Isabelle Legeron: Natural Wine

Isabelle Legeron, who was the first French woman to become a Master of Wine, is a serious wine person with a serious palate. She now calls herself “That Crazy French Woman” and has written this excellent book on Natural Wine.

After tasting hundreds of wines, she came to the realization that a lot of what she was tasting and smelling in very prestigious bottles was simply added in the cellar (in the form of selected yeasts, tannins, enzymes, etc.) or created by processes like reverse osmosis. Even more surprising was that additives and processes were allowed even for organic wines.

At that point, she became “crazy”, founded the RAW wine fair, and has become one of the most vocal champions of “Natural Wine”. This book, which came out in 2014, is thorough, even technical at times, but remains accessible as a general reference book for what “natural” wine is and why drink it.

In the introduction, Isabelle writes: “Natural wine is not new; it is what wine always was, and yet, somehow today it has become a rarity.” She notes how rare it is to see this kind of beautiful biodiversity instead of monoculture (rows and rows of vines only).
mixed planting

The book is clearly organized into three parts:
What is Natural Wine?
(In the vineyard, the cellar, how to taste, misconceptions, health, certification)
Who, Where, When? (About the people who make the wine and why; how to find, taste and buy.)
The Natural Wine Cellar (Characteristics of the wines and Specific Producers Worldwide)

She includes not only qualitative information, but stunning facts such as:

-“According to the World Wildlife Fund, the amount of pesticides sprayed on fields has increased 26 fold over the past 50 years… Pesticides Action Network states that ‘Grapes now receive a higher dose of synthetic pesticides than any other major crop, except citrus.'” (p. 9)

-“Two separate studies found pesticide residues in the wines they tested. While the totals were tiny…,they were nevertheless significantly greater (sometimes 200 times higher, than the accepted standard for UK drinking water. Some of the residues were even carcinogenic…” (p. 11)

-“Dr. Diego Tomasi…found that grapes that are farmed without synthetic chemicals and without tilling, pruning, and de-leafing, etc., are significantly higher in reservatrol (an antioxidant found in wine) than their conventional counterparts.” (p. 87)
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In addition to lots of information on how organic and biodynamic farming and natural cellar methods are healthier for humans and the planet, she explains how/why the wines are high quality and delicious. They express “terroir” more clearly because they are different in every vintage year. They are also “living” wines that change according to when and where you drink them.

She cites some of my favorite Italian winegrowers including:

Arianna Occhipinti
Case Coste Piane
Cascina Degli Ulivi (Stefano Bellotti)
COS
Foradori
La Stoppa
Montesecondo
Pacina

To order:

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