Super Natural: RAW WINE

RAW is quite the scene. Every somm, wine rep, and influencer with a gram-able hat you know attends. It’s the type of event where you swirl about the fair and your wine swirls and by the end of the night, even if you spit, you think the room SHOULD swirl but natural wine doesn’t hit so hard. Afterwards, you are just swirl-y enough to share a ride with a young German winemaker who’d been pouring his goods all day, his girlfriend, and a wine-appreciator in town from up north. His friend was on the way to pick him up and happily accepts this carload of sulfite-free strangers. You go to the after party filled with natural wine celebrité at Bar Bandini. You banter with the excellent Coly den Haan of Vinovore, a wine shop specializing in wine by women. You take the minute to tell Megan Bell what a fan of Margins you’ve become (review of her wine, and all last year’s favorites here ). You spontaneously hug Marissa A. Ross and tell her thank you for exposing the somm (article here ) who’d been sexually assaulting women. You eat a pita and Bogart another glass of Sebastian the German’s exquisite Riesling (the winery is Frank John!). You ARE swirly by now and go home joyously to think about the juxtaposition you experienced at the fair this hot November day n’ night. There is nothing like a juxtaposition to illuminate the subtleties of any extreme. Think chiaroscuro. Think Caravaggio or Artemisia Gentileschi. Or? Think Champagne and Georgian orange wine. They draw such different crowds and experiencing them side by side throws each into stark relief. While supposedly it originated as a mistake—wine that stopped fermenting in the winter bubbling up when the weather warmed—Champagne is now truly a manipulated thing. There are many shades of natural wine, and while there is no actual “definition” of natural wine, one factor most winemakers agree upon is that the fermentation must NOT be created by inoculating with yeast. But for the second fermentation that creates Champagne’s bubbles, you HAVE to add yeast. No ifs ands or buts. Or butts. This ain’t Sherry. So, I was SO surprised and excited to see that L’Association des Champagnes Biologiques had a good twelve Champagne producers there, all devoted to organic farming and more natural ways. I was pleased to see this mash-up of natural (organic) and not natural (inoculating second fermentation) was being embraced. It is truly super. And natural. A couple of rows away were tables of Georgian winemakers. Georgian wine is renowned for its history and soul in the natural wine scene. Just take a read of Alice Feiring’s works and you’ll get it. The process of aging white wine on skins, underground in qvevri is long and deserves a column in it’s own right. I won’t try to be an expert here, I’ve much learning to do still. But, what a treat to see these two styles sharing territory and shining! Both wildly different. Both distinctive. Champagne is idiosyncratic and plays to a well-honed palate of a great deal of the western world’s idea of “fine wine”. Georgian wine is equally exquisite and expressive. And fine in its own right. But, it will challenge you if your roots are in Champagne tastes—I want to continue to take this challenge. What is so cool about being able to see the two side by side is seeing that both sides are valid. Both deserve to be cherished. I am actually getting weepy about Champagne being embraced by RAW. The harmony of Champagne and Georgian wine should be a Coke commercial except for about wine. I’d like to teach the world to sing of BOTH! And so I shall. I tasted many marvels but challenged myself to narrow it down to a top three. Please know that each wine cited was from a winery making more than just the mentioned wine—I urge you to explore the full range of any of these. Tell me what you think. I’m listening. And still swirling. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ CHAMPAGNE FAVORITES Champagne Fleury Rosé de Saignée Brut 30 years of biodynamic badass-ness from this wine! My tasting notes say “Flowers and acid trip hang out on a chalk barge”. It has flowers and they are at sea and it’s quite the voyage. Do it. Champagne Cheurlin “Pluie d’été Brut Rosé Bubblicious pink and bodacious on the tongue. Rich but does that light lithe dance down your throat and you intone a song of stones that get buried in berries. That’s major summer shower indeed. Champagne Pascal Doquet “Arpege” Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs A winner both in taste and details! The back label will tell you what percentage of Chardonnay came from what vintage, when it was bottled (2015) and when it was disgorged (April 26th, 2019). “It’s important to be transparent,” said the winemaker. Naturally. AND NOW FOR THE GEORGIAN GOLD! And orange, and red. And I also tasted their chacha, a fire water wine distillation that’ll get you swirly fast. But don’t worry that was the last thing I tasted. To drink Georgian wine with a closed eye is to be transported somewhere dark and either wicked or divine, hard to say, but you feel safe. Mayhaps you are channeling life in a qvevri. Could Life in a Qvevri be a reality series? Mmm you tell me! 2018 Zurab Kviriashvili Vineyards Rkatsiteli Orange Wine My notes say—“can an orange (by which I meant orange wine) be so ducking tannic yasss”. And as a now sober person I say ducking yes it can. An amber hue that hits with those fruit, ambrosial and oh damn, frankincense notes. Big hugs on this. 2016 Gotsa Family Wines Saperavi I lost my G-card to Gotsa. It was the first Georgian wine I ever tasted, a few years back. I was so enchanted by what I tasted at the wine bar that I sought it out to have at home. The wine came with a detailed description of how Georgian wine was made and my enchantment grew. Underground wine! In clay?! I was so excited that I wrote about it in my blog here . Rereading it I see my notes stand up. It still has raspberries and allspice, wool and pears. It still hints at rose oil and orange peel. It continues to lure me to Georgian wines. I need more. 2017 Anapea Village Mtsvane My note under this is…this orange wine tastes…orange-y? Georgian wines sometimes seem to sing of fruit but…it is a different fruit. It is fruit that goddesses, gods and non-binary god-adjacent beings eat, in that it seems just slightly over my head and I can’t decide whether I am in heaven or whether I am being rather naughty. It has—I don’t have the words—a whip to it. A tang and at the same time a solidity. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: More Than Green Grapes Ellen in LalaLand Take One: Nighttime at Wally’s Wine Wine is Virgo, Virgo Wine Old World vs. New World Round Eight: Cabernet Franc! You can also listen to Ellen's podcast with Shaughn Buchholz, The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Caroline Liem Wine Situation Final Five! With Adam Roberts Wine Situation Final Five! With J Ryan Stradal

Anapea Village

Qvevri Traditional Mtsvane 2017

Apricots and steel. Mineral and earthen oranges. SO into it. — 5 years ago

Trixie, Eric and 16 others liked this

Pascal Doquet

Arpege 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Chardonnay

Fantabulous bubbles. C’est tout. — 5 years ago

Paul, barak heller and 17 others liked this


Saperavi 2016

Ever a favorite, and the first Georgian wine I ever had. Saperavi sounds like savory and this is but it contains multitudes. Enchanting. — 5 years ago

Bob, Paul and 13 others liked this

Fleury Pere & Fils

Rosé de Saignée Brut Champagne Pinot Noir

One of my top Champers from RAW. They’ve got 30 years of biodynamic vines to back if this luscious but bitingly dry but complex and yet fun deep pink wine. — 5 years ago

Trixie, Paul and 15 others liked this

Zurab Kviriashvili Vineyards

Rkatsiteli 2018

All hail the skin contact tannins! It’s orange wine with grit in in the good way. This wine is mighty! — 5 years ago

Chris, Bob and 13 others liked this

Lucie & Sebastien Cheurlin

Pluie d' été Brut Rosé Champagne

Summer rain! Rosé rain! Let it rain this wine on me. One of those that hits hard but tickles your fancy so delicately you welcome the blow. — 5 years ago

Trixie, Paul and 12 others liked this