The RAW Wine fair, the world’s largest assembly of natural and low-intervention wine makers, is first and foremost a gathering of friends. RAW is not one of the massive Grand Tastings like Wine Spectator’s annual fete – where wealthy point-system devoted collectors assemble to try all the industry’s big names – or like the typical industry showcases where the mood is generally one of competition and commercial transaction. (Places where the only unusual smells are guests’ BO, unmasked by deodorant or perfume to ensure the wines’ aromas are undisturbed.) At RAW, winemakers will eagerly tell you who to taste next or be frequently missing from their own stalls while they swap tips and taste the wares of global comrades. During my visit on November 7th, the primary noise I heard was laughter, infectiously spreading around the Bushwick industrial venue like a wave at a Mets game.
One of the most unique aspects of RAW fair is its guide book (see featured photo). This thing was a mother-effing tome. Isabelle Legeron‘s team goes to great lengths in this guide to be transparent about every aspect of their featured winemakers, most notably the amount of sulphur added to the wines (if any) and the specific soil types. Soil is a topic of controversy with winemakers, particularly between the New and Old Worlds (‘New World’ being everywhere except Europe, ‘Old World’ being Europe) and while winemakers generally love to tout the word “terroir” when discussing their wines, many who don’t practice organic or biodynamic viticulture tend to shy away from talking about the dirt and rocks beneath their vines. As I noted in my last post on natural wine, while there are innumerable corrective practices that can improve wine in the cellar, wine’s first and most important friend is the earth. RAW NYC’s winemakers were so excited to talk about their soil types that sometimes it was difficult to remind them to pour the wine.
Some of my absolute favorites like Donkey & Goat, La Garagista, and Domaine Zettlin were obvious stops during the fair, but the discovery potential was palpable and there were certain wines that truly blew my mind. Jean-Pierre Riestch‘s wines, specifically his whites (the reds I found lacked delicacy) were bottled Bjorks. The skin-fermented Pinot Gris cleverly titled “Quand le Chat N’est Pas La” (When the Cat’s Away) was like a screech of success, juicy and focused, with a bit of body and a playful crunchy texture. It is the wine you’d drink after utterly crushing a racist uncle during an uncomfortable Thanksgiving political debate. Smirks and devious hair twirls while taking an extra helping of turkey skin.
Clot de les Soleres is like the inside of a bread factory. YEAST ALL DAY. Located in the Pendes region, this winery takes the individual grapes used in Cava production (Xarelo, Macabeo, etc.) and makes bracing singular wines. The Xarelo, fresh from ice, was like a knife made of lemon water being caressed up and down my tongue until dissolved, revealing a salty sourdough core. If you are a fan of Spanish cider (or some of the particularly creative ciders coming out of Upstate New York) this wine is a perfect fit.
Interested in learning more about natural wine or trying the above RAW Wine picks? Check out the below NYC wine bars:
Or visits RAW Wine NYC’s page for a full list of artisans from the fair and the US distributors. Talk to your local wine store about getting these wines in stock!