THE RAW DEAL

For an un­par­al­leled tast­ing of low-in­ter­ven­tion or­ganic, bio­dy­namic and nat­u­ral wines, look to Raw Wine

Wine & Dine - - CONTENTS - WORDS JOYCE HUANG

For an un­par­al­leled tast­ing of low­in­ter­ven­tion or­ganic, bio­dy­namic and nat­u­ral wines, look to the Raw Wine fair

Over two days in May this year, more than 150 wine pro­duc­ers from across Europe and the Amer­i­cas—some from as far away as Chile— gath­ered at the his­toric Mark­thalle Neun (Mar­ket Hall Nine) in Ber­lin, Ger­many for the 14th edi­tion of Raw Wine fair. Founded in London in 2012 by Is­abelle Legeron MW, Raw Wine show­cases ar­ti­sans of low-in­ter­ven­tion or­ganic, bio­dy­namic, and nat­u­ral wines, and brings to­gether im­porters, trade pro­fes­sion­als and wine afi­ciona­dos who like to dis­cover and drink them.

FIND­ING RAW

A fierce cham­pion of the or­ganic, bio­dy­namic, and nat­u­ral wine cause, Legeron’s im­pe­tus for set­ting up a wine fair ded­i­cated to these wines and ar­ti­sans stem from her ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up in a fam­ily of vi­gnerons in the Cognac re­gion of France. Hav­ing worked on the fam­ily’s vine­yards, she wit­nessed first­hand how the in­tro­duc­tion of chem­i­cals via weed killers, pes­ti­cides and fer­tilis­ers—then feted to aid in farm­ing—ad­versely af­fected the ter­roir, strip­ping away the essence and vi­tal­ity of the soils. Sub­se­quently, dur­ing her foray as a wine con­sul­tant in London, she be­came dis­il­lu­sioned with the com­mer­cial busi­ness side of the wine trade. She laments, “I went into the world of wine be­cause I wanted to go back to na­ture. I was hop­ing to meet farm­ers but in­stead I met busi­ness­men in suits. That’s when I re­alised that the world of wine is like any other busi­ness: Dom­i­nated by in­dus­try.”

It was while mak­ing a tele­vi­sion show called Jour­ney into Wine that Legeron started meet­ing vi­gnerons who were real farm­ers work­ing the land, and who were mak­ing wines with low-in­ter­ven­tion and min­i­mal ad­di­tives. “I de­cided to only work with these wines be­cause their pro­duc­ers were pas­sion­ate peo­ple I wanted to spend time with. I re­alised there was no event in London where one can meet these ar­ti­sans, so I thought I’ll or­gan­ise it,” Legeron re­counts.

The suc­cess and pos­i­tive re­cep­tion of the in­au­gu­ral Raw Wine fair was over­whelm­ing, buoyed by the gen­eral up­ward trend of con­sumers who care about en­vi­ron­ment sus­tain­abil­ity and who are be­com­ing more dis­cern­ing about their food and drink. Grow­ers and wine­mak­ers too—many who are ar­ti­sans with small-batch pro­duc­tion vol­umes—em­braced the op­por­tu­nity to show­case their wines to a larger au­di­ence and were soon re­quest­ing for in­ter­na­tional edi­tions of the event to sat­isfy a grow­ing global in­ter­est in nat­u­ral and or­ganic wines.

Legeron ex­plains, “Ini­tially, the London fair was quite lo­cal and Bri­tish-based, but very quickly Raw Wine be­came a very in­ter­na­tional wine fair where peo­ple trav­elled to meet grow­ers. Our at­ten­dees now are def­i­nitely more in­ter­na­tional and not just those who al­ready love nat­u­ral wines.” Ex­pand­ing Raw Wine to con­ti­nen­tal Europe and sub­se­quently North Amer­ica was an or­ganic de­vel­op­ment for Legeron. To­day, Raw Wine spans mul­ti­ple global lo­ca­tions, with reg­u­lar edi­tions held in cities in­clud­ing London, Ber­lin, New York and Los An­ge­les. Come this Novem­ber, the fair will de­but in Mon­treal, Canada.

BER­LIN BOOM, EASTERN EUROPE EN­THU­SI­ASM

Raw Wine Ber­lin 2018 marked the fourth year the fair had taken place in the Ger­man cap­i­tal. While pre­vi­ous edi­tions were all one­day af­fairs, this year saw the event open up an ex­tra day for the pub­lic and a day catered to trade pro­fes­sion­als. Not only does this re­flect the grow­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion and de­mand for such wines in the city—since the de­but of Raw Wine Ber­lin in 2014, close to a dozen of nat­u­ral wine bars and shops have sprung up across the cap­i­tal—it has also put forth Ber­lin as a hub for the bur­geon­ing Nordic, Eastern Europe and Rus­sian nat­u­ral wine mar­ket.

Ac­cord­ing to Legeron, Raw Wine Ber­lin at­tracts a pre­dom­i­nant Nordic and Rus­sian crowd. On top of im­porters, restau­ra­teurs and som­me­liers from the likes of Copen­hagen, Helsinki, St Peters­burg and Moscow are in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in or­ganic, nat­u­ral and bio­dy­namic wines. The fair has be­come a great way for them to keep up to date with the lat­est wines, vine­yards, win­ery and pro­duc­tion de­vel­op­ments. “What we’ve worked hard at with Raw Wine is not just show­ing these nat­u­ral wines as easy drink­ing, juicy and fun bev­er­ages, but po­si­tion­ing them at the fine din­ing level,” Legeron ex­plains. “We in­vited som­me­liers from Miche­lin­starred restau­rants to show them that these

are gas­tron­omy wines to be drunk with proper glass­ware, some de­canted and all rel­e­vant in their en­vi­ron­ment.”

What’s also unique about Raw Wine Ber­lin is the grow­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion of wine­mak­ers from the emerg­ing wine re­gions of Eastern Europe. The 2018 fair saw a size­able con­tin­gent of pro­duc­ers from Ge­or­gia, Slove­nia, Slo­vakia and Czech Repub­lic, in­clud­ing Vina Čo­tar from Kras, Slove­nia, and Mi­lan Nestarec from Mo­ravia, Czech Repub­lic.

As Legeron shares, coun­tries like Ro­ma­nia, Ser­bia, and Slo­vakia are deal­ing with the af­ter­math of com­mu­nism and so­cial­ist gov­ern­ments, when wine­mak­ing was ei­ther hin­dered or re­stricted to large scale low-qual­ity pro­duc­tion in­tended for do­mes­tic con­sump­tion. Vi­gnerons are now re­dis­cov­er­ing indige­nous grape va­ri­eties and re­claim­ing their tra­di­tional wine­mak­ing tech­niques that ad­here to or­ganic or bio­dy­namic prin­ci­ples. Con­se­quently they are look­ing to ex­port these qual­ity wines, us­ing Raw Wine to in­tro­duce them to the global wine mar­ket.

TRANS­PARENCY, COM­MU­NI­CA­TION, ED­U­CA­TION

Legeron takes pride in the fact that Raw Wine cham­pi­ons trans­parency, some­thing she feels is se­verely lack­ing in the wine pro­duc­tion in­dus­try. In­gre­di­ent la­belling laws for wine are just not as strin­gent as those for food prod­ucts. “We are al­ways told that wine is just fer­mented grape juice, but a huge ma­jor­ity of con­ven­tional wine is made with a lot of per­mis­si­ble ad­di­tives that need not be de­clared on the la­bel. Raw Wine ex­ists to raise aware­ness about what’s go­ing on in the wine world in terms of wine­mak­ing,” she ex­plains.

What sets Raw Wine apart from most other wine fairs is its strict rules of par­tic­i­pa­tion. All wines pre­sented at the fair must ful­fill a set of cri­te­ria: Grapes must be farmed or­gan­i­cally and/ or bio­dy­nam­i­cally; grapes must be hand-har­vested; no yeast may be added ex­cept nat­u­ral yeast in the case of se­condary fer­men­ta­tion of sparkling wines; no blocked mal­o­lac­tic fer­men­ta­tion; no wine­mak­ing ad­di­tives may be used ex­cept for low lev­els of sul­phites, which wine­mak­ers must de­clare; no sul­phite to­tals may ex­ceed 70mg/L; no “heavy ma­nip­u­la­tion” of the wine us­ing gad­getry such as re­verse os­mo­sis, cryo-ex­trac­tion, spin­ning cone, etc; no chap­tal­i­sa­tion or acid­i­fi­ca­tion.

To en­sure the viti­cul­ture prac­tices and the min­i­mal-in­ter­ven­tion wine­mak­ing of the ar­ti­sans at Raw Wine, par­tic­i­pat­ing winer­ies are first asked if they are cer­ti­fied or­ganic or bio­dy­namic. Wine pro­duc­ers are also asked to sup­ply anal­y­sis pa­per­work de­tail­ing to­tal lev­els of sul­phites for each wine pre­sented at Raw Wine. Legeron ad­mits these may not be fool-proof. In the fu­ture, she is

LEGERON TAKES PRIDE IN THE FACT THAT RAW WINE CHAM­PI­ONS TRANS­PARENCY, SOME­THING SHE FEELS IS SE­VERELY LACK­ING IN THE WINE PRO­DUC­TION IN­DUS­TRY.

look­ing into more strin­gent ini­tia­tives, such as pos­si­bly test­ing soil sam­ples. For now, it re­quires a lot of trav­el­ling, in­ter­views and check­ing around the com­mu­nity.

For lovers of nat­u­ral wines, one com­pet­i­tive edge of Raw Wine vis-à-vis other wine fairs is the sheer amount of in­for­ma­tion about the wines and winer­ies pro­vided. “On our web­site and mi­cro sites, you can find out ex­actly who does what. We have lots of tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion on each wine... My com­mit­ment is very much about giv­ing as much in­for­ma­tion about the wines as we can,” Legeron ex­pounds.

Which is also why Legeron tries her best to al­ways have the wine­mak­ers be­hind the stands at Raw Wine, “be­cause no one else will be able to tell you about the soil and the way the wine is made the same way”. She con­cludes, “A lot of these wines at Raw Wine are about the peo­ple who make them, so when you come here to dis­cover the wine, it’s about get­ting to know the wine­mak­ers and hav­ing that hu­man in­ter­ac­tion.”

This page At Raw Wine, or­gan­is­ers try to share as much tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble

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