SUMMER 2023 – three natural wine fairs in Alsace.
Data point: the number of natural wine fairs continues to increase significantly in Europe and the U.S.A. and Alsace is part of that pattern. In 2022, five natural wine fairs were held in Alsace. In date order: VertigVineux, d’Summer Fascht, Salon des Vins Libres, Brutes and Phare o Vins. All five fairs are again set out in 2023, this time with a lower key event from the Salon des Vins Libres people – see immediately below.
SUMMER 2023 – THREE NATURAL WINE FAIRS
1 – Dimanche Au Jardin
On July 23rd the association that runs the Salon Vins Libres bi-annual wine fair, inserted a “between years” mini edition. The special focus was on Italy bolted onto a selection of young Alsace winemakers. Pierre Lavaysse and Heather Schultz from Le Petit Gimios, were invited to represent ALL the rest of France. As we are a bit Alsace obsessed, see below for the Alsace domains. The Alsace natural wine space is expanding exponentially right now. This includes a bunch of domains that are part of the movement, firmly based on their attitude and commitment. The eight domains attending the mini-salon fall into this category. Young winemakers with only a handful of vintages behind their cellar doors. All with a great attitude, even to the extent that some of them can’t decide if they are making natural wine, vin vivant or vin libre. Ah well, its all the same stuff as far as we are concerned. The Alsace winemakers attending Dimanche Au Jardin. Jeanne Gaston-Breton – Reichsfeld. Leo Dirringer – Dambach-la-Ville. Theo Einhart – Rosenwiller. Anais Fanti – Ammerschwihr. Clement and Sylvain Goepp – Heiligenstein. Vincent Larcelet – Eichhoffen. Louis Maurer – Eichhoffen. Arun Rahimi – Niedermorschwihr. René Sens – ciders. And from Italy: Agricola Filarole, Nicola Nardone, Edoardo Sacchetto. And Le Petit Gimios from the Languedoc.
David Spenlihauer from René Sens Cidres Jeanne Gaston-Breton – Leo Dirringer – Theo Einhart – Anais Fanti Clement and Sylvain Goepp Vincent Larcelet Louis Maurer Arun Rahimi Saturday evening winemakers banquet. Photos below by Philippe Lutz. Winemakers discussion – Jules Kleinknecht, Jean-Pierre Rietsch, Patrick Meyer, Anais Fanti.
2 – Phare ö Vins – Edition 2
The second edition of Phare o Vins was hosted at the Phare Citadelle in Strasbourg in June. The idea/reason behind the event is to establish an annual natural wine fair in Strasbourg. The first edition took place over the three day Vin Nouveau weekend in November 2022. The ambiance certainly changed from wrapped up November chill, to mid summer canicule. The format also changed this time round, with 25 winemakers present for the two day weekend. The focus turned to the fusion of wine, music, food and art. The wine fair event being just a component in the mix. The A State of Mind rap group played a natural wine theme session on the Saturday night. Food over the weekend was provided from the kitchen of the Phare Citadelle with Oscar Cristiano and Léa Lemel behind the stoves and skillets. Anthony Duchene mounted an exhibition on the subject of Paysage A Boire and followed it up with a conference at the TNS cafe/restaurant, on the Tuesday. Keeping the weekend accessible, entry was free if you brought your own glass and if not, a souvenir Phare Citadelle glass could be purchased for 5 euros. Last November’s Strasbourg fair was organised by the team from the Phare Citadelle, Jean Walch from the retail outlet Au Fil du Vin Libre, chef Oscar who was with Marcus restaurant at that time, Pierre Berthier wine director and sommelier and our good selves. This time around Jean Walch took a back seat (but kept in touch), Oscar was in the loop as an independent and Pierre has joined the Phare Citadelle team. It was great to experience the continuity and overall creativity of the organising group. Phare o Vins 3 – on the calendar for 2024. And, photos by Strasbourg based photographer – Nico Elsaesser – big thanks.
3 – d’Summer Fascht Jumps Into Spring
Here we go with the all-Alsace focus in terms of a wine fair, but let’s check the origins. A bit of historical context on the Alsace natural wine front.
D’Summer Fascht salon heads into edition number FIVE and jumps into Spring for the first time. The first edition was back in July 2017 at Christian Binner’s winery in Ammerschwihr. The precursors for the Summer Fascht originated from a couple of sources. One was a mini salon with 14 Alsace natural winemakers held to mark the opening of Christian Binner’s new winery/cave back in June 2015. The venue for this “off” was at the Geschickt domain, just a couple of streets away in Ammerschwihr.
The other source/inspiration was the “offs” that were attached to the Salon des Vins Libres. These “offs” provided a platform for the growing band of Alsace natural winemakers. The Salon des Vins Libres kicked off in 2008 and is a biannual fair held in Alsace, showcasing mostly French winemakers. That first edition was held at the Binner winery, and Christian was joined in organising the subsequent fairs by Jean-Pierre Frick, Bruno Schueller and Patrick Meyer. After the 2018 salon, the “gang of four” handed over the organisation to an association of “volunteers”, though the four founding families still participate in a major way.
As things evolved and grew in the Alsace natural wine space an association of winemakers took shape in 2019, the Association des Vins Libres d’Alsace (AVLA). A distinct organisation from the Salon des Vins Libres. This is a sign of the success of natural wine in Alsace with different structures emerging as the space grows. As of spring 2023, AVLA counts around 60 member domaines. D’Summer Fascht is now an annual event organised by AVLA since 2019. This years edition will be held at the Tanzmatten venue in Sélestat on the 7th and 8th of May. See the two posters below for the details and for a list of featured wine makers.
Already into March after a short and busy February. It is still catch up visit time, with an eye on a project we have cooking. So in date order I knocked on the doors of Gerard Blaess, Philippe and Charles Brand, Christophe Lindenlaub, Bruno and Theo Schloegel at Maison Lissner, Clement and Sylvain Goepp, Yannick Meckert, Jean-Pierre Frick, Heidi and Hubert Hausherr.
At the beginning of March, I spent a fact checking afternoon sitting in a large armchair at Le Vinophile in discussion with Michel Le Gris. Michel opened his wine shop in Strasbourg in 1984 (quite a date). As Jean-Pierre Frick once told me, “Michel was the first outlet to buy, sell and defend the wines from the beginnings of the Alsace natural wine efforts.” Another big tick in the natural wine box was the Michelin star awards for Deja in Strasbourg and Enfin Barr, in Barr. A first star apiece for two new restaurants that have a wide ranging selection of natural wines on their lists. Sharing the Michelin sommelier award was Cyril Kocher who works the cellar at the Thierry Schwartz restaurant in Obernai. A restaurent with one red and one green Michelin star, and I suppose Cyril’s award is like the wine star award. A massively deserved gong for the gestion of an extraordinary cellar and the astute matching of bottles with the customers food choices.
January 2023 – a new year
Happy New Year and all that, and with this new year we will attempt to blog post our monthly goings on. So, its out the village gate into the big Alsace to see what is going on.The year got off to a busy start with tastings and general catch up visits to Jean Francois Ginglinger down in Pfaffenheim, Christian Binner and the Geschickt set ups in Ammerschwihr, Florian and Mathilde Beck Hartweg in Dambach-la-Ville and Patrick and Mireille Meyer in Nothalten. A couple of freezing cold days were spent planting trees and hedges with Gerard Blaess (Domaine Petit Poucet), which was a follow on from some December tree planting with Leonard Dietrich in Dambach. At the end of the month I attended the premier of Panorama – Histoires de Vin Naturel, a film by Nicolas Dedouits. Nicolas and his partner Lilli run the Sauvagere domain and we were delighted to have them at the Phare o Vins wine fair, held in Strasbourg last November.