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Thursday 30 March 2017

A Weekend in London, at RAW 2017

It was a very strange RAW weekend in London for me this year! 

Usually when I go to RAW, I come a few days before and arrange meetings, tastings, events, etc to make the most of my time, and to make the expense more worthwhile. But this year, due to 'circumstances', I wasn’t able to do that. The reason being that I had no wine available in London to use at said events; because my importers Otros Vinos had sold it all and the last shipment that I had sent over quite recently had been seized by HM Customs and Excise, and there wasn’t time to send over another shipment!

Of course there was lots of wine sitting at the RAW venue which I had shipped over specially for RAW, but due to HM C&E Regulations, I wasn’t allowed to remove the wine from the venue until after the fair – even though I’d already paid duty on the wine. Go figure! But anyway, such is life.

The upshot of the matter was that I had some extra days in London – with nothing to do!!  Apart from to relax and enjoy, that is. But I seem to have forgotten how to do that! I always seem to be active, running around, doing tasks, ticking items off my to-do lists, etc J

There were many events being held in the days before, during and after RAW in restaurants and winebars which I could have gone to (see this RAW page), but my mind and body seemed to be telling me to just stop it, let go and do nothing till Sunday 12th (the first day of the Fair). So I did. I went for a walk, bright and early, in Battersea Park, had a coffee by the lake (and started writing this post!).
Battersea Park Lake Cafe Anglo-Saxon Table
But I was soon interrupted - by the call of duty. There was champagne to be drunk! It so happened that Caroline Henry was signing copies of her new book “Terroir Champagne”:

Cover of the book
It was being held at a nice winebar and restaurant called Cellar, at 1 Voltaire St in Clapham. Within walking distance of Battersea Park, so off I walked!

Cellar, at 1 Voltaire St, Clapham
It’s a really interesting book, especially if you don’t know much about champagne, like me! There’s a brief history of the Champagne region and an explanation of why so many grapegrowers there use chemicals and why it’s so difficult to stop using them. Then there’s photos, interviews and info on about 60 champagne makers who are either organic, natural, biodynamic or generally respectful of the environment.

Moi avec le book et le T-shirt
So I ended up staying there all day, tippling champagne and chatting to all the people who came along to buy a signed copy of the book and to have some food and champagne; which for the occasion was in fact Fruit de Ma Passion, by Vincent Charlot.

I met quite a few interesting people over the course of the day and evening, though of course I forgot to take notes and photos!

One person that I met was Cain Todd, a philosopher! Who’s also written a book – called The Philosophy of Wine. We’ve agreed to barter a copy of his book for some bottles of my wine! J

Another person that I met was Rosanna McPhee, a foodie blogger:
Rosanna McPhee, right (with Caroline Henry, left)
And so it went, until it was time to go for dinner!

The first day of RAW was awful! I felt really bad and hungover. Not surprising really, as I drank far too much Champagne the day before! And more wine at night! But still, I managed to do what I had to do, ie pour my wines and talk about them for 8 hours non-stop. And it was a busy, busy, busy for those 8 hours. It was so busy that it was really difficult to escape from my table to go for a pee or to nip outside to smoke a quick cigarette, or even to get something to eat! J

But it helped that all the wines I drank were natural. So they didn’t contain any noxious chemicals which is what makes hangovers really bad. The only horrible hangover effects I got were from the alcohol itself! Which can be dealt with, by the passage of time and lots of water!

Me and my wine bitch!
The second day was much better, from a physical point of view, ie I went to bed at 10 o’clock the night before and slept like a log till next morning! The fair was just as busy as the first day; I finished all my own business cards AND my UK importer’s too! Day two was also easier easier because I had a helper at my table, so I was able to sneak off more often!

And so it went, another year at RAW. Am now back to the normal surreality of a small independent winemaker, ie pruning vines, fixing fences, bottling up, sending samples, preparing orders, going to tastings when I can, ... 


PS, My next post, which I'm working on already, will be Part 2 of my previous post "Sierra de Gredos as a Wine Region", which I think focussed far too much on the negative side of the coin. The next post will focus on all the good stuff that's happening there.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Sierra de Gredos, as a Wine Region

I’ve heard that wines from Sierra de Gredos are fashionable these days and that it’s the up-and-coming next big thing! But I’m not so sure. I suspect that it’s just some sort of media hype, or meme, or runaway phenomenon that has taken on a life of its own, because there is absolutely nothing new happening on the ground! I’ve been working there for 4 years now.

Sadly, there are no new wineries opening up; there are no new winemakers moving in; the vineyards are still being torn up like every year;

This is extremely annoying because the Sierra de Gredos really does have everything going for it as a wine region:

-                 Soil. Mostly granite covered with a topsoil of sand. But thanks to geological upheavals millions of years ago, there are also some interesting outcrops of slate

-                 Altitude. Mostly between 600 and 1200 m above sealevel

-                 Slopes. North-, south-, east-, west-facing. Take your pick

-                 Rivers. Alberche, and Tietar plus numerous streams and tributaries

-                 Temperature ranges. Yes! Big differentials between day and night temperatures. And between summer and winter temperatures

-                 Rainfall. Perfecto! Enough at the right times. Basically, 0% probability of rain during harvest. (Well, let’s just say <0 .5="" be="" o:p="" on="" safe="" side="" the="" to="">

-                 Long grape-growing tradition

-                 Interesting grape varieties to work with. The emblematic varieties are Garnacha (red) and Albillo (white), but there are several other varieties that are completely unused, unappreciated and scorned (Doré, Chelva, Morenillo, Villanueva, ...)

That seems to cover everything. But wait! There’s something really important missing, and it’s called... “winemakers”!  
Here’s a quick-n-dirty comparison with another region, of the same size, more or less - Burgundy:

Burgundy (France)
Sierra de Gredos (Spain)
Size, in kms
120 km x 20 km
150 km x 75 km
Size, in hectares planted to vines
 3,500 and shrinking
DO’s or AOC’s
Independent winemakers
Bulk wine cooperatives
Négociants / Merchants

How strange! Why are there so few winemakers in a region with the size and wine-making potential of Sierra de Gredos? Go figure. I have no idea. Any suggestions welcome.

And another question I have is ‘What to do about it?’  This question is probably even more difficult to answer!

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