Some maintain that wine has never been better, cleaner, more consistent, or travelled so well as it does today. Equally, wine has never been made with so many pesticides, additives, preservatives and processes. Most wines, including some Bordeaux crus classés, Champagne Grande Marques and household brands are nowadays no longer made exclusively from grapes. They are products of the agrochemical food industry. The concept of wine's 'poetry', its artistry or romantism, or indeed its exceptionality as a product with a sense of place is becoming rarer.
Wines at RAW are not that. They are natural, artisan products. They come from organic agriculture, as a minimum, but may also be from farms that are biodynamic or use permaculture or perhaps the Fukuoka model. The agricultural practices used are sustainable. What sets the wines apart though from other conventional organic and biodynamic wines, is that they are made naturally in the cellar.
It is difficult to comprehend how rare this is unless you understand where the vast majority of wine is at today. RAW is therefore committed to transparency, as Isabelle Legeron MW says "my aim is to promote transparency in the wine world in order to support the art of authentic wine production. I want to help people think about what they drink. It is not about condemning practices; it is about raising awareness so that people can decide what they drink. At the moment, they can't."
The Charter of Quality:
RAW is about fine, natural wines that are true to where they are from - that have an authenticity of taste that most wines today have lost.
Below is the charter of quality, which we sent to all the artisans interested in attending RAW. It is based on the following principles:
We believe that one of the fundamental tenets for producing expressive, living wine is a vibrant, healthy vineyard with soil that is full of life - bugs, natural yeasts and a thriving ecosystem within which the vines thrive independently. Vines that do not need man as a crutch to survive. We therefore promote agricultural practices that make this happen. These include (but are not limited to) the likes of biodynamics, organics and permaculture. To find out more about these agricultural practices take a look at our other website THAT CRAZY FRENCH WOMAN, which includes a pretty good introduction on the topic and also includes suggested further reading if you'd like to know more.
Once the grapes hit the cellar, we like them to not be heavily processed or have lots of additives added to them. We prefer the resulting wine to just be - better for our health (if done properly) and certainly better for taste. We definitely require indigenous yeasts to ferment the wine - no lab-bred, inoculated, aromatic (or even non-aromatic) ones (with the exception of the traditional sparking method - see our Charter below - although we would like to stress that there are lots of delicious petillants naturels around that are totally free of innoculated yeast...). We know that sometimes natural producers chaptalise or acidify - we personally would prefer that they didn't but that is a personal choice that is up to them to make and up to us whether or not we buy.
The trickiest additive to our mind is SO2. Even within the natural wine world itself, there is much debate around how much is too much. Indeed, THAT CRAZY FRENCH WOMAN promotes as limited a use of SO2 as possible and there are many delicious examples of wines that use none at all.
Different wine associations impose different limits on their members, all of which are significantly below the accepted levels for conventional wines. Since RAW welcomes different associations to its event the total sulphites vary significantly not only from artisan to artisan but also from wine to wine, even within a single artisan's portfolio. Each wine's total sulphite level is available on its artisan's profile.
The Charter itself:
All wines presented at RAW have to fulfil the following criteria:
• Grapes must be farmed organically and/or biodynamically, whether or not certified.
• The entirety of the Domaine from which the grapes are issued must be farmed organically and/or biodynamically, whether or not certified.
• Grapes must be hand-harvested.
• Only indigenous yeasts may be used except in the case of the second fermentation of sparkling wines, when neutral yeasts may be added.
• No winemaking additives may be used in the cellar bar, at most, a little SO2*. (We understand this to mean that the producer is ultimately aiming to add as little SO2 as possible. Total sulphites will be clearly labelled, unless no sulphites have been added whatsoever, in which case the mention “no added sulphites” will be included in the wine's description).
• No ʻheavy-manipulationʼ has been carried out using winemaking gadgetry such as reverse osmosis or cryo-extraction, spinning cone, and so forth.
* Please note: RAW understands that conditions change year on year and as such there may be times (the exception rather than the rule) when it is difficult to make wine as purely, finely and naturally as one might like. Bearing this in mind, and bearing in mind that RAW is committed to promoting transparency and clarity in what we drink, then:
• If chaptalisation or acidification was used in a particular year, the wine may be eligible for inclusion in RAW but will be clearly labelled as such.
• Many of the wines showcased will not have been fined or filtered. If a wine has been fined or filtered, it will be clearly labelled as such.
• Wines in the catalogue and online will be marked as ʻsuitable for vegetariansʼ and/or ʻsuitable for vegansʼ, if applicable.