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12 March 2019

Unpretentious Enjoyment by Gregory Michailos

Βy Gregory Michailos

Despite the fact that I am among those who probably describe themselves as wine experts, I have always thought that our world of wine is quite snobbish and pretentious. Don't get me wrong, but it's always about our big Ego. We love to be recognizable and to walk around shaking hands as if we were politicians, we like to impress with our deep knowledge, on every given occasion, and we try to prove - especially to ourselves - that we are an integral and somewhat important part of the wine community.

Nevertheless, there is something which is on the far side of what I just described: Natural Wine Fairs. The thing I truly love - besides the wines - about the so-called natural wine "movement", or whatever else you want to call it, is that nobody pays any attention to who you are, where you are from, what your opinion is, whether you are a Master of Wine or just someone who is tasting wine for the first time. In my point of view, this is democracy, and once you get over  the first shock of someone spitting on the ground next to you, or the fact that you are tasting wine in a dark, underground, sometimes mouldy cellar, you begin to deeply enjoy this kind of "inappropriate" atmosphere. You also begin to love the rather mixed audience, which is made up of youngish hipsters intermingled with professionals in their suits coming from all corners of this planet, but most importantly, you enjoy the total lack of snobbery in the atmosphere. 

It's difficult to put my first, ever, experience at natural wine fairs into words. I could simply say it was a "revelation"; a place where a whole new world opened up to my eyes, ready to be discovered and appreciated. I probably experienced the same feeling my nephew had felt when he unpacked his first Lego toy, a couple of years ago. I was at the epicenter of what many people consider as the spiritual home of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. I was wearing my comfortable sneakers, surrounded by fellow friends, quite ready for a marathon tasting of hundreds of wines. I was in Angers in the heart of the Loire...

I probably tasted a few dozen different wines during those three days in La Dive, and the two smaller associated fairs (Salon St Jean and Les Penitentes), and it is difficult to pick out just a few highlights. However, I could, at least, say that the following wines where among those which made me think that once people get hooked on natural wines, it is difficult to go back. It's a one way ticket to enjoyment...

Jacques Lassaigne, La Colline Inspirėe NV, Montgueux, Champagne

Gorgeous oxidative aromas in this barrel fermented Blanc de Blancs Champagne followed by a creamy, nutty character on the palate reminiscent of hazelnuts and brioche notes. The lovely texture is supported by an intense backbone of acidity leading towards a super-complex, long-lasting finish. Stylish with Burgundy-like complexity. ****

Roberto Henriquez, Molino del Ciego, Semillon, Itata Valley, Chile

Skin contact for almost a month for this lovely, expressive in aromas Semillon, reminiscent of herbs and lemon grass. The palate is amazingly fresh and lemony with a nice grip of tannins contributing to its lovely structure.  Precious 80 year-old vines and traditional wine-making in a different New-World from the one we are used to drink. ***

Jean Foillard, Morgon Cuvee Corcelette 2017, Beaujolais, France

This one defines the word “drinkability”. Ethereal nose with lovely bright red cherry fruit, spicy notes and mineral graphite undertones. The beautifully structured and complex palate doesn’t resemble any of the bubblegum, banana, kirsch notes of the commercial winemaking associated with the region. Lovely by all means. ****

Thomas Pico, Domaine Pattes Loup, Chablis 1er cru Butteaux 2015, Burgundy, France

Lemon curd notes, creamy character and an amazing bright minerality that triggers your taste buds. Precise and full of tension, the wine displays a wonderful balance between the depth of fruit and creaminess with its striking freshness. Truly sublime. ****+

Emidio Pepe, Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo 2008, Abruzzo, Italy

Tremendous complexity, with a fine interplay between the dark berried fruit aromas, dehydrated super-ripe tomatoes and earthy undertones reminiscent of truffles and forest floor. Structured with fine-grained tannins, leading towards a savory lingering finish. Unforgettable and mind-blowing. *****

Benoit Lahaye, Millesime Grand Cru Bouzy 2008, Champagne, France

After spending 9 years on the lees sealed under a natural cork and with just 2 gr/l dosage, this bone-dry champagne is ultra delicious, smoky and complex with a lovely toasty, biscuit character, reminiscent of freshly baked Danish pastries. The palate is rich, powerful and creamy, yet surprisingly refreshing. ****+

Jean François Ganevat,  Vin Jaune, Jura, France

Electric tension, salty character and nutty oxidative flavors bursting on the palate. Sherry like character, yet more elegant and delicate. The finish is almost epic. *****

Suertes del Marques, 7 Fuentes 2016, Tenerife, Spain

Lightly colored with a peppery and fresh-red fruit nose along with some smoky mineral characters. Herbal and peppery also on the palate, it is almost ethereal, light bodied, refreshing and vibrant. A pure drinking pleasure especially during a hot summer day. ***+

*Gregory Michailos holds the WSET Diploma certificate and is a wine consultant and wine educator. Together with Yiannis they founded winecommanders.com that  brought a breath of fresh air to the Greek wine scene.

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Submitted on 03/21/2019 - 12:41 by Angeliki Tsioli
Did I read "spitting on the ground"? Are there no spittoons in natural wine fairs? In my opinion, all wine fairs should have a similar atmosphere with the one you describe (apart from the spitting on the ground, of course...) I was quite sceptical about natural wines until I tasted some really good examples during the Prowein earlier this week... Some others, however, unsuccessfully follow the trend...
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