my favourite fair from the very first time I attended; I can still remember how bedazzled I was by the variety of flavours and aromas in these wines.
These are experiences that can shape a passion for wine, so the growing popularity of the RAW fair is something the organisers should be proud of. Thanks and congratulations to Isabelle Legeron and her team.
Here are my highlights from this year, based on the usual, inevitably selective, sampling. I wonder, in passing, if there’s something delirium-inducing about tasting for three hours under that hothouse roof. Maybe it was just the wine…
Seresin pinot noirs (all of them): Seresin is a biodynamic estate in Marlborough, NZ. I’m not at all keen on their sauvignon, but their pinots have a poise and elegance and fruit-oak balance that’s quite special. (Available through Armit Wines)
Ezibusisweni Chenin Blanc 2012: Angus Mcintosh is a cattle farmer in Stellenbosch. He makes amazing biltong. He also has some chenin blanc vines, from which he makes a very limited supply of this outstanding wine:
This is biodynamically farmed chenin, very small-scale. The grapes are basket-pressed and barrel-fermented and then aged for up to two years. Wild yeast, no additives, no racking, no topping up, no fining or filtering. I tried the 2012-14 – all very lovely but the 2012 was definitely the best: apricoty, bready, even caramely, yet still fruity and fresh. The straw wine on the left of the picture is from 2009 and is also absolutely wonderful. We’re going to have to go to Stellenbosch to enjoy it though because, so far, no one imports it. Damn shame.
Om Oliver Moragues Possessió D’Om 2014: A Mallorcan red made from indigenous manto negro grapes grown on clay-limestone soil. Similar to a pinot in fruit profile but with a bit more tannic structure. Lovely bright fruit and a mineral streak. They make a couple with oak as well but I think they mask the fruit too much. Not yet imported.
Vignaioli Contra Soarda Marzemino. These are Contra Soarda‘s wines:
They’re made from grapes grown on volcanic soil on a hillside just outside Bassano del Grappa, where vines and olive trees have been grown for centuries. They use mainly indigenous grapes (marzemino nero, plus the white vespaiolo), grapes are gravity-fed into the winery, wild yeasts are used for fermentation and there is no filtering. This red has such bright fruit and mineral tension. I love it. I love all their wines, actually – their merlot included. (Available from The Winemakers Club)
This stuff isn’t cheap, but I’d rather drink it than most champagnes I can think of. So fresh and vital, yet with depth and complexity. Stunning sparkling wine. (Available from The Winemakers Club)
Cupano: Lionel Cousin is a charming whitebearded Frenchman who makes wine in Montalcino, Tuscany. His 2006 Brunello reminded me of a 20 or 30-year-old Pomerol. Amazing stuff. His 2008 and 2009 were also memorable: so earthy and complex. He also makes some wonderful Supertuscans. (Available from Swig)