Real Wine is an event I really look forward to. Okay, 170 producers is an impossible task for anyone, and I reckon I’d need five days to do the Fair justice. But the Fair is very well organised (if you excuse the lack of water bearers for glass rinsing), Tobacco Dock is a good venue (and not as inaccessible as I always imagine), and certainly on yesterday’s press day there was plenty of space to taste, at least in the morning. Of course, there are always minor gripes, but those are too minor to air here. Real Wine is a fantastic Wine Fair. Like my summer holiday, I wish it would never end.
My strategy for getting the most out of an event like this is to download the catalogue and make a list. Then I get to the event, bump into lots of people, and find my list grows considerably longer: “you really have to taste…”. Difficult as that makes the task in hand, those recommendations often yield the best surprises, and I’m forever grateful for them. Yet I also tried to enforce another rule yesterday. Don’t spend half your time tasting wines you already know. With a crossover of producers with Raw Wine, there are several big names I had to pass by, but one or two favourites had new wines to show, and one of those was my Wine of the Day.
Part 1 of my roundup will cover Austria and Germany. Part 2 will cover North America, Australia and the UK. Part 3 will cover some European producers. After the Fair I went to a Tasting of French Alpine Wines, organised by Wink Lorch, as celebration for hitting the target for her Kickstarter campaign, for a book on the same subject. A write-up of that tasting will follow Parts 1-3.
AUSTRIA AND GERMANY
Don’t worry, I’m not going to run through all the Klangs again, despite these guys being one of my favourite few Austrian producers. But I had to say hello, hector a few passers-by to come and taste, and to try one wine, the 2015 vintage of Foam Rot. This is a red partner for their white pét-nat, and it is made with 80% Gamaret and 20% Blaufränkisch, from their vineyards near Pamhagen (near Neusiedlersee’s southern shore). Gamaret is an interesting variety, a cross (1970) between Gamay and Reichensteiner which is largely planted in Switzerland (I’ve written about Gamaret from Geneva’s vineyards this year). This wine has a good colour, and lots of fruit, ripe red cherries and darker notes (blackberries?). Perfect for a pét-nat. Hoping there will be some around for me this summer.
Importer – Winemakers Club
Claus Preisinger, Burgenland
Claus is another favourite of mine, but although I drink a good number of his wines at home, I only said “hello” back at Raw. And in any event, having drunk a bottle of his 2015 Ancestrale sparkler at the weekend, I wanted to try the 2016. It’s quite different, but equally delicious. 10.5% abv, as opposed to just 9% in the 2015, it is also back to being stoppered with a crown cap, rather than the mushroom cork closure on the previous vintage. The nose really hits you – fragrant. It’s a bronzy colour (let’s not forget, the grape is the red St-Laurent), and there’s nice extract. It may be a little gentler than the rapier-sharp ’15.
Claus is based in Gols, at the northern end of the lake. He was talking about all the heavy snow they’d been having this winter (up to 20cm on the ground), and that a severe frost was also forecast for yesterday. I’m sure we all wish Claus, and all the other winemakers around the Neusiedlersee, the best of luck.
As a lover of the indigenous Austrian varieties at this address, I often forget Claus’ Pinot Noir. This is a mistake because he does produce a very good one. Pinot Noir 2015 is very fruit driven, but 2015 was a warm vintage, here as in most places. The wine, from a relatively cool climate terroir, is not at all jammy, but it does have a lovely texture, which Claus says was enhanced by the warm weather.
Unable to resist, I did have a quick glug of a couple more wines. Kalk und Kiesel Weiss is Preisinger’s entry level white. It won’t be the same every vintage, as that’s the way Claus works, but the new 2016 is very fresh, and if you don’t mind a touch of zippy apple (not cider), then this is one to try. By way of contrast, the Blaufränkisch ErDELuftGRAsundreBEN (sic) 2015 is in a very different style, and one for keeping. Quite big with concentrated fruit and tannins. Excellent, but give it time. The labels are very plain here, but the wines are far from it.
Importer – Newcomer Wines
Christian Tschida, Burgenland
This particular Tschida is based in Illmitz, on Neusiedlersee’s eastern shore, home to some of Burgenland’s finest producers. Christian’s small domaine consists of around ten hectares of vines which look unkempt compared to many of his neighbours’. But everything here is done with a combination of love, passion, and (truthfully) an awful lot of thought.
There are four wines which go under the Himmel auf Erden label (aptly, for the region, on which I’ve written before, heaven on earth). There’s a white made from Gelbermuskateller, Scheurebe and Weissburgunder, which is fresh with good acidity; another white labelled Maische Vergoren, which replaces the Weissburgunder with Muscat Ottonel, and has some skin contact (cloudy, with a bitter, almost earthy finish, which I love but it might scare some), a pink (not on show, but thankfully I have some), and the Himmel auf Erden Rot. This was a 2014 (the whites being 2015s). It’s a savoury wine blending Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon, which go together surprisingly well.
Kapitel I is the first of the more serious bottlings. This one blends Zweigelt with Cabernet Franc (50:50). It gets ten weeks on skins, then a year in oak. Another good combo, but this one’s not for glugging.
Felsen I is 100% Blaufränkisch, grown on limestone on the eastern side of the lake. It has a high-toned and peppery nose, concentration and length. Felsen II is 100% Syrah. This gets the ten weeks on skins again, but two years in oak this time. The nose is dark and mysterious, probably olives if you want a word for it. It has structure and mineral-texture, with, at this stage, a fair line of acidity. Maybe keep this the longest?
Importer – Newcomer Wines
Martin and Anna Arndorfer, Kamptal
Anna comes from Kamptal winemaking royalty (her father is Karl Steininger). They make wonderful wines here, which I only discovered last year, via their “Handcrafted” label (Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, the former which I drank a few times).
Vorgeschmack White 2016 is a blend of those two varieties (with Riesling at 20%). They are harvested together, pressed on the same day, and co-fermented. This is another delicious wine, which seems to express terroir more than those individual varieties.
Riesling Strasser Weinberge 2015 comes from two of the best sites in the village of Strass, on pure primary rock. Fermented, then aged ten months, in large oak, the wine is intense, with a lovely line and length. Fresh, but balanced by some body. I really like this.
Grüner Veltliner Die Leidenschaft 2015 is a selection from the Arndorfer Estate’s oldest vineyards, some of which were planted in 1959. Mouthfilling, refreshing, and with palate-cleansing acidity. It will age.
Roter Veltliner “Terrassen 1979” 2015 does what it says on the label. A terraced single vineyard, planted in 1979. Mineral and fresh, perhaps not as expressive as the Grüner Veltliner, but the Roter version (a white grape, not red) is a fascinating variety. Definitely has a (ahem!) mineral quality, but also the kind of subtle flavours you can’t really put a name to.
Müller-Thurgau “Per Se”2014 is yet another shockingly good version of this most maligned of varieties. It has a bronze colour from two weeks on skins, and a lot of extract and texture. For some, this should come with a red flashing warning light. For others, I doubt you’d easily guess the variety, and it’s one of the most unusual versions of this grape you will find.
Martin and Anna have a side project with their friends, Stefanie and Alwin Jurtschitsch, called Fuchs und Hase. The project is focussed solely on pét-nat wines. Relatively inexpensive, fruity and fun, but also very well made, these are worth seeking out.
Importer – Les Caves de Pyrène
Weingut Werlitsch, Ewald and Brigitte Tscheppe, Sudsteirerland
This estate is close to the Slovenian border, at Leutschach. The estate’s eight hectares of vineyards here are steep, and farmed biodynamically, the grape varieties being almost exclusively Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay (which here goes under the synonym of Morillon). The key word here is “nature”. Understanding nature in this specific location is the all-consuming aim of this couple, and I think their wines show it (as does one of their label styles – a tree with roots hugging the earth, which reminded me of the Japanese tale of Laputa).
Morillon vom Opok 2013 is a nice, rounded but balanced, Chardonnay. It’s a more simple style, if you want to get to know Austrian Chardonnay. Both Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc do excel in Austria’s Southern Regions. Opok is the sandy sedimentary loam which is said to give a certain powerful quality to the white wines.
Freude 2013 blends the two, though it’s mostly Sauvignon. Some stems are often added here, and the wine gets a whole year on skins. That creates a lovely orange colour. There’s fruit here, but the finish, in keeping with many orange wines, has the texture and savoury quality of a red wine. It’s lovely if, like me, you get the style (that’s a bit unfair, let’s say “like”).
Glück 2013 is perhaps a little less forthright. This cuvée blends the two varieties in equal proportion, and skin contact is just three weeks. But all of these wines are aged for several years in neutral large oak, hence the current vintage on show being 2013. The latter two wines in particular show genuine complexity. Freude is very complex for a Sauvignon Blanc from outside its homeland. The complexity (if not the style) reminds me of Abe Schoener (Prince in his Caves).
Importer – Newcomer Wines
Maria and Sepp Muster, Sudsteirerland
Weingut Muster is also near Leutschach. This is a very old estate, dating back to 1727. As with the Werlitsch vineyards, we have steep stony slopes on “opok”. The Musters also have something else in common with their near neighbours. Like their “Freude” wine, Muster’s skin contact cuvée is bottled in an earthy flask.
Sepp and Maria’s Opok White 2015 is a blend of varieties (SB and CH with Muskateller and Welschriesling). It has colour but no skin contact, and is another lovely expression of the region. There is also a pure Welschriesling vom Opok and a Gelber Muskateller vom Opok (both 2015).
I like all of the Muster wines. Try the Graf Sauvignon 2013 if you want to experience another totally different iteration of this variety. The reds are often overlooked – and aware of that I brought home the Rotwein 2011 (made from Blaufränkisch, Blauer Wildbacher (the grape of Schilchersekt), and Zweigelt, all fermented on skins). I do rather wish I’d also grabbed the somewhat more expensive Erde 2013 as well, though. That is created from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with a year on skins, then aged in a variety of cask sizes (225 litres up to 3,000 litres). Pure heaven (and earth) for fans of “deep orange” (deep referring to profundity as much as colour).
Importer – Les Caves de Pyrène
2Naturkinder, Melanie and Michael Voelker, Franken
I’ve written about this lovely couple a few times. Ex-publishers who turned to wine (with six hectares of vines close to Iphofen) and bats. This is Silvaner country, and it is the main grape of choice for Michael and Melanie. They might only have six hectares, but they produce a lot of cuvées (I’ve counted 15, eleven of which were on show yesterday). Where to begin?
Silvaner Pet-Nat 2016 (originally “Bat-Nat”, but I prefer “Pet-Bat”) is as good a place as any. Easy going, with 10g/l residual sugar, this is quite spicy (ginger), cloudy and very “funky” (it promises the full on Funkadelic).
There are two cuvées named after their favourite vineyard inhabitant (not the Johann Straus operetta). Fledermaus White 2016 is another nod to Müller-Thurgau, this time with 25% Silvaner, and will do you for a simple white.
The very interesting Kleine Wanderlust 2015 will sort you for a red. Take 80% of the Regent variety (which you will also find in the UK now) and 20% Dornfelder (which Bolney in Sussex use to make a delicious red fizz). Made using carbonic maceration, but from a very dry vintage, fermentation actually stopped. With just 10.5% alcohol, it’s packed with oozing blueberry fruit. Quite different.
The Heimat wines undergo a degree of skin contact. Heimat Silvaner 2016 is a serious wine, with 20 days on skins. The vineyards aren’t on hillsides, but they are of a southerly orientation. As far as I’m aware it is, by a long way, their most expensive wine to date, and whilst 2Naturkinder do focus on gluggable wines, this is something different. The bottle of this wine on taste at the Fair was a barrel sample, but it has real potential.
This couple are getting a bit of a reputation, but the wines are very firmly of the non-interventionist style and, as I intimated, they are quite funky.
Importer – Under the Bonnet Wines
Weingut Brand, Pfalz
Daniel and Jonas Brand remind me of the Rennersistas from Gols in Austria. They are two brothers in their early and mid-twenties who took over the family domaine and took off in a very different direction. I asked whether their father had confidence in what they are doing. “Not at first, but now, yes” was Daniel’s reply. It’s all down to trust.
The Brand brothers farm at Bockenheim, north of Deidesheim and Bad Dürkheim, and directly west of Wörms, in the northern part of the Pfalz. I started off tasting their Pet Nat White 2016, made from a blend of Silvaner and Pinot Blanc (Daniel didn’t say “Weissburgunder”). It has just 12 hours maceration and is both simple and very tasty. There is a red/pink Pet Nat as well, made from Pinot Noir with 10% Blauer Portugieser. I think I liked this even more.
Wildrose 2016 is 100% Blauer Portugieser, and a very interesting version of a variety which gains little respect from wine writers outside of Germany. But among the several cuvées made by these young men, the one which perhaps illustrates their potential is Mythos 2015. It is made from an early ripening grape variety called Cabernet Mythos (aka Cabernet Mitos), developed in 1970 as a cross between Blaufränkisch and Teinturier du Cher. It is made almost like a rosé, with just 12 hours maceration before being racked off into barrels. The teinturier element nevertheless gives it a typical dark colour (Teinturier grapes have dark flesh). The vines are 30 years old, grown on limestone, with loess and loam. It’s dark, very fruity, but the fruit acids are prominent, as is a mineral texture. You expect more than the 12.5% alcohol which undoubtedly helps this wine retain its freshness. Not complex, but certainly a wine which poses questions and makes demands of the taster.
Importer – Under the Bonnet Wines
FOOTNOTE – The Glou(glou) which binds us together
Whilst the Fair is about the wines, visitors need sustaining. There’s a whole raft of food on offer, and Real Wine does this very well. New this year was the incredibly popular Quality Chop House. Imagine a fine pork pie with pickled walnuts, and mustard made using Kernel Brewery’s fabulous Table Beer. As wine tasting is a taxing business, sugar levels could be re-instated with some delicious cinnamon and marzipan pastries from The Bread Station (London Fields), the perfect accompaniment to coffee from Taylor Street Barristas (New Street). Canopy Beers (Herne Hill) were on hand in the main hall, and were popular with the exhibitors. These are just a few of the many well thought out ways of getting us poor wine addicts through the day.
The wine shop is an unmissable part of the Real Wine Fair. Last year I brought a suitcase with me, but this year, with a post-Fair Tasting to get to, I made do with just a couple of bottles. Where the shop scores is in the large selection brought to the event, mainly, but far from exclusively, from the Les Caves de Pyrene warehouse.
If all that were not enough, I did joke that I only went to the Fair to buy Michel Tolmer‘s bande dessinée, A Short Treatise on Tasting (wine tasting adventures with Tolmer’s characters, Fifi, Mimi and Glouglou, who seem almost a trade mark of the natural wine movement). Michel was on hand for book signings, as was Wink Lorch, signing Jura Wine. Noble Rot also had a stand to entice what must have been the very few Fair-goers who do not already purchase a copy.
With seminars and talks, Real Wine is a a proper event. It really warrants more than a day to do it justice, but I did my best (though I could have spent the day just chatting to some of the nicest people in the wine trade). Part 2 of my happy adventure will therefore follow soon.