Sulphur not a dirty word for natural winemakers18th February, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt
The quality of natural wines has improved significantly in the last five years, according to The Real Wine Fair organiser Doug Wregg.
Speaking to the drinks business ahead of the mid-March event, Wregg admitted that as many as half the wines he tasted during the early days of the natural wine movement in the 80s were “undrinkable”.
Today, however, he said that people have “realised you can’t make natural wines without cracking grapes, and sulphur is not a dirty word.”
Although the term natural wine is widely believed to refer to products with no added sulphur dioxide – an antioxidant and antiseptic used in almost all wines – Wregg stressed that this was not true.
“99% of natural growers use some sulphur as well as generating some.” (Sulphur dioxide is a natural byproduct of fermentation).
Continuing, he explained that natural wines were best described as “minimal intervention wines”, and added that sulphur is a “natural product”.
He also said that natural wines are those where there is no or minimal use of chemicals in the vineyard, as well as no adjustments in the winery to ensure the wines are a “pure” expression of the site, grape variety or vintage.
Then, observing improved results from this hands-off approach, he said, “The quality of winemaking has vastly improved in the last five years.”
Turning the subject to the upcoming fair, which will be held on 17-18 March at London’s Tobacco Dock, he said that the event would be similar to last year’s inaugural Real Wine Fair, and would feature organic, biodynamic and natural wines, alongside other drinks and food.
In terms of changes, 2012’s event was spread over three days and held in May, taking place during the same week as the London International Wine Fair, and at the same time as the UK’s only other natural wine exhibition, RAW, which will be held in May again this year.
Wregg said he had decided to “condense” the Real Wine Fair into two days to make it easier for exhibitors from abroad, and move the event to March to avoid clashing with RAW.
“People were confused by two natural wine fairs happening simultaneously,” he said.
He also commented, referring to the controversy surrounding the launch of two natural wine fairs last year, “France has dozens of natural wine fairs, so London, the centre of the wine world, can afford to have two events.”
Wregg said that he hoped to attract 1,500 visitors to the Real Wine Fair over the two days, and that last year’s three-day event enticed 1,700 people.
In terms of exhibitors in 2013, Wregg noted a strong Georgian contingent.
“We have 11 Georgian producers this year – so Georgia is one of the biggest elements of the fair, which is interesting.”
Despite the high concentration of natural winemakers in Beaujolais and the Loire, Wregg recorded that the “horrendous” vintage in 2012 had dissuaded producers from these regions attending.
“This year, they have no wine to sell, so they can’t afford to come over.”
Click here for more information on The Real Wine Fair.