Natural wine pioneer Isabelle Legeron MW has hit out at critics of the movement, claiming that wines without sulphites are capable of ageing for up to 50 years.
Isabelle Legeron MW
Speaking to the drinks business ahead of artisan wine fair RAW on Sunday, Legeron said: “It’s completely feasible that wines made without sulphites can age for 50 years – I’ve tasted 50-year-old natural wines that are still going strong.
“Sulphites are not about preservation, they’re more about killing off microbes. What they do do is freeze a wine in time.”
But while Legeron believes in the ageing potential of natural wine, she admitted that in order for them to age, factors like terroir become incredibly important.
“If you’re not using sulphites then you have to make sure your wine comes from an impeccable site and is farmed correctly,” she told db.
Legeron’s new book on natural wine
In order to prove to both the trade and consumers that natural wine can age, Legeron is planning to open a natural wine bar that focuses on older vintages.
“It’s my next project and is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It will definitely be in east London – I’m currently scouring the area for sites,” she said.
While she has yet to think of a name for the bar, Legeron confirmed that every wine on pour will be natural and either organic or biodynamic, while small plates of locally sourced food will be an important focus.
While the natural wine movement has come under fire in the last year, with a number of wine writers predicting that its popularity has peaked, Legeron believes the reverse, and that the movement is gaining momentum.
“I don’t think there’s a bubble so there is no way that it can burst. An increasing number of producers are making natural wine and consumers are showing a growing interest in buying and drinking it, so I see no end to the trend,” she said.
Legeron also believes that the increasingly trendy category of “orange” wines needs an official definition.
“There’s going to be a debate about orange wines at RAW on Monday as we need to define exactly what they are.
Orange wines will be debated at RAW
“People are talking about orange wines and natural wines as if they’re interchangeable, but they’re not the same thing,” she told db.
Some 150 growers from France, Italy, Spain, the US, Austria, Germany and beyond will attend this year’s RAW fair on 18-19 May at the Truman Brewery in east London.
In order to be allowed to exhibit, producers must use less than 70mg/l of sulphites and no other additives in their wines.
“I’ve kicked people out before who weren’t honest about their sulphite levels – this is the strictest wine fair in the world to enter,” Legeron said.
“Wine is not a necessity and ours is an industry that relies heavily on chemicals. Using additives in the cellar is a philosophical question.
“I don’t care what other people do – I’m not out to convert people as I’m free to drink what I like. My bugbear is that consumers aren’t being told the truth,” she added.
In addition to wine, a quintet of local craft brewers will be in attendance at RAW, along with artisan tea and coffee makers who share the same principles as natural winemakers.
“There are a lot of similarities between winemaking and tea and coffee making, so we wanted to flag this up and open up the fair to drinks outside of wine,” Legeron said.