A few weekend ago, I took myself & The Gardener along to the Raw Wine Fair as a bit of a treat for both of us.
I love wine, – I love really good wine, and I love quite complex wine.. I can be a bit of a snob, Blossom Hill isn’t going to cut it for me, but mostly I like crowd pleasers – Silky Merlot, Jammy Malbec, Grassy Sauvignon Blancs, and unfashionable but creamy Chardonnay ..( I’m an Aussie!) however, I am frequently bothered by the chemicals used in viticulture, and the lack of clarity in labelling wine.
I really came to start thinking about this properly when I was on holiday a few years ago in France, walking through some particularly picturesque vineyards with my parents, when our idyllic walk was disturbed by a crop dusting plane, misting who knows what kind of chemical bomb over us, the village we were near and the vineyards. My eyes & throat were irritated for ages afterwards and it made me think. What are the long-term effects of ingesting this kind of chemical? And as I am wine lover, how much am I unwittingly ingesting?!
So I did a bit of research into the industry, and this is the tip of the iceberg! There are loads of nasty ingredients used to make the wines we love. Most don’t need to be labelled as they are deemed to ‘disappear’ in the wine making process. These added ingredients could be as innocuous as egg white or fish bones to ‘fine’ (clarify) the wine, or more chemically in nature. In any case MY problem is that these ingredients do not have to be declared. The consumer cannot know what they are consuming. Which doesn’t sit quite right with me.
Which is why I got so excited by the Raw Wine Fair. Showcasing Organic, Biodynamic ( which is like organic but more so) and Raw unprocessed, naturally fermented, wine, I thought I might find my wine nirvana.
Created by a visionary, Isabelle Legaron, who writes at @thatcrazyfrenchwoman who aims to promote natural, organic, un- chemicalized and industrialised wine. (I might have a career crush) this fair was aimed at industry, to showcase small producers to restaurants and distributors. And some slightly organic & wine obsessed people/bloggers like me.
The fair was held in a hall at the Old Truman Brewery. It was slightly unfortunate that it coincided with an unseasonably warm weekend the hall is badly ventilated (I can only imagine what it would have been like to work in as part of the brewery!) which is a shame, because there was SO much to taste.
I was particularly interested in French wine from the Loire Valley, as we’re off there this week. And, there are loads of organic, raw wines in the region who were represented at the fair. We chatted to a few and hope to visit the vineyards whilst we’re there. I’m quite intrigued & happy to hear that within the region quite a lot of vineyards are converting to organic viticulture.
We sampled some lovely wine from the region My fave was from a sweet man who spoke no English My French is stupidly basic, but he was so lovely we managed to kind of understand each other. His wine is fermented in the very ancient style in Amphora. He only had 2 types on offer to try, but his white wine was smooth and subtle and the red was rich and rounded. ( I can’t tell you the name of the grapes, they were lost in translation!)
Amphora are great big clay jugs, that have a tapered bottom & are buried in the ground, which aids in the fermentation of the wine and were how Romans, Greeks and the region around Azerbaigan & Georgia made wine.
The Georgians still use Amphora in traditional winemaking, and that is the region we headed to next, hoping to try some of their gorgeously coloured ‘Orange’ wine that is becoming increasingly popular in the US and here in the UK.
And- It is really drinkable. The orangey amber colour is created by leaving the seeds skins on when fermenting the wine, and it is traditionally made with ‘wild’ yeast, making each batch a little different. and complex. And really moreish.
The Georgian’s were making wine 8000 years ago, and the Georgian method of winemaking is recognized by Unesco as an important cultural heritage & tradition. It’s delicious too, it would be wouldn’t it? I mean, who would continue making something if it wasn’t delicious!?
We left the fair feeling a little giggly, more than a little overwhelmed with the amazing variety on offer, and full of enthusiasm for this new/old way of creating wine.
We’re off to the Loire Valley today driving down via the Euro Tunnel, with a stop off at Monet’s garden, and then to friends wedding. I’m looking forward to lots of beautiful scenery, fun with friends, & returning with a boot load of delicious, organic wine and stories to tell all about it.