WhatIsabelle Legeron doesn’t know about natural wines ain’t worth knowing. In fact she runs the UK’s largest natural wine fair RAW, given that natural wine is very much in vogue we caught some boozey words with her below
So you’re a Londoner, how long have you lived in the big smoke and why?
I have lived in London for nearly 20 years now (gosh that makes me feel old). I moved here temporarily, for work experience, but the temporary became forever and I never left! London is a thrillingly inspiring city to live in. Workwise – it is so much easier than France to start up your own business, and you can really be as creative as you like. There is always space for new ideas.
We know you are big on wines and we don’t just mean drinking! Tell us what you do for a day job?
My job is incredibly varied. I consult for restaurants (including 2-starred Michelin Hibiscus in Mayfair, Elliot’s which is a market café next to Borough and now the newly opened Georgia, in Kensington), I run the UK’s largest natural wine fair, rawfair.com – which takes place at the Old Truman Brewery each May), I have a TV show on Travel Channel, I make wine in Georgia (Caucasus not USA), and am starting a new, exciting project with a couple of growers in Hungary and Serbia. I do a multitude of different things but they are always focused on natural wine because that is personally what I like to drink. I guess you might call me a bit of a campaigner, as what I really want is for people to start questioning what is in their glass.
You obviously have a big passion for natural wine, where’s the best place in London to buy them?
Good retail places offering natural wines in London include We Are Noble, 259 Hackney Road and Aubert&Mascoli in the new Spa Road market. Ottolenghi is also hosted the official RAW wine shop this year, both online and at the fair itself. The online shop featured a selection of 30 natural wines from the fair so plenty of choice.
What about where to drink natural wines? And tell us what’s your favourite wine?
London’s natural wine scene is booming, and lots of little places keep opening up all over the city. It is very exciting. Some of my favourite places include Antidote Wine Bar in Soho (it is the oldest natural wine bar in London), 40 Maltby St in Bermondsey, Hibiscus in Mayfair and Elliot’s in London Bridge (obviously I think their lists are great, I created them!) and Brawn in Bethnal Green. They all serve a great selection of natural wines and great food to boot.
I don’t have a favourite wine, I have hundreds but if you’d like to try one, look for pétillants naturels (natural sparkling wines), which are taking wine bars by storm. They are 100% natural, fermented grape juice and dangerously moreish. There are lots of different producers that make them. Elliot’s, for example, stocks Glou Bulles from La Ferme des Sept Lunes, which is just the most delicious summer apéritif you could ask for.
Sounds right up our street! Any secret tips you can share with us when ordering wine in a restaurant?
Be experimental with obscure grapes and wine regions as they tend to be marked up less, so offer better value for money.
Also, remember to use the sommelier / wine waiter as much as possible – they are there for you. Don’t be intimidated about asking questions or by what might look like a daunting list of choices. The list is there to show everything on offer but if you use the sommelier, he/she will filter the offering for you to make the list of choices more manageable and more in line with the sort of thing you fancy drinking.
And finally, what would be your perfect day in London?
It would definitely involve packing a picnic lunch, checking out the tides and heading to the Thames. I love looking for old Victorian pipes and bottles in the mud beneath the water. You find the most curious things on London’s shores – old Belfast sinks, bicycles, even whole Victorian marmalade jars. But be careful as it’s easy to lose wellies in the mud.
That’s all folks, now go forth and drink natural wines using Isabelle’s tips, you’ll never look back and some people even say natural wines don’t give you a hangover although we’re not sure how true that actually is…