That Crazy French Woman Brings Her Raw Wine Fair To America

The Wine Snoop Report

RAW WINE, 99 Scott Av in Brooklyn. Photo by Tom Moggach.

The name of wine personage Isabelle Legeron may not resonate with you. For her numerous admirers she is “That Crazy French Woman.” She is the first woman of that nation to be accredited with a Master of Wine diploma, of which there are less than 400 in the world wine trade. Impassioned by naturally produced wines she has set her sites on bringing recognition to the relatively small population of artisanal wine properties in the world. Given the rigorous vineyard management and cellar treatment required in meeting exacting natural wine making expectations (blending organic with bio/dynamic guidelines), historically very little attention has been given to this infinitesimally small segment of the industry. But enthusiasts have long believed that not only is natural wine better for us, and the planet, but also that it tastes better.

Isabelle Legeron, Founder of RAW WINE. Photo by Tom Moggach

Isabelle Legeron, Founder of RAW WINE. Photo by Tom Moggach

In London in 2012, Isabelle launched an annual wine fair, taking great care to only showcase truly artisanal wines. In 2014 she augmented her passion with a book on the subject, entitled Natural Wine, an Introduction to Organic and Biodynamic Wines Made Naturally. Given the positive initial reaction in London, a follow-on event was created for Berlin (November 27, 2016) and last week, on November 6 and 7, the Raw Wine Fair crossed the Atlantic to Brooklyn, New York for its first American appearance. The Raw WineFair catalog is impressive for its first event here. The wines of thirteen nations were disbursed among 119 stands. Domaine Milan in St. Remy de Provence was the sole natural wine producer from that region of France present, showing five table wines and one sparkler.

At the Raw Wine Fair in Brooklyn. Photo by Tom Moggach

At the Raw Wine Fair in Brooklyn. Photo by Tom Moggach

Okay, I was square, as I was not there. But when I learned of it the evening of November 6, I rebounded quickly and asked my Manhattan resident daughter to get over to the Bushwick section of Brooklyn the following day and check it out for me. She slipped in for a hour before it closed and called to say the hall was packed. When I queried her on the make-up of the crowd she said it was definitely skewed toward millennials and Gen Xers. The big buck wine occasions are in Manhattan, as evidenced by the gala events of Wine Spectator and others; but natural wines are about the purists. Fifty bucks for eight hours of organic wine, and some fascinatingly titled presentations in an adjoining hall by the likes of Alice Feiring (e.g., “The Impact of Dirt – Its Power, Meaning and Hell-Yeah Minerality”) had me aching to drop everything and make the 140 mile trek from home. I regret not learning of this event in time to participate, not just because of what was happening during the day at the main venues, but also the evening events in Brooklyn and Manhattan boites that gave one the chance for further dialog with winemakers. I do have a slight reaction to how this fair is named. Raw wine for me infers something unfinished. When I think of the term “raw” in food, I conjure up images of clams and oysters as, after all, they are still alive when served. Of course, in France raw beef (steak tartare) is everywhere. I suspect more is served in Paris dining spots in a week than in all American restaurants in a year. So I won’t get hung up on the use of raw in artisanal wine marketing, and write it off to just another cultural difference. Hoping, nay expecting, Isabelle will be back in 2017, there is no way I will not be there, if for no other reason than to soak up all the raw energy natural wines are bringing to the wine scene.

Studying during a talk at RAW WINE, Brooklyn 2016

Studying during a talk at RAW WINE, Brooklyn 2016.  Photo by Tom Moggach

For more information about Raw Wine and the Raw Wine Fair, visit their website: http://www.rawwine.com/

11 Comments

  1. I agree with you that the adjective “raw” is not ideal. Like you, raw to me means unfinished. It also means unfair (as in a raw deal) or naked (in the raw). In the end, is it the same as organic or natural wine under a more brutalist label? How does Isabelle Legeron call it in French? What are the health benefits of raw wine? As you can see, you have piqued my interest on an approach to wine making with which I was unfamiliar. Thanks again, Susan

    • Lisa,
      You are correct that raw falls into the natural or organic category. I have no idea why Isabelle Legeron chose that term, other than to reinforce that artisanal wine producers leave the hocus-pocus elements of winemaking outside their cellar door.
      Are their health benefits? I know of people who do not handle very well the levels of sulfates normally used in wine making. The naturalists attempt to avoid any use, or at best very small amounts, of sulfur dioxide.

  2. Jennifer L. Guernsey November 14, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Raw wine? How about unsullied wine? Pure wine? Lots of options.

    Have you had the opportunity to taste any of this “raw wine”? I’m curious as to whether you notice a difference. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, of course.

    I look forward to your first-hand report from next year’s event. Hopefully now you are on the right mailing list!

  3. Jennifer,
    Natural wine purists, especially a couple I came across at a wedding recently in France, are absolutely convinced that natural not only is better, but that it tastes better as well. At the present moment that is a stretch for me to accept, as I have yet to go into a head to head, sort of, comparison tasting. But I have a more open mind about it, and want to see more of what is going on here.
    By the way, I love that you offer up unsullied. I may use that when I delve further into natural wines.

  4. Jerrry…always a joy to read your knowledgeable stories about wine! I learned something new about natural aka RAW wine…sounds like it will appeal to many people looking to avoid sulfite. Bravo for another informative venture into the world of wine!

  5. I was less focused on the “raw wine” aspect of the event and more on the “Bushwick location”–incredible how they drew a parallel between raw wines and very raw space and neighborhood. I’m a Bushwick resident and it’s incredible to see how much the area has changed since moving here two years ago! Here’s to many more wine-centric events in Bushwick. Sante!

  6. Rachel,
    Go Brooklyn! I admit I was taken aback when I first saw location of this event. But given that I think natural wines resonate extremely well with millennials, I decided it was a perfect local for such an event.

  7. Hopefully there will be more wines from Provence as the event gains traction. I’m rather partial to Buck Naked Wines.

    • Pam,
      Buck Naked Wines! You got me smiling on that one, especially as I recall seeing something about grape stomping that got out of hand in a way that would have Bacchus in stitches. Now I have to remember what site I was looking at.

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