Natural wine lovers flocked to Edinburgh’s first Real Wine Fair held in Timberyard last month, an independent festival of natural growers and winemakers from around the world.
The room was buzzing with sommeliers and buyers all keen to taste the latest vintages from small artisan producers imported by four enterprising winemerchants: London-based Les Caves de Pyrene, Fife-based L’Art du Vin, Glasgow-based Sevslo Wine and Edinburgh-based Fion Wines.
‘Natural wine’ or ‘real wine’ has become a growing trend, but it has no precise definition so each grower tends to have their own approach. Loosely the term means wines that are made using organic and/or biodynamic methods in the vineyards without any chemicals using low yields, without any artificial yeasts or enzymes and maybe only a tiny amount of sulphur. So with few or zero interventions in the winery, it is as the saying goes: ‘nowt taken out and nowt put in’.
“They tend to be made by small producers with a certain spirit of endeavour”, explained Philippe Larue of L’Art du Vin, Scotland’s largest importer of natural wines from France, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Italy and beyond and the first Scottish winemerchant to be a certified member of the Soil Association. “They are very hand-crafted wines and the grower’s motivation is to capture the sense of place – terroir”.
Pictured below are two of L’Art du Vin’s French winemakers who attended the fair: Jonathan Didier Pabiot from Pouilly Fume, Loire with a busy Philippe Larue in the background – and Thibaut Marion from Domaine Seguin-Manuel from Burgundy.
What made the tasting so interesting was not just the diversity of styles and producers all with a common aim – but the chance to taste with the winemakers themselves.
Importer Miguel Crunia of Fion Wines has amassed a fascinating list of artisan growers from dynamic up-and-coming regions of Spain, represented at the fair by two maverick winemakers, Miguel Gomez from Bodegas Vinifcante near Cadiz and Juan Piqueras from Bodegas Pigar in Utiel Requena (both pictured below).
Ex-sommelier turned-wine importer Severine Sloboda of Sevslo Wine is doing an equally good job in her own homeland, represented at the fair by two ‘natural wine’ producers from France. Stephane Delettre of Domaine Delettre (pictured below), who specialises in Cabernet Franc in his 5 hectare vineyard in St Nicholas de Bourgueil in the Loire – and also makes cider – and Cyrielle Houillon of Domaine de Frea who owns a 6 hectare vineyard in between Bourg and Blaye on the right bank of Bordeaux’s Gironde estuary focusing on sustainable and ethical farming practices.
Other fascinating natural winemakers that caught my eye at the fair, imported by Les Caves de Pyrene and L’Art du Vin, included Judith Beck (pictured above with her Hunny Bunny bottle) of Weingut Judith Beck in Austria’s Burgenland who has been working biodynamically since 2007 to produce truly authentic genuine wines and a fun range of wines from Hunny Bunny Blaufrankisch to Neuberger Bambule.
“The international style can be produced by everyone, everywhere”, explained Beck. “My wines are my own, they are here and now and that is for me the most beautiful thing”.
The other enterprising natural wine flagbearer I met was Richard Morris with his wife Joy (above) from Ancre Hill Estates, who now have 12 hectares of vines and a straw-bale winery in Monmouthshire in Wales. They were one of the earliest to adopt biodynamic viticulture in the UK in 2010, to protect the integrity of their land, and are still one of very few on our shores brave enough to hold organic and biodynamic Demeter certification.
According to Morris, he believes that the key to creating wines true to provenance and vintage is a long slow unhurried elevage with extended lees time. He is clearly doing the right thing. His eclectic range including Orange wine, Pink Pet Nat and a very promising new Pinot Noir were some of my favourites at the Fair.
Loire, France: CHARDONS BLANC 2020 Domaine Delettre
£24 Sevslo Wine
There is no end to Cabernet Franc’s versatility – this juicy fresh vibrant elderflower scented Blanc de Noirs with its moderate alcohol is quite intriguing.
Veneto, Italy: PINOT GRIGIO 2021 Fidora
£11.80 L’Art du Vin
From Italy’s oldest organic estate where biodiversity is of prime importance; pearskin aromas, soft rounded Pinot Grigio with good acidity and length.
Utiel Requena, Spain: CHARDONNAY 2019 Bodegas Pigar
£22.50 Fion Wines
Juan Piqueras recovered Chardonnay planted by his family; his amphora-aged Chardonnay is herby savoury with silky textures.
Loire, France: POUILLY FUME ELISA 2021 Jonathan & Didier Pabiot
£20 L’Art du Vin
Gentle introduction to the Pabiot style: vivid fresh Sauvignon Blanc from their youngest vines grown on clay and sand.
Wales: CHARDONNAY 2020 Ancre Hill
£24.35 L’Art du Vin
Remarkable Welsh Chardonnay; so well-balanced with poised citric fruits, minerally and creamy textures part aged in Austrian oak.
Burgenland, Austria: ZWEIGELT 2020 Judith Beck
£17.45 L’Art du Vin
Fresh lively Zweigelt from one of Burgenland’s biodynamic pioneers; dark cherry fruits, velvet soft texture and spicy length.
Cadiz, Spain: MAHARA TINTILLA DE ROTA 2021 Bodegas Vinificante
£28 Fion Wines for 2016 vintage
Amphora-aged Tintilla de Rota with prune and strawberry aromas, savoury saline palate with its ‘Atlantic edge’; from crazy Gomez brothers shaking up Andalucia’s wine scene, who also make superb Palomino whites too.
Burgundy, France: POMMARD PETITS NOIZONS 2017 Domaine Seguin-Manuel
£55 L’Art du Vin
From south facing vineyards at Pommard’s northern end; dense succulent fruits with grip and savoury spicy length.
By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 13 May 2023
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