‘When I go to buy a chicken I like to have three to choose from. When I go to buy wine, I’m now presented with 300. It’s completely bewildering’. I struggled to believe my ears listening to the excellent Radio 4 Food Programme on the three major London wine fairs in late May. Was the blogger interviewed at the London International Wine Fair (LIWF) really complaining about ‘the sheer profusion of wines available from so many different countries and grape varieties and different takes on winemaking’?
Though smaller this year, there were still 1000-plus exhibitors at the annual three-day trade show at Excel. As well as the classics of Western Europe, there were wines from Turkey, Lebanon, India, Georgia, Russia, Israel, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Canada, Mexico, Lithuania and Brazil. From the Wine Gang stand, we gave talks and tasted our way around to select the Best in Show awards (for the full results, see http://www.thewinegang.com/reports/detailed/editorial/2012/6).
If that weren’t a sufficient reminder of the unrivalled choice available to consumers in this country, the LIWF was preceded by the RAW Wine Fair and the Real Wine Fair (RWF). Mixing consumer and trade days, the two events were the offspring of differences of opinion between the organizers of last year’s successful Natural Wine Fair held at the Borough Market. You could be forgiven for thinking that the rival factions might be smaller and tamer, but no, the atmosphere at both RAW at the Truman Brewery and RWF at in Holborn was electric.
Natural wine polarizes opinion not just because of a vagueness of definition but because the-less-done-to-wine-the-better approach can on occasion lead to vinegary or funky wines. The hit rate at the fairs though was higher than at your average supermarket tasting even if the handcrafting of natural wines can make them expensive. Among many favourites, I enjoyed the 2009 Millton Vineyards Te Arai Chenin Blanc, Gisborne, £13 - £14, Harrods, Wholefoods, Quel Vin, Glasgow (01413373441), for its ripe stonefruit flavours in vouvray-esque mould. I found the 2010 Matassa, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Blanc, around £29.99, Bottle Apostle (02089851549), Roberson (02073712121), to be a superb dry white blend of grenache gris and maccabeu with a sourdough, baked apple nuttiness and mineral dry aftertaste.
For its crisp primary berry fruit and damsony acidity I enjoyed the 2009 Teroldego, Foradori, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, around £18.99, Theatre of Wine (02088586363), Vagabond Wines (02073811717) and I loved all of Eric Texier’s wines, not least the 2009 Brézème, Côtes du Rhône, £15.49, Pont de la Tour Wine Shop, Wine Therapy, Cowes (01983298222), ia fine red displaying an intense crushed black pepper fragrance with elegantly spicy, fresh and pure black fruits. For an in-depth look at RAW and RWF including more than two dozen wines, see http://www.anthonyrosewine.com/journal/2012/6/alls-fair-real-and-raw
Something For the Weekend 16 June 2010
2011 Les Jardiniers Sauvignon Blanc, Val de Loire
Cheaper but better than Sainsbury’s new vintage Taste the Difference Sancerre, this fragrant Loire Valley sauvignon from Ackerman ticks the fragrance box for its elderflower notes and delivers on its juicy refreshing gooseberry fruit quality. £6.49, Sainsbury’s.
2010 Ogier Lirac Réserve
A vibrant blend of the southern Rhône grapes grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and cinsault, this has plenty of stuffing to it with its opulent but spice-tinged raspberry and cherryish fruit cocooned by a voluptuous texture and bright acidity. £8.99, The Co-operative.
2008 Toolangi Vineyards Chardonnay, Victoria, Australia
New to the Berry’s range, this is an elegant, cooler climate Victorian chardonnay whose clarity of appley and melon fruitiness are underpinned by a remarkable intensity of flavour and Burgundy-like complexity. £18.50, Berry Bros & Rudd (08002802440; bbr.com)