The first ever Rebel Wines and Beers fair was organised at Tour et Taxis on Sunday (7 December) with the second day of the fair taking place on Monday (8 December).
We visited the fair this morning and met with a number of wine producers all of which are producing ‘natural wines’ or wines which are made with minimal chemical and technological intervention in growing grapes and making them into wine. All the wines we tasted at the fair (around 50 in total) had minimal use of sulphites at bottling.
We heard some very interesting stories from the wine makers on how they make the wine and why they produce it in this manner. At the stand of Sicilian winemaker Azienda Agricola Cos we tasted the whole range of wines produced by this Sicilian winery. Unlike convention, they recommended we started the tasting with red wines which was then followed by the white wines since these are produced with the skins on, similar to the way in which red wines are made. Although we were familiar with the wines of this winery, the tasting was a revelation. More about the tasting and our discussion with the winemaker in a forthcoming post on Food and Wine Gazette.
What was common among the wineries is that most of the wines are not aged in oak barrels as is the norm in modern winemaking, but rather using steel, cement or large amphoras as used to happen many years back.
The winemaker at Poderi Veneri Vecchio from Campagnia told us how he is working with grapes like Grieco and Cerrito which were on the verge of being lost. He ages the wines in barrels made of acacia or chestnuts because he says this was what was used in the past, and was also the perfect reflection of ‘terroir’ given these are barrels which are created in the region.
The winemaker La Busattina showed us the labels which indicated the ingredients in the wine (grapes and sulphites). I tell him it is the first time we see a wine like this and he quickly shows us a label he had created for a wine in 2007 and which he no longer uses. In it he marks all the ingredients that are not used in wine making. He tells us it is not legal to use such a label because it might indicate that other winemakers may be using these ingredients which could be the case, but which is therefore not allowed. An interesting perspective, given that there have been recent calls for full transparency on wine labels as to the ingredients that are found in wine.
Among the most impressive wines we tasted were those of Tenute Dettori from Sardegna. The wines from this winery were exceptionally good. Two of them were Cannonau di Sardegna left on the vines till mid to end October, which resulted in two wines at 17.5% which were stunning in their finesse.
We could only spend under four hours and hence could not meet most of the winemakers present, but it was a great first edition of the fair and a great learning experience. Natural wines are an acquired taste, sometimes difficult to understand particularly since defects (if there are any) can easily be spotted. But, it was incredibly interesting to meet passionate winemakers who are experimenting with new ways of working but at the same time going back to the traditional roots of old winemaking.
Most of the stories are incredibly interesting and we hope to write about some of them in the coming weeks on Food and Wine Gazette.