Isabelle Legeron MW is the founder and organizer of RAW Wine, a natural wine fair held annually in London, Berlin, and for the first time, in Brooklyn, New York, on Nov 6\u20137.\r\n\r\nWhat led to your discovery and subsequent love of natural wine? Was it one moment (and one bottle), or a compilation of experiences?\r\n\r\nI was brought up on a farm in Cognac foraging for mushrooms and raising pigs. I loved it, but I thought I needed to do something else. I went to university, got a job in London, but after a few years realized I was missing home and wine, except I didn\u2019t know anything about wine. So I started working in the industry, doing small jobs and traveling. As I studied more and more, I realized, this isn\u2019t what I want to do. This industry, which I thought would be cool and farmy, full of laid back people, was actually really serious, into scoring and visiting wineries, not the vineyards. I was completely disconnected.\r\n\r\nThen, in the first year of studying for MW (Master of Wine), I went traveling in Hungary. I tasted a lineup of 200 local bottles so I could decide which producers I wanted to visit. I picked out two bottles and said, \u201cWow, I love these two. Can I go and meet their producers?\u201d [I] was told, \u201cWell, it\u2019s actually just one producer.\u201d It was Imre Kal\u00f3 in Eger, who farms organically, never trained, and made wine for 10 years before showing it to anyone. He makes about 150 wines in a tiny two-room cellar with no equipment, just a few barrels and buckets and his intuition, and that\u2019s it. I thought, \u201cShit, you don\u2019t actually need anything to make wine.\u201d\r\n\r\nThese wines were so different to what I\u2019d been tasting. It made me look at the wine industry differently. I thought, \u201cActually, maybe there is something else that I haven\u2019t encountered before.\u201d Once I finished the MW, I closed the door on [conventional wine], and all I focused on was natural wine.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nYou are a fierce advocate of transparency in the wine world, requiring those winemakers interested in exhibiting at RAW to conform to a Charter of Quality and to provide laboratory testing results. Some would argue that this stringency goes against the very grassroots nature of the natural wine movement, which came into being, in part, as a reaction against over-regulation. What would you say to this?\u00a0\r\n\r\nWhen I chat to the growers, they are anal. Most of them are really serious, about the farming and winemaking\u2014many own microscopes. They are really disciplined. And you have to be. If you are going to make really great natural wines that are completely sulfite-free, you cannot be sloppy. When asked for analysis, some of the growers grumble, but, in my opinion, they are quite happy about moving towards a definition for natural wine. I think they like that there is a structure. I don\u2019t think producers are that anarchist. Even if they may smoke a joint sometimes, they still have their microscopes and are still very clean in the cellar.\r\n\r\nI\u2019ve had producers I\u2019ve seen at other fairs who claim to make a natural wine and consumers think they do, and they apply to exhibit at RAW. I remind them we limit sulfur levels to 70 ppm (parts per million), which is actually quite generous, and they say, \u201cYes, of course, we\u2019re way under that.\u201d Then I see their analysis, and their levels are between 100\u2013130ppm. As an industry, when are we going to start being a little clearer? You put on an event and ask people buy a ticket, they come and they think they are tasting something natural. We have a responsibility to them.\r\n\r\nWhat about wine labeling? Unlike food, wine is not required to list any of the many additives that may have gone into it except for the cryptic, \u201ccontains sulfur.\u201d You have been an advocate for stricter labeling requirements, but some feel that this would lead to confusion and too many logistical questions. \u00a0\r\n\r\nIf you add 30\u201340 additives, you\u2019re not really trying to make something that is artistic. It\u2019s about having a regulatory body that says, \u201cYou have to tell me what you put in your wine.\u201d Really, what we\u2019re talking about is asking people who do add a lot of stuff to list all their ingredients. This is necessary for other commercial products. It bugs me that it is not necessary for wine.\u00a0\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAlthough it is progressing, the wine world is still a very male-dominated space. As the first French female Master of Wine, and as someone who has experienced many wine cultures, do you find that inherent sexism, whether subtle or obvious, exists in some wine societies more than others?\u00a0\r\n\r\nYes. Mediterranean and Southern European countries tend to view wine as a man\u2019s job. I remember once in Spain I took a group of people to a restaurant, and the wine was corked. I took it back and [the proprietor] said, \u201cWhat do you mean the wine is corked? What do you know about wine, you\u2019re a woman!\u201d And he refused to take the bottle back. I had 20 people at dinner, so I didn\u2019t want to fight with him. I just ordered another bottle. But that was blatantly sexist.\r\n\r\nGo to Georgia. You\u2019re barely allowed in a cellar because they think you\u2019re going to jinx the whole thing. I\u2019ve had times where people were like, \u201cHmm, I\u2019m not sure you should be in there. You\u2019re going to bring us bad luck.\u201d\r\n\r\nPersonally, the more I evolve and the more we develop our brand and meet more senior people, I realize that fundamentally the world is really sexist. There\u2019s not the same weight if you\u2019re a woman saying something than if you\u2019re a man saying it. But this is across everything in our lives.\r\n\r\nOn RAW\u2019s website you state that the fair, \u201cCelebrates wines with emotion; Wines that have a humanlike, or living, presence.\u201d Can you describe what you mean by \u201cliving\u201d wines?\r\n\r\n\u201cLiving\u201d for me is quite literal. The job of the grower is to preserve the microbiology\u2014the flora and fauna\u2014of the vineyard. Literally, to preserve its life. These wines change while you taste them. They\u2019ll be different tomorrow and different next year. In a way, conventional winemaking doesn\u2019t do that. Natural wines are an expression of the living versus wines which are sterile-filtered and sulfured to death. There\u2019s nothing living in them any more.\r\n\r\nOn the one hand, the overall quality of natural wines seems to be on the rise. On the other, as an increasing number of natural wines are released young (some would say too young), with rough primary, still-fermenting flavors seem to be becoming commonplace. What have you observed?\r\n\r\nI think the reason is purely pressure. I\u2019ve never spoken to any grower who has said, \u201cI want to release my wines early, because that\u2019s what I want to do.\u201d The most common pressure is money. Growers need to release their wines as quickly as possible to receive an income. They also need space. They often have small wineries and don\u2019t necessarily have the capacity to keep wines for too long. Or they need the barrels or vats because they can\u2019t afford to invest in more. Also, when you work naturally, there is a phenomenon where there is such energy in the cellar during vintage that the wines tend to referment, so some people are keen to get the wines out of there.\r\n\r\nRAW has been a mainstay on the London wine calendar since 2012, Vienna in 2013, Berlin since 2015 and now New York City. Why New York, and why now?\u00a0\r\n\r\nIt took me two years to get my head around it, and then suddenly, I thought, \u201cLet\u2019s just do it, because otherwise I\u2019ll regret it.\u201d But New York is a big deal. We\u2019re terrified. It\u2019s a new market, and we\u2019re starting from scratch. It\u2019s a big responsibility when there are over 120 growers who are paying a lot of money for their airfares, hotels and so on, and then it\u2019s a big flop.\r\n\r\nBut we\u2019ve taken a year to prepare it. We\u2019re doing everything we can to make it a success. The energy here has been amazing, and it carries you. Everyone here is so supportive and lovely.\r\n\r\nWhat does the future hold for RAW? Will you expand into more cities?\r\n\r\nI always think, \u201cWhere else?\u201d I really want to solidify our three current cities, but I do think RAW could work in the Nordic countries. Tokyo could be fun, or Hong Kong. I\u2019d love to have a bar, probably in London, a home for the growers and the wines. It\u2019s always been in the back of my mind. But right now we are at capacity in terms our ability to organize the three RAW fairs.