I suspect I might be the only person in the UK to say this, but I was disappointed that this year the Real Wine Fair and RAW, the parallel/similar/rival (delete as appropriate) event arranged by Isabelle Legeron MW are being held months apart. Others might have rued the fact that the two events were held on almost exactly the same dates last year, but for me – travelling to London from afar for the tastings – this only made the trip even more useful, as I had two tastings for the price (or the train fare, at least) of one; day one at RAW, day two at Real.
Not so this year. And so yesterday I trekked down from Edinburgh for the Real Wine Fair. The venue was Tobacco Dock, on Wapping Lane, a rather foreboding venue, its high brick walls perhaps once de rigueur for keeping out the tobacco-interested thieves and vagabonds, but I soon found myself wandering down Wapping Lane wondering where the entrance might be. As it happened a friendly security guard clearly took pity on the country hillbilly sauntering towards him, and he waved to beckon me on with some eagerness – as if I were about to miss a just-departing ferry – while I was still several hundred metres distant. How remarkable; a friendly, mind-reading security guard! Either that, or I look like someone he was expecting; maybe his contact in a cigarette-smuggling gang?
Inside the venue was light and airy; the cellars at Victoria House, the location of last year’s tasting, seem to have come in for some criticism, although I (no doubt in the minority, as usual) thought they were fine. Jim Budd, meanwhile, continually refers to the venue as a ‘Hitlerian bunker’. The Tobacco Dock should come in for no such stick though. It is conveniently located five minutes walk from Shadwell Station on the Docklands Light Railway, which is itself about 20 minutes from King’s Cross Station which is where I arrived in London (only delayed 15 minutes – not bad considering there was some very difficult ‘light drizzle’ for the trains to deal with).
Sadly, however, the turnout from Loire producers – my focus for the day, just for a change, I hear you say – felt much smaller than last year, and so within a couple of hours of arriving I had finished the wines I felt I ‘needed’ to taste. Where last year I met Lise Jousset, Frantz Saumon, Noëlla Morantin, Chahut et Prodiges, Thierry Germain and quite a few others, none of these names were present at this year’s fair. Still, I enjoyed getting to grips with some less familiar names, and the mature wines from Jérôme Lenoir and Domaine de la Chevalerie were attractive, even if they were more indicative of what I would regard as ‘old-school’ Loire Valley. I think they would appeal most to punters who think Loire Cabernet Franc is at its best when it shows that very cliched, herbaceous style, rather than the superbly focused red wines that really lead in the region these days, from the likes of Frédéric Mabileau and Matthieu Baudry. And of course it was a delight to chat (using my Franglais, naturally) with Olivier Cousin (pictured above).
The best wines there on the day, within the Loire at least, were clearly those of Domaine Mosse. Agnès Mosse brought along a selection from the 2011 vintage, including a lovely Savennières, and also the ever-fun Moussamoussettes. Having said that, I also enjoyed the two wines on show from Les Vignes Herbels more than I expected to. Having tasted some wines from Nadège and Laurent Herbel at last year’s event I found the style too marked by oxidation to appeal. Those wines that I tasted this year, however, seemed to strike a better balance between an oxidative character and attractive aromas and flavours directly related to the variety in question, Chenin Blanc, including notes of orange blossom and flowers. This was an impressive feat; I’m looking forward to writing this domaine up, and adding the profile to my ever-growing list of new and updated Loire reports.
Beyond the Loire, whereas there was a smattering from Bordeaux last year, including the excellent Clos Puy Arnaud, this year there were none. I spent the last few hours tasting some less familiar wines, everything from the biodynamic Champagnes of Francis Boulard to prolonged skin-contact and lees-aged Soave. I headed home refreshed, ready to do it all again in May for RAW.