Natural Wine has and is indeed a hotly contested topic – it seems people either swear by it or cannot stand it the views really are that very polarized. Let me just briefly try and define natural or Artisan wine as wine which is made in an as natural as possible way without too much human or chemical intervention. This is already a contested statement as making wine is a process which requires quite a bit human intervention – fact is that wine is not a natural product but rather a fabricated one. However there are some ways of producing wine which are more natural than others. Firstly in the vineyard, Natural or Artisan vine growers will be farming in a sustainable way: this may be through an accredited program such as organic or biodynamic farming or just by applying the principles. What is important is that the winemakers feel connected to their soil and focus on having a “living soil” and in order to achieve this they will minimize chemical and other unnatural treatments such as pesticides and fertilizers. This “natural” mentality carries through in the winemaking process by using as little additives, whether they be sugar, yeasts or sulphur as possible and a general tendency to avoid unnecessary manipulations in the winery – these last may include filtering, racking and fining.
The first natural wine event was held last year just before the London International Wine Fair and was hugely successful. The fair had been organized as a partnership between Isabelle Legeron MW and Douglas Wregg from Les Caves de Pyrène, Britains largest importer of Natural wines. Due to a slightly different approach on how to organize the follow up fair they decided to go their own way this year which resulted in 2 separate fairs. Isabelle created the RAW fair which will be held at the old Trueman Brewery close to Liverpool Street Station, whilst Douglas organized the REAL wine fair close to Holborn. Both fairs start today (19/05), RAW runs through till tomorrow whilst REAL is finishing on Tuesday. Both fairs are open to the general public today.
RAW is the bigger fair, with the widest range of producers and the support of several major natural wine organisations (VinNatur, Renaissance des Appellations, AVN, Simbiosa and the Association Qvevri Wine) A lot of the producers are still looking for UK representation and it has producers from about 20 different countries. Several workshops are organised during the day, and highlights for me include the talks of Nicolas Joly and Monty Waldin on Biodynamics, the Artisan chocolate and wine pairing workshop, the talk on Georgian Qvervi’s and a discussion panel on label transparency. RAW is focussing on Georgia this year and to finish off the fair a Supra – a traditional Georgian feast- will be organised tomorrow night from 8 pm onwards. Tickets are on sale on the RAW website for £50, and include all food and wine as well as traditional Georgian entertainment.
At REAL, Jamie Goode and Alice Feiring will talk about potential natural wine definitions and Monty Waldin will give a similar talk on biodynamics. As REAL is organised by Les Caves de Pyrène, most exhibitors will be imported and represented by Les Caves as well, so the focus is on wines which are already in the British market.
There has been a lot of talk, especially in the more traditional wine trade, about the differences leading to the decision of having the 2 fairs and how this will only confuse the consumers and make things difficult for them. I tend to disagree with this as I feel having the 2 fairs has created a lot bigger buzz, it attracted several key Natural Wine proponents and the public and trade actually has a wider choice and more opportunity to discover new producers and learn a thing or two about natural wine in the many seminars and workshops. Furthermore, as all these key people will be in town just before the London International Wine Fair, the natural wine focus will continue with several people talking again or hosting master classes at LIWF.