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Natural wines at Raw Fair: ‘To each his own’

This year's Raw Wine Fair in London underlined how natural and also organic and biodynamic wine producers are garnering a following, particularly among younger wine enthusiasts. Decanter tastings assistant Natalie Earl visited for the first time and, below, gives her initial impression of the show...

As a first time visitor to Raw Wine Fair and a relative newcomer to the natural wine scene, I thought it was important to arrive at 180 Strand in central London with an open mind.

I was keen to try some of the skin contact whites and overall I was thrilled by the diversity of styles available. But is that because I like things that are a little different; because I am seduced by the unconventional?

Slovenian producer Ivan Batič told me that skin contact is like spice. You have to be careful, in other words. Too much and you can mask the varietal character, and the expression of terroir that these wines seek to portray, he said.

The orange wines available had varying lengths of maceration.

Batič waved his hand to indicate the whole room. ‘Everyone is ok in their own vest,’ he said, putting his twist on the phrase ‘to each his own’.

raw wine fair, natural wines

Producers and visitors chat about natural wines at Raw Fair. Credit: Raw Wine Fair.

Another style I was particularly taken by was the pét nats – or pétillant naturel wines. Among those I tried were Ancre Hill Estate’s NV Triomphe pét nat and Meinklang’s Foam Rot.

All of the producers that I spoke to at the fair were so honest and open, willing and eager to discuss their winemaking techniques and the decisions behind them.

Minimal intervention in the cellar was a common theme. Amandine Zeman, of Riecine winery in Tuscany, said that she didn’t believe in ‘magic recipes’. It’s important to let the wine lead the way, she said.

Something that also struck me was the conviction these producers had about sustainability and their philosophy towards the soil and the planet.

Martin Kerres, of Valdonica in Tuscany and medical doctor-turned-winemaker, spoke of the importance of allowing vines to build their own strength and defences.

Some of these approaches, and sustainability as a whole, obviously stretch beyond natural wine – and Raw includes organic and biodynamic producers who don’t necessarily identify as ‘natural’. But it was interesting to see how producers at the fair viewed themselves on that spectrum.

The natural wine movement itself clearly has a cult following.

It is a category that defies strict definition and certainly has its critics, but Raw is now in its sixth year and is expanding internationally, holding its first show in New York in 2016.

And if some people weren’t making good wine, then would so many visitors attend a fair like this? To each his, or her, own.

Editing by Chris Mercer

  • Decanter magazine will publish a tasting of natural wines in its May issue, out on 5 April 2017. Subscribe now.

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