Its not your typical wine fair.
It was an average day in LA. A layer of smog lined the horizon, and in the distance, an abandoned building sat lonely amongst other structures. The only sign of life was four or five people entering an unassuming building with no signage and a lone security guard at the door. It was quiet for a Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, but in this part of town, you would expect it.
Banners lined the flag poles declaring this area “the Fashion District,” but with no open storefronts and the Los Angeles Flower Market just around the corner, it made little to no sense why a wine fair would be here. But this was not your average wine fair; this is RAW WINE; a celebration of wine and winemakers who make wine the old way; without additives to bolster the natural fermentation process and without shiny, industrial machines. The grapes used in this type of wine are organic, and the method is minimal. Oenophiles know this as natural wine and its the polar opposite of big, industrialized wine with gimmicky marketing. RAW WINE founder and author of Natural Wine, Isabelle Legerone (France’s only female Master of Wine), says this of her wine fair:
“RAW WINE celebrates wines with emotion. Wines that have a humanlike, or living presence. They are also wines that are an authentic expression of a place.”
Natural wine, to the outsider, seem like a culty exclusive club of wino’s focusing on small details such as if the wine is filtered and fined or unfiltered and unfined, organic and biodynamic or conventional, or even single varietal or blend. The questions natural wine lovers ask hysterically parallel those asked in Portlandia’s “Farm” episode. Watch it for reference.
This careful attention seems ridiculous and outlandish to the unlearned, but once you talk to the winemakers, you realize these questions are necessary. The details and care a winemaker takes separate a good bottle from a superb bottle.
Natural wine transports you to a special place where you truly begin to understand the meaning of terroir and how the terrain, the culture and the artisans who make the wine shape the bottles you sip. Take Stephanie and Eduard Tscheppe-Eselböck, owners and winemakers of Gut Oggau; a well-known small batch winery located in a tiny town near the eastern border of Austria. They practice biodynamic viticulture, a form of organic viticulture based on Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner. This style of winemaking is almost spiritual, balancing vine, man, earth and stars in a wholly holistic approach. At Gut Oggau, Tscheppe-Eselböck’s wines tell a story through fictitious individuals who, they believe, their wines represent. Each bottle features a profile illustrated by artist Jung von Matt. Group the bottles together and you have a family of wine. There’s three generations, each wine reflecting place in life. Winifred for example is a young, light cuvee, while Josephine is a bit bolder and more mature.
“The wines become distinctive people,”they say, “who form a unique wine family as a whole. A very exciting dynasty that always makes getting to know each other better.”
At their tasting table, when asked about the varietals used, they chose not to answer, emphasizing that it is not about the grapes used; it is about the way the wine makes you feel. It’s not all about balance and precision, it’s about emotion.
As I walked out of RAW WINE I felt enriched. Passing by tables of winemakers proudly pouring their wines, I realized I was in an extraordinary place, a sort of wine lovers utopia. Indeed, Legerone’s wine fair captures precisely the nature of natural wine; these are wines as complex as their makers.
To learn more RAW WINE and the winemakers behind it, visit: rawwine.com