Raw Preview Tasting: “Alcohol is just a number, it’s all about the balance”
Guest Feature by Sarah James:
I was intrigued to be invited to this event; exactly what is ‘Raw’ or natural wine and what makes it so special? A guided tasting led by Isabelle Legeron MW the force behind the Raw Wine Fair was a perfect way to find out.
Isabelle explained that although there is no official definition of Natural Wine, the producers should adhere to the following principles of wine-making:
• The wine must be organic and/or biodynamic
• The domain must be farmed organically
• The grapes must be hand harvested
• No yeast should be added, except for the 2nd fermentation in sparkling wine
• No wine making additives
• No heavy manipulation
In summary, nothing put in and nothing taken out! It seems however that only 40-50 growers worldwide would be able to meet these requirements, so small quantities of sulphur are allowed to be added to the wine, but the producers have to be transparent about how much and are all listed in the show guide. In general, this about 1/3 of the amount put into normal wine and ½ of the amount put into organic wine.
The idea behind Raw is to help Natural Wine providers by organising a professional yet affordable event for trade and consumers in a lovely space, along with other products such as organic beers, and organic food.
So much for the theory; but what do the wines taste like? We were treated to 4 sparkling wines and 2 still. Now my friends know that I’m rather partial to a glass of fizz, so I was excited to see how natural wines would compare. Some of the wines we tried were names that we think we know well, such as Prosecco and Lambrusco; but these were completely different.
The first Prosecco – was Col Fondo the equivalent of ‘sur lie’ that we see on French wines. This meant that it was slightly cloudy as it was unfiltered, if left to stand it would clear completely. This was bone dry with no residual sugar, and very much to my taste (I’ve been thinking for some while that supposed dry wines actually taste quite sweet). Evidentially until the ‘70s this was how all Prosecco was made. I wish that they had carried on!
The second was orange in colour, made from the same grape but so different, full of tannins and tasting of oranges. It reminded me of the Spritz that you get in Venice made with sparkling wine and Campari, but this time without the Campari needing to be added. I loved this.
Lambrusco – a wine we’ve all drunk in early adulthood (and often regretted!). This one was dry, red, with tannins and black fruits. A completely different animal from the cheap party fizz of my youth.
The orange Radikon was fresh and non-sparkling; for me it tasted like a good dry cider. If I hadn’t known it was wine, I wouldn’t have identified it as such. This was unlike anything I’ve had before.
The Jolly Ferriol was made from Muscat which I’ve only had as a desert wine previously. It smelt of rose, lychee, and Turkish delight and was slightly sweet.
We finished the tasting with a South African Syrah by Lammershock (the same people that provide the house wine for Fortnum & Mason). This was much more traditional in colour, nose, taste.
It was a fascinating evening, I got to try wines that were very different from my normal selections. The fair is being held in London in May…. So if you now want to see and taste an orange wine, this is your chance to truly experience something different!
• Opening hours:
Sunday 18 May (10 am to 6 pm) – Trade and public
Monday 19 May (10 am to 8 pm) – Trade; (5 pm to 8 pm) – Public
• Venue: Old Truman Brewery, 83 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL
• Tickets £25 in advance, £30 on the door, £40 advance two-day ticket from the Raw Wine website