Isabelle Legeron MW is a busy woman. When she is not consulting for restaurants, writing, mentoring MW students or drinking natural wine, she is busy organising three of the world’s most vibrant wine fairs. Fionnuala Synnott caught up with her at RAW in London
Can you give me a snapshot of this year’s RAW?
The big change this year is the change of venue. It’s a great space and I was keen to change the look and the feel of the fair.
We are getting a great mix of visitors. We are attracting more international importers from Japan, China, Australia, Canada and the States but we still have a very strong a strong London/UK base.
Do consumers understand natural wine? Are they interested?
Our consumer visitors know about wine. They don’t necessarily know about grape varieties or regions – their knowledge is not textbook – but they have a vast interest in where things come from. They don’t mind spending more and drinking less because they understand it takes a huge amount of effort to make these wines.
‘I don’t think the UK market has matured yet. There is still room for growth’ Isabelle Legeron MW
Has the natural wine movement reached its peak?
When we talk about the natural wine scene in the UK we are really talking about London. In other parts of the country it can be a daily battle to tell the natural wine story and serve the kind of wines you want to serve. But even in London there are only 12-20 places, maybe more, where you know the wine list will be really natural.
I don’t think the UK market has matured yet. There is still room for growth. This said, the market is limited by the grower. Now that growers are finding more export markets they are reducing the quantities of wine available here. The UK market share will probably end up shrinking for some growers.
Why should natural wines be on a list?
For me, this question goes back to the kitchen. If you own a restaurant and you care about the food, you are really careful about where your produce comes from and you care about what you are doing, it follows that you should extend that philosophy to the cellar.
How did you navigate the contrast between studying for the MW and being a poster girl for the natural wine community?
I really believe you have to be in the system to change it. If you really want to defend natural wine you have to know what a classic wine expression is. Even if you want to throw the rule book out, you need context.