“RAW WINE celebrates wines with emotion. Wines that have a human like, or living, presence. They are also wines that are an authentic expression of a place.”
(RAW Wine catalogue 2017)
Isabelle Legeron MW set up the RAW WINE fairs to showcase growers whose “fundamental farming and cellar philosophies make living wines possible”. The fairs are a celebration of biodynamic, organic and natural wines from across the world and a fantastic place to meet the winegrowers themselves.
We visited the London RAW WINE fair in March 2017 to not only taste some of these wines, but also to discuss their production techniques with the winemakers themselves, our hope being that we could apply some of the techniques in our own winemaking. Below are three wines that stood out for us, all from Austrian winegrowers with vineyards around Neusiedlersee in Burgenland.
Vineyards: Neusiedl am See, Burgenland, Austria
Certification: Uncertified organic
Wine: Petillant Naturel Rose ‘Pretty Nuts’
Grape variety: Pinot Noir
Methods: The wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes and left in tank on the skins for 2 days. This gives the fantastic colour and subtle flavours. After pressing the fermentation begins naturally from yeast found on the grape skins. It is bottled at the point when the fermentation hasn’t quite finished and therefore the final fermentation occurs in the bottle. It is this that gives the petillant naturel – the natural sparkle – to the wine. The wine is disgorged with the neck under water to remove the sediment build up, topped up, crown capped and then ready to develop in the bottle before drinking.
Quality: We loved this wine. The fantastic strawberry and red fruit flavour combined with the lively sparkle made it a pleasure to drink. The balance between acid and the sweet flavours of the fruit was perfect. Approx 11% alcohol means it is light and joyful. As a Pet Nat it has a slightly cloudy appearance as it is not filtered but this is part of the appeal – a lively, young sparkling wine full of life.
Vineyards: Gols, Burgenland, Austria
Certification: Certified organic by Lacon
Wine: Weissburgunder, full-bunch fermented
Grape variety: Weissburgunder
Methods: The grapes are full-bunch fermented, stems and all, except for the top layer of the fermentation tank which is made up of a layer of destemmed gapes. This prevents the stems below being in contact with the air. No pushing down occurs in order to maintain this integrity. The wine develops for 2 weeks on the skins, then 9 months in barrel (old oak), and is then bottled unfiltered.
Quality: The Rennersistas said that the wine we tasted had not been fully aged and so had come directly from the barrels. Even if this was the case this Weissburgunder was delicious – very slightly cloudy (perhaps not fully settled yet) with wonderful fruity and floral flavours. The skin contact creates a gentle tannin in the wine, which works well with the full bodied but soft mouth-feel. We tried various skin macerated whites at RAW, but this one had retained the quality of a typical Weissburgunder while enhancing it with the additional flavours & qualities coming from the skin contact (tannin, body, savoury notes, deeper fruit). Some other wines we tasted had lost the typicity of the original grape variety through skin maceration which can be a shame (particularly evident in some of the orange Riesling wines). We thought this wine was excellent – rich, full bodied, flavourful and worth savouring.
Vineyards: Gols, Burgenland, Austria
Certification: Certified biodynamic by Demeter
Wine: ‘Schlicht und Ergreifend’ orange wine
Grape variety: Freuhroter Veltliner
Methods: Another single variety wine, destemmed and skin fermented/macerated for 6 weeks. The wine is then drawn off with no pressing of the skins and matured in used oak barrels for 8 months. It is then bottled unfiltered.
Quality: Again the skin contact gives a level of soft tannin to the wine which adds mouth-feel and texture. With such a long skin contact the tannin levels were higher than the Rennersistas’ Weissburgunder – a different but equally good quality. An interesting blend of honey and cider apple flavours, with a slight acid, gave a nice balance to the floral notes. A slight mead-like quality, full bodied and intense.
These wines, and many of the wines at RAW, challenge the currently accepted notion of what a wine should be, and the focus on a less interventionist approach where the emphasis is on the natural health of the vineyard and grape is a pleasure to experience.