If you’ve frequented bars such as Tabula Rasa, Marvin, or Bandini, shopped for bottles at Lou, DomaineLA, or Psychic Wines, or perused the drink list at restaurants like Bestia, Night + Market, or Kismet, you may already be familiar with natural wine. Broadly speaking, it refers to wines grown and produced with minimal input and intervention, and as a movement it’s been championed over the past decade by a growing coalition of winemakers, importers, sommeliers, restauranteurs, and general beverage enthusiasts.
Curious what all the hype is about? Consider getting your glou-glou on at L.A.’s RAW WINE Fair, a $60 ticketed tasting event on November 11 and 12 that offers an opportunity to taste 500+ natural/low-intervention/organic/biodynamic wines from 100+ growers and producers across the world. The fair was founded in 2012 by London-based sommelier, author, and natural wine evangelist Isabelle Legeron—the first French woman to be certified as a Master of Wine. Over the years RAW WINE has spread to New York, Berlin, and recently, Los Angeles, which held its inaugural shindig in 2017.
Legeron is understandably excited to return to L.A. for another run, especially as California’s natural wine scene has continued to mature. “The scene here is so different from what’s happening in New York or Europe. There’s a lot of excitement and growth,” she says. “Last year’s event was very well attended, but in our second year more people know we are here, so there’s more events happening, more growers attending, more importers. I’ve even heard of some people traveling from the UK or Europe to taste wines here, which would have seemed very unusual a few years ago.”
Along with cult-favorite winemakers like Italy’s Frank Cornelissen and Austria’s Gut Oggau, this year’s roster includes exciting local names like Coturri Winery from Sonoma County, Deux Punx from the North Coast, and Rajat Parr’s Santa Rita Hills label Domaine de la Côte. Legeron says that about 30 growers in total—with some from Oregon, Texas, and other parts of the U.S.—are unique to the L.A. fair.
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Though RAW WINE attracts both food and drink professionals (don’t be shocked if you spy your favorite chef sniffing a glass of Chenin) and civilians, Legeron sees the gathering as serving the same function for each group: uniting what is still a relatively small industry, raising awareness about natural wine, and turning more drinkers on to the good stuff. For first-timers, Legeron recommends pacing yourself and focusing on a certain region (i.e., Spain, Croatia, Greece) or type of wine (skin-contact, pet-nats) that you find interesting, so as not to become overwhelmed. “Most of the people pouring the wine are also the ones who grew it, so you really have a chance to learn about their backstory and journey,” she says. “If you connect the wine with an actual person, it becomes a lot more memorable.”
If you’re unable to make the fair, there’s also #RawWineWeek, a host of collaborative one-offs between restaurants and winemakers they admire, including wine list takeovers at Hayden, The Freedhand Hotel, Tsubaki, P.Y.T., and many more (see the whole list here). That synergistic spirit dovetails nicely with what Legeron adds is one of her favorite parts about traveling to the West Coast: “I’m always excited about the quality of food that is paired with wine here. When I’m in L.A., I know I’m going to eat well and drink well.”
RAW WINE Fair L.A., Sunday, November 11 and Monday, November 12; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; City Market Social House, 1145 South San Pedro Street, downtown. Tickets are $60 for single-day access; $95 for two-day access.
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