RAW 2014 was, as in 2013, at once fantastic and frustrating: some phenomenal wines and winemakers, but relatively few are actually sold in the UK. On the other hand, if you take the view that wine is best tasted in situ, then it’s all the more reason to get down to Solicchiata, Asti, Udine, or Tokyo !
Of the 151 wine stands, in the interests of focus, I mainly stuck with Italy (Friuli, Sicily, Campania, Lazio, and Piedmont), Georgia, and the Japanese sake stand.
2013 review here, with an introduction to natural wine, importers, etc. https://eatthehipster.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/raw-natural-wine-fair-london/
The highlight was the sake stand, manned by the awesome duo of Masaru Terada (of Teradahonke organic sake brewery based in Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo) and Dick Stegewerns of Yoigokochi sake importers (Leiden, Holland). They had about 25 organic sakes, defined as junmaishu (“100% pure rice wine” without alchohol, sugars, additives), some of which were unpasteurised and unfiltered. Many of them were relatively “unpolished”: polishing rice removes the bran on the surface to expose the starch, and most “standard” sake is 30% polished, for what’s thought to be a cleaner flavour, perhaps at the expense of character.
A favourite was Ine Mankai (from Mukai Shuzo brewery in Kyoto Prefecture), a rose sake made from 30%-polished red rice, sweet and acidic. Another was the Yuzu (from Heiwa Shuzo in the southern prefecture of Wakayama), flavoured with yuzu lime. Teradahonke had a number of cloudy sakes described as “pre-modern”, made with minimal polishing, while Senkin Tsurukame 19 (Senkin brewery) was 81% polished ! Bottom line, the sake stand was an eye-opener on the range and variety of sake production in Japan, which doesn’t really make its way to most Japanese restaurants in London, at least at an affordable price by the glass.
On to Friuli-Venezia-Giulia – once again Stan Radikon’s wines impressed with their colour, aroma, tautness: favourites were Oslavje 2007 (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio), the utterly austere Ribolla 2007 (Ribolla Gialla), and the more forgiving Jakot 2007 (Tokaj). Still in FVG, Franco Terpin’s Ribolla Gialla 2007 from the Collio hills was notable, as were Marco Sara’s peppery Schioppettino 2012 (Schioppettino grapes native to FVG) and the Frank 2012 (Cabernet Franc). I also greatly enjoyed Denis Montanar’s slightly sweet Rose Di Refosco Dal Peduncolo Rosso 2010 (RDP grapes), and more tannic Verduzzo Friulano 2006 (VF grapes).
Just next door, in Veneto, Costadila from Valdobbiadene offered a great prosecco, 450 Slm 2012, with no added sugar and slightly cloudy, as well the slightly-orange, owing to 20 days of skin contact, 280 Slm 2012 . I think the odd names might refer to elevations.
In Piedmont, the standouts were Luca Roagna’s Barbaresco Paje 2008 (Nebbiolo), made in the traditional style (botti grandi instead of barriques , autochthonous yeasts, and a submerged cap of crushed skins atop the fermenting wine), producing a pale and pleasantly tannic wine, 6 years after bottling. Cascina Roera’s wines from Monferrato near Asti, particularly the Monferrato Rosso of 2008 (Nebbiolo) was excellent but probably could use a few more years of ageing (Roera is also a traditional vintner). Lastly, I liked Valfaccenda’s Roero Arneis 2013 (Arneis grapes), for its hint of perfume and sweetness.
Some very fine wine was at Cancelliere from Campania in the Montemarano zone, made from Aglianico grapes, said to be southern Italy’s answer to Nebbiolo, its high tannins and acids making it suitable for long ageing, indeed requiring ageing before its drinkable. Unlike Nebbiolo it gives a deep garnet colour and more chocolate/plum aromas rather than the pale colour and rose/tar combination of Nebbiolo. It’s prominently made at Monte Vulture in Basilicata (though there were no Basilicatan producers at the fair), but also in Campania. The Gioviano 2008 Irpinia Aglianico DOC, and particularly, the Nero Ne 2008 Taurasi DOCG, both had wonderful colour and mouthfeel, and super-sweet winemakers (this really is a general comment about most of the makers I met). Fabulous stuff. Still in Campania, Don Chisciotte 2011 from Pierluigi Zampaglione, made with Fiano grapes, was delicious.
South to Sicily: Frank Conelissen has been written about here and elsewhere, and had his very fine, if slightly crazy, wines ran dry quickly! Lamoresca, from near Ragusa in SE Sicily, had some likeable wines, from the autochthonous Nero d’Avola, Frappato, and Nerello Mascalese grapes (see Eric Asimov in the NY Times). I also thought the wines of Porta del Vento, from near Palermo, made from Perricone and Catrarratto grapes were worth buying.
Lastly, the non-Italian standout was Esencia Rural’s wines from La Mancha in Spain: the unfiltered Pampaneo 2013 (Tempranillo) with its hint of cumin, and the De Sol A Sol 2010 (Tempranillo), were both remarkable. The former is available in the UK (many of the above are not). The estate also produces a mad black garlic, apparently ultra-hip in NYC restaurants – basically it’s garlic that’s been slow roasted that roasted at low-temperature for up to a month, until they turn black, ultra-caramelised, and umami-rich.