This month L’Occasion brings readers a guest post from Jerry Clark. Here Jerry shares his thoughts on the ongoing RAW WINE Fair, a celebration of global winemakers committed to natural, organic and biodynamic methods. Here’ on L’Occasion we’ve covered biodynamics and I’ll continue to do so as I learn from more and more makers.
The RAW WINE experience is meant to showcase talent, and as Clark reveals, there seem to be regional pockets where the overarching dedication to natural, low-touch winemaking is a time-honored inclination. Beaujolais, as Clark cleanly notes, is producing wines deserving of alert attention (stay tuned for more on this region later this month when we highlight Beaujolais here). I’ve personally noted a level of light-touch grape-growing and winemaking in the Southern Rhône Valley – having interviewed several biodynamic winemakers and poked around the facilities and vineyards of others. I’m excited to bring this story to our readers.
Get to know this creed, to understand RAW WINE, from the RAW WINE Charter of Quality:
We believe that one of the fundamental tenets for producing expressive, living wine is a vibrant, healthy vineyard with soil that is full of life – bugs, natural yeasts and a thriving ecosystem within which the vines thrive independently. Vines that do not need man as a crutch to survive. We therefore promote agricultural practices that make this happen.
Onward we go, into Jerry Clark’s story, his impressions of RAW WINE Los Angles, coming up this weekend.
Get Ready Los Angeles, The RAW WINE Brigade is Rolling In by Jerry Clark
French Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron, creator of the RAW WINE themed exhibitions which appear annually in England and Germany and feature natural wines, is packing up from the Brooklyn, New York event held November 5 and 6, and headed to L.A. November 12 and 13 for its first West Coast appearance. Last November saw RAW WINE’S debut in America, setting up only in Brooklyn. By American wine exhibition standards, it’s a smallish event, luring 2,000-3,000 natural wine devotees and curiosity seekers forward. But that is not a bad turnout, given my guess that of all wine sold in America annually those produced by wineries using some combination of organic/biodynamic processes might total 1/100 of 1%. Yet the trend line of such wines sales is decidedly upward, and Los Angelians who attend RAW WINE will find an array of 500 natural wines presented by the 110 exhibitors.
I am especially pleased that 21 vineyards are representing America, though that puts us in third place behind France (30 exhibitors) and Italy (27). Falling in behind the big three are 18 other countries, with several surely not well represented in American shops (Georgia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Greece, and Hungary). The natural wine interest in Europe far outstrips that found here, so our positioning is not unexpected. I only recognized one name among the American exhibits, that of Coturri. Another point of interest is that some of our innovative artisans pouring in L.A. are working with little-seen French grape varieties on this side of the Atlantic. Broc Cellars out of Berkeley, California are showing a 100% Counoise sourced in Mendocino with zero SO2 addition, as well as a Picpoul (RAW WINE puts a cap of 70 ml/l on all wines poured). La Clarine Farm in the Sierra Foothills will pour a Petit Mensang. Particularly noteworthy is that given many of the wineries on display are small in size, and one is not likely to come across their product close to home, finding such a broad selection to sample under one roof in Los Angeles is unparalleled in America. That is especially true in the case of Two Shepherds, located in Windsor, California and created by William Allen and Karen Daenen. Their peers bill them as “The insane master of small lots.” Their annual offerings total only 1,500 or so cases and can be divided into as many as fifteen distinct labels, with some production as low as 35 cases.
Where the American exhibitors showing in L.A. could be classed in large part as natural wine newcomers, though very worthy ones, the overseas participants in numerous cases have been involved in this milieu far longer. After all, wine-making practiced a thousand years ago by the monks was about as natural as it gets, and many in the trade in Europe still speak reverently of their traditions and encourage their re-introduction. With the overseas contingent coming to L.A. I have more experience, though still consider myself a neophyte in natural wine drinking. I can point to Domaine de l’Ecu in Muscadet in particular. At a wedding in France last year I discovered their 2012 Gneiss (100% Melon de Bourgogne) and was amazed by its vivacity. This estate began biodynamic practices in 1975. They will be pouring a range of seven wines in L.A., including two reds. A stop at their stand would be a must for me. At the same wedding I tasted a Morgon from Jean Foillard, organically made, and immediately upon return home to America started researching present day Beaujolais, a region I had ignored over the past thirty years. It has led me to seek out Foillard’s Morgon as well as that of Marcel LaPierre, thus were I in L.A. I would not miss out trying the wines on display by Morgon neighbor Karim Vionnet of Domaine Vionnet. Speaking only for myself, Beaujolais no longer need be considered the poor relation in Burgundy.
I must tip my cap to Isabelle Legeron. Thirty years ago two British writers, Charlotte Mitchell and Iain Wright, put forth THE ORGANIC WINE GUIDE (c. 1987, Mainstream Publishing). Their enthusiasm fell on mostly closed ears here in America, including my own. With RAW WINE in the vanguard of our emerging interest in natural wine, Isabelle symbolizes to me the pied piper of organic wine. Chapeau!