RealWine, or the Real Wine Fair, took place at London’s Tobacco Dock venue on Sunday and Monday. This is one of the biggest natural wine fairs in the UK (along with Raw Wine), and possibly in Europe now. Organised for many years by pioneering UK importer Les Caves de Pyrene, it allows their own producers, and those of other smaller importers of natural wines, to show both to the public and trade.
I think for the trade it has become almost as much a social event as a working day and this was amplified a thousand times this year. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling an incredible warmth in the venue generated by friends and colleagues meeting up for what might have been, in some cases, the first time in two or more years. This was echoed in comments from the exhibitors. We all needed this opportunity to re-bond, and what a success it was. On a personal level, although this wasn’t my first post-Covid event, I even felt a little emotional to be back at this one.
As I begin to write I’m not sure whether this will emerge as two or three articles. I’m always aware that I have, in the past, written some whopping great pieces which are probably quite taxing to read. I should apologise as well that I’ve come away with only fifteen producers I want to write about, which is almost every producer whose wines I tasted. There is no logic here, and I missed whole regions, even countries. I’m just giving you a snapshot. Less chat and I could have covered more, but then the palate can only take so much (along with the legs). But I will say that I have included one or two producers highly recommended to me as I wandered around losing my voice chatting to long-missed friends over the din of hundreds of others doing exactly the same. So you will encounter some of the best.
WEINGUT BIANKA AND DANIEL SCHMITT (Rheinhessen, Germany)
The journey begins on Table 1 with a young couple whose wines I tasted properly for the first time several years ago at the “Common Ground” tasting of Alsace and Germany, a pair of articles from that event coincidentally quite popular at the moment on my site. Since then, I’ve been buying their wines to drink at home literally whenever I see a bottle.
They took over a winery at Flörsheim that had been in the family for two centuries, but their outward-looking approach (biodynamic and natural, making wines “only from grapes”) comes from working abroad and continued travel to promote their wines and philosophy. They have sixteen scattered parcels totalling sixteen hectares, and their wines are made in a mix of old oak, mostly large pieces, and amphora.
Riesling Sekt Brut Nature 2019 is frankly a great start to a day’s tasting. Rounded fruit, dry, frothy, really interesting. It’s a traditional method sparkling wine from a 2019 base, with one year in 1,200-litre oak before initial bottling. The second fermentation uses juice from the following year for its liqueur to get it started. Disgorgement is after a further 15 months on lees. The composition is 100% Riesling. It does not have the complexity further age might bring, but it has weight and presence, and I’d say it is eminently suitable to serve with food. Superb.
Riesling M 2020 is scented, natural and soft. Its from a single parcel off cold clay soils, harvested late, in October. It saw four days on skins followed by a year’s ageing in a 1,200-litre cask. It scores on gorgeous aromatics and a gentle but typical Riesling palate (citrus, mineral etc).
Zold Sylvaner 2020 (they spell the variety with a “Y”) comes from the same parcel as the previous wine. It has a lifted bouquet, concentrated scents lifted by the aromatics of a week on skins. Ageing is also one year in 1,200-litre oak. It’s a lovely expression of an under-appreciated variety which they do extremely well.
Riesling Dry White 2020 is a direct-pressed blend of grapes from all of Bianka and Daniel’s Riesling parcels. It is harvested six weeks earlier than the “M”, in mid-September. This gives a very different style of wine, with a great deal of freshness replacing the softer complexity of the former wine. Both have their place. This sees ten months ageing, but still in wood (despite the freshness). This time the casks are 3,000 and 4,000-litres.
Wild Pony 2020 was really fascinating. My first time tasting this cuvée, it’s a blend of 40% Gelber Muskateller with Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Sylvaner. After two weeks on skins the varieties are fermented separately before ageing for fifteen months in oak, six of those months under flor. The yeast influence is there, but not dominant in a wine that’s smooth but with just a little texture. Long, characterful, I’m almost reticent to praise this as much as I want to so early in the day. All of the DB Schmitt wines are well worth grabbing, but I shall be looking out for this.
Importer – Les Caves de Pyrene.
ANDERT-WINE (Burgenland, Austria)
The Andert family are in Pamhagen, the village on the southeastern side of the Neusiedlersee which also houses the larger, and perhaps better known in natural wine circles, Meinklang Farm, near the Hungarian border. There are apparently fifty Anderts in the village so each family has a nickname, which they use for one of their cuvées, below. This is a small operation, just four-and-a-half hectares of vines, along with vegetables, herbs and a range of animals, farmed by brothers Erich and Michael Andert.
Their idea of “natural” extends not just to additives. They prefer wines to remain undisturbed and unmanipulated during winemaking and ageing, so, for example, alongside the expected spontaneous fermentations they reject any temperature control of those fermentations. There is no electricity in the cellar to interfere with the wine either. The result is highly individual wines with distinct personalities.
G’mischter Sotz 2020 is, of course, a co-fermeted wine made from a field blend of varieties including Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Müller-Thurgau, Gelber Muskateller, Frühroter Veltliner and Muskat Ottonel. What can I say, it’s a typical gemischter satz, sappy, a little saline, cloudy, zingy but not massively acidic, in this instance. I bought one.
Pamhogna Weiss 2020 blends just five varieties. I’m not sure what they are but it doesn’t matter too much. It’s an easy drinking white, slightly more settled than the GS but cloudy and sour. That’s sour in a good way, interesting sour. But nevertheless, for the appreciative adventurer.
Ruländer 2020 and 2021. This is another favourite Andert cuvée for me. Fermentation is in 500-litre oak with a five-day maceration. The wine is softened by a naturally occurring malolactic. The ’21 was a sample, pink (the variety is a synonym for the pink-berried Pinot Gris/Grauburgunder in parts of Germany and Austria) with lifted scents. There’s a pleasant salinity here as well. The 2020 is slightly more amber than pink, at least in the light of the venue. The bouquet and palate showed more red berry fruit and less spice and mineral salt. Both are so good.
Grüner Veltliner “Anadjucka” 2020 is the wine which sports the family’s nickname by which they can be identified in the village. It’s softer than many Grüners, but it has a little bit of a tannic bite on the finish. As with all the Andert wines, they are fermented as whole bunches. It has bags of personality, as again, they all do.
Pamhogna Rot 2019 is a blend of 70% Zweigelt and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. In my opinion its success lies in the Zweigelt component managing to dominate the Cabernet with its overt berry freshness in a wine with glowing vibrant red colour to match. The fruit acidity is concentrated and delicious, with smoother dark fruits, presumably the Cabernet, lurking beneath.
Personalgetränk #5 NV is less straightforward, more complex, demanding perhaps of more attention. Not only is it a blend of more than one vintage, it is also a blend of red and white grape varieties. Approach without a thought in your head and let it speak to you.
Wermutlich Rot NV (50cl) is vermouth, but quite a remarkable one. Herbs are macerated in the barrel with the wine (made from Zweigelt) and, originally, honey, although they are moving to use stevia instead of honey as the sweetener because, during fermentation, it allows for lower alcohol. The result is savoury and less sweet than expected. It also lacks that “hot” taste which you find with a lot of Mediterranean vermouths. I’ve no idea what it costs but vermouth fans should really try it.
Importer – Les Caves.
JAROSLAV OSICKA (Moravia, Czechia)
Several Czech producers were grouped together as a national cohort in the corner of the small hall at Tobacco Dock. I’d tasted most of these producers extensively at the Basket Press Wines Portfolio Tasting back in March this year, so I just tasted a few new wines from three producers. You can read more extensive notes, if you wish, by typing “Basket Press” into the search box and looking for the March tasting (article of 17/03).
Jaroslav’s son, Luboš, was on hand to pour the wines. Back in Vilké Bilovice father and son farm 3.5 ha of vines in total harmony with nature, a philosophy mirrored in the cellar. Sulphite additions are minimal, otherwise there are no interventions, and ageing is in a mix of oak and acacia.
Chardonnay 2019. This is a wine I don’t remember trying before. It’s a wine with nice fresh acids balanced by medium weight of fruit. You genuinely would not guess this has 13% alcohol. You would guess that sulphur addition is minimal. It’s not volatile or anything like that, it’s perfectly clean. But it is also open and expansive, not attenuated.
Oranz 2020 is made from a single variety, Gewurztraminer. It gets its colour from a twelve-day maceration on skins. It has texture, but not too much. The palate shows as a deliciously spicy cocktail of fruit and unlike some Gewurz, it has freshness and is, shall we say, reassuringly dry. The lowish 12.5%abv is a bonus too.
P.A.N 2020 stands for Pinot Noir and André, the latter being one of the oddest names for a grape variety I know, and will doubtless remain so until I’m introduced to an obscure English variety called Kenneth. Apparently, it was developed in Moravia in the 1960s but registered in 1980 and there are now a little over 250 ha planted in Czechia, and also a little in Slovakia. It’s a cross, like Zweigelt, between Frankovka (Blaufränkisch) and Saint-Laurent. The new cross blended with Pinot Noir works well to produce another characterful red.
Chardonnay Vertikal NV is a complex blend of three vintages, 2017, 18 and 19. I’m not sure that Basket Press Wines imports this but they should, it being a really interesting red wine, showing the benefits of putting together a multi-vintage cuvée.
DVA DUBY (Moravia, Czechia)
Jiri Sebela is the man behind DVA Duby, although he was ably assisted by his sons at Real Wine. The eldest, only fifteen years old, is already making wine so the future here seems to have been secured early. They have 7 hectares of mostly old vines in the south of Moravia. I’ve drunk a couple of his wines quite recently at home, so regular readers will know all about the special terroir here, granodiorite. This is a magmatic rock (volcanic, but from magma, not ash) from the Pre-Cambrian era, 650 million years ago.
This is another biodynamic (since 2007) winery where the only intervention is the addition of minimal sulphur when deemed necessary. This is a winemaker I got to know some years ago but rather neglected for a while. Tasting and drinking more of these wines the past twelve months, I’ve come to appreciate them more, deservedly so. Recent bottles have been especially good.
Malvasia 2018 is a synonym for a variety which the Austrians more often would call Frühroter Veltliner. If I tell you that Moravians also call it Veltlinske Cervene Rane that’s just being mean. The aromatics are built around red apple, citrus and herbs. The palate is savoury and slightly saline. It’s a delicious, spicy, food wine with a little structure. Definitely on my wish list next time I’m ordering from Basket Press.
Zweigeltrebe 2018 is a fresh and delicious red with a lick of volcanic salinity and texture underneath lifted red fruit aromatics, with delicate almost floral scents. Definitely a wine showing some complexity after a few years in bottle, but yet also a wine of bright fresh fruit acids. Zweigeltrebe is just a synonym for Zweigelt, although what is more confusing is that because modern Austria has issues with Dr Zweigelt, who made this crossing of Blaufränkisch and Saint-Laurent in 1922, some Austrians are starting to call it Rotburger. I’m told that this new synonym does not go down well in America.
PETR KORÁB (Moravia, Czechia)
I think it was only a week ago that I called Petr a cult winemaker, though he didn’t take offence when I met him here for the first time, along with his wife, on Monday. He farms a tiny three hectares at Boleradice and has done so since 2006. He’s famous for his almost infinite variety of ever-changing petnat wines, with ever more extrovert labels, but he also makes an exemplary range of still wines. I drank his wonderful maceration white, Ambero, only days ago, so I didn’t taste it here. Nevertheless, its label now adorns my “hall of fame” so look out for a note in my “Recent Wines” for May when the article comes out.
Despite the very youthful looking labels on the petnats, and a youthful looking winemaker, the vineyards are all full of old vines and traditional Moravian varieties, or clones when it comes to varieties we think of as international but which have been in Moravia for a very long time. Again, minimal intervention, with low or no SO2 added. The wines can be edgy and too much so for some people. But I kind of think anyone reading my notes on Real Wine will not be of such a view.
It’s Alive 2021 is a petnat made to age. Petr says that a lot of petnat seems to go stale too quickly, after a year or two, and he wanted to make one which would develop a little. The main variety is Pinot Blanc, one I think is eminently suitable for sparkling wines and somewhat underrated generally. The wine is young now, having only seen two months in bottle. It’s zippy and one-dimensional, yet good enough that I’d crack one open. A long and slow first fermentation in barrel means that when it settles down it should mellow out and add lees-induced complexity. One to watch.
Quasi Crémant 2020 is a traditional method Sekt, so undergoing a second bottle fermentation with disgorgement. It’s the cuvée’s second vintage, of a wine made from Welschriesling, not a variety I’ve seen used a lot for sparkling wine myself. It has more body and perhaps weight than the petnats, certainly a little more of a serious side. More “classical” maybe? This was a sample, disgorged after only two months ageing on lees. It was really nice, but Petr plans to leave it much longer before its proper release. It was a pleasure to try it though, and it is looking very good for the future.
Grüner Veltliner 2021 was also a sample of the new vintage, straight from barrel where it is currently sitting on its lees in the cellar. This is an example of one of Petr’s more “classical” still wines, though still of course made with exactly the same natural wine methods. It has been through its malo but it’s still cloudy with lees flavours just showing through. Petr expects this to fall clear naturally and he will bottle in the summer. The wine has plenty of fresh acidity and I would expect this to tone down a little over time, to be replaced by more complexity. Petr’s single varietal still wines usually deliver.
Cryo Aromatic was pulled out at the last minute, so I didn’t get the vintage. A new petnat cuvée blending Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, with at this stage the SB component dominating the nose, but the Chardonnay perhaps providing the body most to the fore on the palate. Very exotic, aromatic, one for the adventurous of course.
All three of these producers from the Czech Republic are imported and distributed by Basket Press Wines.
At nearly 2,700 words I think I should close here. I’m forever being told 1,800 words is the optimum for readers. So, we shall have three articles from RealWine 2022. Let me know what you think about this approach.