Highlights from Natural Wine Fair Weekend

Courtesy of Domaine du Coulet

By Carson Demmond Posted March 02, 2016

7 picks from a weekend packed with wine discoveries.  

New York wine aficionados may still be slowly recovering from the tag-team natural wine fairs The Big Glou and Vivent les Vins Libres that took place this past weekend in Brooklyn and Manhattan. There have literally never been so many vintners committed to organic and additives-free winemaking from all reaches of the globe in the city at one time. This wine lover already felt like she was in recovery mode Saturday morning on arrival at The Big Glou’s Wythe Hotel venue. The actual party got started several days prior, with dinners scheduled each night leading up to the events and lasting late into the early morning hours as winemakers touched down at JFK one by one (and then seemingly ended up in large bunches at a select handful of wine bars and Koreatown karaoke spots). 

Luckily, no one seemed to notice, since that haggard, sleepless, possibly un-showered look is the status quo at such celebrations. I mean, if the wines are gulpable, why not gulp them all night long, a hardcore fair-goer might ask. Many of the wares presented were old favorites that have only gotten better with each passing vintage. But several were either recent discoveries or altogether new-to-me and warrant a mention.

Here, seven such favorites:

NV Charles Dufour ‘Le Champ du Clos’ Champagne Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs ($90)
A young gun in the Côtes des Bar (Aube), Charles Dufour is the first in his family to estate bottle, so he basically built his winery from scratch. A Blanc de Blancs in the Aube is a rarity in and of itself (that’s Pinot Noir country), and this one is all Pinot Blanc rather than the traditional Chardonnay. What’s more, it’s from a miniscule parcel, is indigenous yeast-fermented, and has the mineral concentration to rival many established names in the category.

2013 Bodega Barranco Oscuro ‘Tres Uves’ Vino de España ($35)
The Barranco Oscuro farm in Andalucía was mainly planted to almond trees when Manuel Valenzuela moved in. He planted more vines – working organically from the get-go – including the forgotten local Vigiriega grape, which is one of the three used in this white blend (with Vermentino and Viognier). It’s like sinking your teeth into a not-quite-ripe tropical fruit: succulent but tart, and unapologetically juicy.

2014 Domaine de Sulauze ‘Les Amis’ Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence ($18)
This is one of the liveliest, freshest, and most fragrant reds from Provence that I’ve ever encountered. Syrah and Grenache under carbonic maceration, zero added yeasts, zero filtration, zero SO2 in a clean expression that showcases the simple pleasures of bright fruit without any pretense.

2013 L’Indigène Sulfureux ‘Eluney’ Vin de France Rouge ($16)
Martin Texier – a passionate young natural wine advocate and the son of Rhône sensation Eric Texier – was presenting his line of sans soufre wines, and this blend of Grenache and Cinsault stood out as particularly interesting. It’s from roughly the same terroir as Texier’s St-Julien en St-Alban Syrah on the other side of the Rhône river in Ardèche and shows the peppery red fruit of Grenache as though in Technicolor.

2013 Montesecondo ‘Tïn’ Toscana ($48)
Biodynamically farmed grapes from the Chianti Classico zone fermented, macerated, and aged in anforae. I had never before tasted Sangiovese quite like this. Lush and concentrated, the wine’s core of red berry fruit seemed turned up several notches, its spice character contributing richness rather than the bitterness or astringency sometimes associated with Chianti.

2014 La Clarine Farm ‘Sumu Kaw’ Sierra Foothills Syrah ($25)
Hank Beckmeyer’s Syrah showed beautifully on Saturday, and I hope that some of the French winemakers present were able to give it a taste. Foot-crushed and whole-cluster, it’s not a far cry from minimalist Rhône in terms of technique, but the terroir footprint is so uniquely Californian, the smokey-meaty flavors reined in by an almost pine needle-like herbal tone.

2012 Matthieu Barret ‘Brise Cailloux’ Cornas ($50)
Domaine du Coulet’s Matthieu Barret lays claim to 10% of the Cornas appellation, and I sort of wish he had more. This bottling is mouthwateringly savory, with a dark core of fruit swathed in smoke and herbs. Yet, it’s still light enough on its feet to qualify as glou. That is to say, you’ll want to drink copious amounts of it. Preferably with some charcuterie on the side.

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