The renaissance of natural wine, in the way its replacing more commercial wines in the retail and consumer spaces, is far from over. Numbers wise, this is barely the beginning. The craze, explained succinctly as goodhearted and in the spirit of generational craftsmanship, can be attributed to a few things: the heightened expectations we’ve set for what we eat and drink, the trendiness of wellness and organic sourcing, among other things. But for someone like Isabelle Legeron—France’s only female Master of Wine, an author and the founder of the Raw Wine Fair—rejecting commercialized wine in favor of more natural, organically and sustainably produced versions is simply common sense.
In the days before Raw Wine’s NYC fair (which then heads to Los Angeles) Legeron is busy finalizing the details of the event. But once doors open on 4 November, the buzz in the room will be an organized chaos with attendees learning about sourcing methods, sustainability practices and more.
“The whole idea behind the fair—behind Raw Wine—was always to create an event that was obviously promoting growers who work organically, who ferment their wines naturally, who use very little to no additives,” Legeron tells us. “And also to promote transparency and to start bringing the message home to people that wines, by the vast majority, are made with additives—and these additives are not declared on the label.”
The winemakers that Legeron hosts are making wines with a humanity about them. These are wines that meet strict standards on sustainability, the amount of (if any) sulfites and additives are added and whether or not they were naturally fermented.
“We are in a really exciting time right now, you know, where people are in a way coming back full circle. They’re more aware of what they’re eating, what bread they’re buying, what meat they’re buying. In a way, wine came after food in terms of awareness. We’re part of this virtuous circle, where people are increasingly interested by artisans, things that are really well done,” she continues.
This progress, the fighting for smaller makers and growers that tread more lightly on the land, could inevitably change the habits of larger producers that would like to profit off the general likability of raw and natural wines. The same way the beer industry adopted a seal of Certified Independent Craft to deter big beer brands from thieving their markets, smaller wine producers are enduring, as Legeron calls it, the “bastardization” of the word “natural.”
“I think we have to remember the context of our industry. You have, on the one hand, all these small growers doing wonderful things and working organically, but the vast majority of wine producers out there are not even organic,” she says. “At the end of the day, we rely on the drinker to be discerning—and people are discerning. I think people know when they have something really authentic in their glass. People know it’s the real deal. So, to some extent, we’re going to have to trust that people who buy [natural] wine, very much like people who buy bread and farmhouse cheeses, do it because they know it’s the real stuff.” She makes the argument that, right now, everything is in the hands of the consumer—and that the consumer should trust in the handmade.
Images courtesy of Katie June Burton/RAW Wine