As its name suggests the organisers of The Real Wine Fair set it distinctively apart from most of the other wine tasting events in London. By calling it ‘The Real Wine Fair’ they stirred the interest accumulated in a plentiful rhetorical questioning of the local journalists, but also of the majority of the attendants of this particular fair that was accessible to the wine trade as well as the public. Either, privately in their own heads or in open heated conversations, we all questioned “what is real wine?”
Real, organic, biodynamic, Demeter, …the labelling of wine today
Well, aside of the marketing muscle of the word “real”, like adding the same tag to a butter or a bag of potato chips, the answer is not entirely clear. Shall the rest of the wines, not present at the fair, be called unreal, surreal or not really wine at all? I do not think so, although it may seem that this is the message that the organisers tried to communicate. Well, if one overdoses oneself with wine the experience may seem quite surreal as in the fog of intoxication seeing and hearing surreal existences is nothing uncommon.
Nevertheless, while the winemakers at the Real Wine Fair may also wow about the surreal effects of their wine, they also share other ideas. Making their wine as naturally as possible is their manifesto. Meaning, using a minimum of additives, chemicals and human manipulation as they can to bottle wines, reflecting their local soil and annual climate variation. Some do not need to be “organic certified”, despite adhering to the practices of the organic farming, while others go further along the line with the bio-dynamic philosophy (can be “Demeter” certified in Europe). These winemakers are revolutionaries in their hearts since they refuse to pay any organisation for the label “organic”, and make simply wines as they ancestors have done for centuries. Atop of these reasons stemming mainly from pride, the small producers also often cannot afford it.
The location of The Real Wine Fair this year was more attuned to expressing this common, nature emphasising philosophy than in the previous year of the same event. The barn-like structure and plenty of natural light (despite for the typically rainy London day) of the former Tobacco Doc in the city’s industrial Wapping, suited perfectly.
Producers from France, Italy, Spain, Georgia and even some from Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, the USA and South Africa travelled in some cases the world over to show their wines.
Italian indigenous grape varietals at The Real Wine Fair
The previous year I tasted memorable wines from Emilia-Romagna in Italy. I was impressed by the producer of Fondo San Giuseppe in Brisighella – Stefano Bariani, who is making bio-dynamic wines, picked by hand since in his words, he aims for “understanding the land rather than abusing it”. His winemaking is close to the natural wine movement, tangible in his philosophy to“recognise wine as the spontaneous fruit of the land”. So I had to taste his spontaneous wines again to confirm that “Fiorile” was not just in a good mood on that tasting. This wine is made from Albana, a native grape coming from the Romagna part of the region. The deeply coloured white wine had a lovely balance and warmth with apricot aromas and, like the first spring sun rays with their resurgent energy, it shone with a vibrant mineral character acquired from the limestone soil it grows in. The tannins from the skins from longer maceration were tangibly refreshing on the palate. Named after “Floréal” – the eighth month of the French Republican Calendar starting on April 20 and ending May 19, the wine accurately chronicled this period of nature’s awakening.
While last year I focused on the amphora-made wines from Georgia, this year my eye was caught by the indigenous grapes of Italy, so I have tasted as many as I could. There are thousands of grape varietals planted in Italy, so I could not manage to taste them all in one tasting and it is unlikely that they could not all be present at one event London. I have tried the more known Italian wines at tasting with Berry Bros & Rudd on another occasion in London.
The Italian wines, that I’ve enjoyed the most at the The Real Wine Fair in London were:
- The aromatic, sweet and slightly fizzy Moscato d’Asti from Ca’D’Gal in Piemonte.
- The salty mineral, citrusy fresh, yet full from stirring the lees Manzoni Bianco (cross of Riesling and Pint Blanc) from Giuseppe & Alessandro Fanti in Trentino.
- The dark fruit-dominated, powerful yet refreshing Nebbiolos from Sandro Fay in Lombardia.
- The white blends and pinkish (from the skins) Pinot Grigio with the aromas of roses, young cherry blossom and fresh cherries from Dario Princic in Friuli.
- The Primitivo from Puglia, which was once brought to Italy from Greece – the powerful candied fruit on the nose and slightly meaty and concentrated fruit character on the palate from the first producer (in 1987) who bottled 100% Primitivo in Italy – Fatalone.