Earlier this year when Wined Up had just been launched, Lily and I were invited to the RAW Wine Fair in London and we interviewed its founder, Isabelle. The whole day was great. Not only did we gain access to some brilliant insight from Isabelle (read here) but we also made some exciting connections with winemakers and distributors who share the same ideas as us. Namely, our good friends at L’altrevi (you can find out more about them here).
Having just finished my most recent project in the emerging wine region of Nova Scotia, Canada; I thought it would be fun to pay Isabelle a visit at the RAW Wine Fair in Brooklyn, New York. It did not disappoint.
I was travelling with a couple of friends, who I had worked with in the Canadian wine industry, and after breakfast we hailed a cab and embarked on a day of wine tasting.
As we arrived, the cab dropped us off in an industrial estate which appeared to be in a pretty shady part of town. The cabbie asked us if we had got the right address and, to be honest, I wasn’t too sure. It was a far cry away from the Strand (location of RAW Wine London) but, in a weirdly comforting way, it reminded me of home. There’s been plenty of times when I’ve been drunk in the back of a taxi or walking home from a night out in Sheffield, travelling through all of the former industrial, steel producing sites… sorry, I’m digressing.
The address was correct and we entered. The venue was a disused warehouse next to a crane yard. When you think of natural wine, it’s easy to envision sunshine beaming down over rolling hills, overgrown wild-looking vines and farmers in their overalls, tending to each vine.
It’s funny to think that an event celebrating natural, biodynamic and low intervention wine was being held in such close proximity to many factories, autobody repair shops and building yards. But there was a certain beauty to the juxtaposition of it all.
After a few samples, I found Isabelle and we sat down for a catch up.
Wined Up: We noticed that RAW Wine is expanding and visiting more and more cities. Have you noticed any major differences in the attitudes to biodynamic wine beteeen Europe and North America?
Isabelle Legeron: I think the UK market is the more traditional/established market. Most natural, organic and biodynamic wines come from Europe. Countries like Italy, Spain, France, Germany etc, so people in Europe are more used to this concept of clean farming and are making more wines with low intervention. As a result, there’s a well established scene, particularly in Paris where in every arrondissment/neighbourhood there is somewhere that you can get a glass of natural wine. I think what’s happening in the US is that the scene is growing. It’s well established in New York but is spreading into other areas. I was speaking with some people earlier from Cincinnati and we are in LA next week. It’s smaller and slower paced but it is bubbling everywhere and it is very exciting. When we first launched in 2012 it was very local and most people were London based, but now in the room next to us there are people from all over the USA, Canada, Latin America, Japan and China. All over the world basically.
WU: When we started Wined Up, our main goal was to make wine culture more accessible, have fun with it and get away from the kind of snootiness that sometimes can be associated with wine. I personally got a lot of inspiration from figures such as Action Bronson, who is a big advocate of natural wine. From your point of view, what do you think a figure such as AB brings to the world of wine?
IL: To be honest I think it’s great that someone like him is embracing natural wine. A lot of rappers have embraced drinks like champagne and cognac so now it’s time for people to realise that drinking natural wine and low intervention stuff is better for the environment, as well as being high quality. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with popularising natural wine, they deserve the attention, whether it’s a rapper who is glugging it out of the bottle or whether it is in a posh restaurant. I think it’s great.
WU: I saw you on his new cooking show the other day and it seemed chaotic and incredible at the same time
IL: Yeah, I’m actually going back tomorrow to do another episode
WU: Are you looking forward to it?
IL: Yeah. It’s the most hectic show ever. I’ve done studio work for years and been a presenter but this is the most hectic thing I’ve ever taken part in. You may have noticed that I was the more serious person there, a bit like the school mistress trying to keep order (laughs). I’m not the type of person who can go to the floor and start rapping
WU: So you didn’t take the floor and breakdance with Wyclef Jean?
IL: Haha, I’m working on a new routine! But it’s things like this that make life exciting. It’s great fun and the time goes by very quickly.
WU: So, London, New York, Berlin, LA. Are you looking into other cities?
IL: We are looking into other cities. I can’t say too much right now but we are getting requests from a lot of other places in Asia and other cities in Europe. We are a small team so for us to do another event is a big thing but I think we will expand in the next year.
WU: RAW Wine Sheffield?
IL: For sure!, I guess it will only be you, your family and your friends though (laughs).
WU: Not even. My friends would probably shout at me and ask “Where’s the fucking beer son?!”
WU: So, to finish off. It’s a bit of a silly question but Christmas is just around the corner so I wanted to know if you’ve had any thought to what you’re going to serve with your Christmas dinner?
IL: Ooh! Erm… no I haven’t. I’m in France for Christmas so I’ve been stocking things away in my cellar near to my mum’s place. It’ll be whatever the mood is like really. I don’t particularly plan my drinking, it’s just whatever the mood is and what we are feeling at the time. It’ll be natural though.
WU: Well thanks, it’ been great to catch up! Oh actually, one last thing. Can we have a selfie?
IL: Of course! Thanks for coming and see you at RAW Wine Sheffield!
The whole day was, yet again, brilliant. We will post more about the stand out producers soon but, for me, the most amazing thing to see was the representation from Nova Scotia. I was travelling with two colleagues from Luckett Vineyards, we bumped into two representatives from restaurants in Halifax and also Rachel Lightfoot of Lightfoot & Wolfville Winery, Nova Scotia’s only certified biodynamic winery. It’s so encouraging to see developments like this and to see not just the expansion of biodynamic wine but people from emerging wine regions like Nova Scotia putting their names out there.
For more information on the RAW wine Fair, visit http://www.rawwine.com