Buon Vino is an independant company based in The Courtyard, Settle, specialising in natural wine from small producers around the world. On our blog you can keep up to date with what we're up to, our tastings and events, new wines, and find out more about natural wines.
In day to day life, the only yeasts we tend to come across are ‘dried active bread yeast’ or the sort that you need a cream for (and the less said about those, the better). However, hundreds of strains of yeast occur naturally all around us. In vineyards, certain strains will cling to the grapes and the cellars, so crush grapes in a barrel and the yeasts will set to work converting sugar into alcohol. Without this step, the wine is just grape juice (and probably not very nice at that!)
But how does a yeast affect a wine? Well, in terms of the alcoholic fermentation itself, some yeasts struggle to survive in higher alcohol conditions, so may die off before the fermentation is complete. This is what’s known as a ‘stop fermentation’ and its partly thanks to this phenomenon that White Zinfandel was gifted to the world. Certain yeasts can also trigger a malolactic fermentation, which turns the malic acid (which tends to have sharp, citrus fruit flavours) into lactic acid, which is softer and can give hints of butter and cream. Going further, each yeast strain will react with different compounds within the grape to unlock certain flavours. For example, strains Zymaflore VL3 and X5 are used for Sauvignon Blanc to enhance exotic fruit characteristics.
Winemakers can use these inoculated yeasts to enhance the natural characters of their wine, but natural winemakers will tend to champion the ‘indigenous’ yeasts that cause that spontaneous fermentation. This is because they believe those yeasts are an intrinsic part of the terroir, and therefore character of the wine. In Jerez for example, sherry producers will go to great lengths to ensure their flor yeast is maintained in the environment year after year.
There is nothing wrong with either approach, but in a world that is questioning what goes into a bottle more and more, the difference is becoming more important, and the use of wild yeast is being indicated on the bottles of winemakers who are proud to be using the yeasts nature provides, rather than working to a ‘recipe’. Either way, the differences can be huge – there’s no trifling with yeasts!
As a natural wine company we would tend towards the school of thought where natural yeast is best (not that wines made with natural yeasts can’t be bad too), as we believe that wine shouldn’t be made to a recipe, but should be a true reflection of its time and place.
This week we were lucky enough to be visited by one of our favourite winemakers, Judith Beck, from Austria. It’s not often the real deal pops by, and it just so happened to coincide with a trade tasting event we had on, so she had quite the crowd! Discussing afterwards however, we were struck by just how few women we could think of in the winemaking world.
I suppose that wine starts as a fundamentally agricultural business, which has historically been the domain of men. Working the vines, planting, maintaining and harvesting takes up most of the year! Then once in the cellar, there is the grape crushing, transfer of huge barrels and tanks, and then bottling, which can all be quite intense manual labour. Traditionally, the farms are handed down from father to son, and many wineries have been in the male side of the family for generations.
However, things are changing! Modern methods of winemaking have made it a more accessible trade all over, (Frédéric Porro of Mas Agrunelles was an aspiring motocross rider until an accident left him in a wheelchair, so now he makes wine!), and a general attitude of acceptance has allowed for some extremely promising women winemakers to shine through.
Judith Beck has a 15ha estate next to Lake Neusiedl, prime location for growing wines. She works according to biodynamic principals and uses local grape varieties, including St Laurent, Zweigelt and Weissburgunder. She really goes against the grain of Austrian tastes, creating wines of elegance, and finesse. She’s experimenting with carbonic maceration, bottling without filtration and different varieties. Her reds are juicy and fresh with supple tannins and her whites are rich and wonderfully aromatic. Notably, she doesn’t use any stainless steel in her wines, believing they need to be allowed to breathe. Importantly for us, they are low in sulphur, produced without chemical intervention, yet are extremely approachable. I really love her wines, particularly the whites, which have great texture and complexity – I tasted her Neuberger for the first time this week (well, the first Neuberger I had tasted at all to my knowledge) which was gorgeous, there's something very Burgundian about them (but fortunately not the price!). She’s got quite a following in the wine world, and for good reason. She even remarked how amazed she was that her wines were being sold in France, which was something she never expected! Watch this space for more of her wines, I think we'll be seeing a lot of her! See our current range here.
Some of our other favourite women wine producers include Dominique Moreau, who makes some of the best champagnes we’ve ever tasted, named after her grandmother Marie Courtin; Fanny Sabre of Burgundy (who continues to produce her range of appellations despite now having a number of young children); and Arianna Occhipinti of Sicily who is carrying on her Uncle’s winemaking tradition with her own wines.
All of our wines have a story behind them, that’s why we love working with artisans, so it’s great to be able to represent the women in wine in an otherwise male dominated landscape.
Lots of people pop into the shop in the search for low sulphur or even zero sulphur wines and we are happy to try and help get them on the natural wine track. Sulphur is a natural by-product of fermentation. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) preserves wine. It stops wine from oxidising and extends the ‘life’ of a wine. Here at Buon Vino, we are completely sold on the benefits and taste of natural wine and feel that maybe extending the ‘life’ of an overly filtered, fined and preserved conventional wine may not be such a great idea after all.
Sulphur sterilises wine, but some people these days have reactions to sulphites in wine and in food. Some reactions may be extreme and others may just be that headache/hangover feeling. Obviously, wine contains alcohol, so that ‘day after’ feeling is not just the sulphites if you have over-imbibed.
Excessive use of sulphites in conventional wines just can’t be good for anybody. Sulphites occur naturally in the wine making process though so completely sulphite free wines don’t actually exist. Volcanic soils for example can be rich in sulphites which end up in the wine and sulphur is produced as a by-product of fermentation so there is always a smidgen of the stuff in there but we are talking about a fraction of the amount that may be added to the wine. What we generally try to do is to encourage people to try natural or biodynamic wines that usually have a lot less than 70mg of sulphites per Litre. (Conventional wines can often have more than 200mg per litre!) We want people to try ’natural wines’ and quality wines. These are not mass produced bottles, but the more artisan, agricultural products where the elements of weather, climate, nature and grape are taken to the next level. Flavours are given the opportunity to develop naturally through wild yeasts (these wild yeasts are often killed off in conventional wines by the use of SO2). Sometimes these wines are also classified as ’biodynamic’ or ‘organic’ and some low sulphur wines will taste so natural that they take some getting used to if you have always just drunk supermarket or ‘house’ wines from the local Trattoria.
Until joining the Buon Vino team, I was happily enjoying my supermarket wine not knowing that there was really a genuine alternative and I must admit to always thinking that I loved the wine but hated the next day. I admit to being sceptical about the whole natural thing at first and on tasting the wines, I found them unusual at best, not nice at worst. 6 months on, I am craving freshness and vitality in my wine and really enjoy the wines with lower levels of sulphites. Oh and yes, I feel much better on them too, (although it might mean I am just drinking more, oh dear!)
A good way to understand the idea of a natural (low-sulphur) wine is to think of other things that you eat or drink. Take orange juice for example. Compare a carton of juice made from concentrate with preservatives and compare it to squeezing a few Sicilian blood oranges to create a juice… this is the very essence of natural wine.
So basically this is all about low sulphur addition and minimal intervention in the growing and wine making processes? Yes, that is what we are talking about!
Give em a try
Karol Ann – Recently joined member of the Buon Vino team and fully converted natural and low sulphur wine drinker
Today, blogger Stephanie from Expert Home Tips, is here to share with us some truly amazing uses for wine corks. Prepare to fall in love with wine all over again!
If you love wine, then great news - you’ve come to the right place! Today we’re going to celebrate an often forgotten element of wine – the cork.
There is much more to this little object that meets the eye, and cork can be used for a range of wonderful things. If you’re a wine-lover like me, I’m sure you’re going to love some of the ideas I have to share.
What is cork? A brief history
Cork is a natural product, harvested from the Cork Oak Tree. A Cork Oak Tree has a lifespan of between 150-250 years, and although this sounds a lot, the amount of cork obtained is severely limited by several factors.
Cork Oak trees must reach 25 years old and have a circumference of 800mm before they can be harvested. Additionally, they are, by law, only allowed to be stripped of their bark once every 9-12 years and the bark from the first and second harvests isn’t smooth enough for use in the production of wine corks.
All of this limits the amount of cork obtained from each tree.
While wine corks may have become an everyday item to many of us, the harvesting process is a timely thing – even more reason to cherish every one you uncork.
How to dispose of wine corks:
There are several options available for quick and environmentally-friendly disposal of wine corks.
The simplest way, is to throw them into your home compost bin. As corks have the beauty of being 100% natural, they will eventually break down along with all the rest of your tea bags, fruit peels and vegetable stalks.
If you don’t have a home compost bin, don’t fret as there are plenty of other options available to you.
Recorked UK is the leading natural wine cork recycling program. They are an extremely innovative business, that not only aims to solve the problem of wine cork-recycling, but also be as charitable as possible.
Recorked UK collect corks via donations from the public, then sell them on, giving a percentage of each sale to nominated charities. Additionally, they support various schools and charities by providing them with free corks for use in craft projects – we’ll talk more about how you too can get crafty with corks later on.
There are many Recorked Collection Points in pubs, bars, hotels, restaurants, wine merchants and vineyards across the UK. You can find your nearest on the Recorked Collection Partners map.
If you don’t have a home compost bin and there isn’t a Recorked Collection Point near you, there’s still no reason to fret – I have even more corkingly good ideas up my sleeve.
Great ways to use wine corks around the home:
DIY Fire Starters
Now here’s a really great way to use up all those red wine corks during chilly Winter months – homemade Fire starters. Thanks to their combustible nature, corks can be turned into fire Starters in just a few steps.
All you need to make yours are:
A mason jar
90% rubbing alcohol.
Place the corks in the jar, and top with rubbing alcohol. Be sure to leave a 2-inch gap from the top, as the corks will swell when absorbing the liquid. For best results, store them for a week before igniting.
Painting for kids
Wine may be off the menu for the little ones, but wine corks certainly aren’t. The circular ends are great for creating pretty painted patterns. Best of all, they don’t flick paint around like paintbrushes do, so you’ll also profit from less post-craft clean-up.
Wine corks go great with cosy and rustic home interiors. There lots of beautiful ways to use them, but one of the simplest is to adorn a candle holder.
All you need is a candle, large, cylindrical vase and plenty of wine corks. Fill the vase with corks until the distance from the corks and the top of the vase matches the height of your candle. Place the candle inside, then fill the remaining space with wine corks to keep it firmly in place.
If you’re green fingered, why not use leftover wine corks to fill-out your existing compost? The preferred method starts by putting corks through a shredder begin with, but if you don’t have access to fancy equipment, chopping them with a sharp knife will do.
Head over to our blog for more creative ways to use your old wine corks. Happy Drinking!
So loads of people keep asking me about vegan wine and often the question is 'is organic wine vegan?' or 'is vegan wine organic, does natural wine necessarily make it ok for vegans' etc etc.
So here is how it breaks down.
Vegan wine simply means that the wine hasn't undergone any processing that involves products derived from animals. The main process is fining (a type of heavy duty clarification) using what is called Isinglass, a product derived from the dried swim bladders of fish. In the past the fish was sturgeon (beluga Sturgeon, like the Caviar, that must have been for the Champagnes) but nowadays they tend to use the bladders from cod. Not only does this all sound pretty disgusting but obviously this process is an absolute no no for vegans. Other common fining agents include gelatin derived from animal bones, skins, hides etc, casein derived from milk, chitosan derived from shrimps, and egg albumen derived from, err....eggs. In the past, they even used dried blood powder derived from deceased alcoholics but that practise died out in the late 80s!
Most conventionally made wines are fined but not all are fined with animal products and so may class as vegan anyway. However, a vegan wine is absolutely not necessarily a natural or organic wine, in fact most conventional vegan wines which sell their vegan credentials will be far from natural in the rest of their production.
On the flip side of the coin, natural wines are not necessarily vegan wines but most probably are.
Natural wines are in most cases un-fined as fining tends to strip out a lot of the natural components of the wine which ultimately add to its flavour, texture and authenticity. However, some wine makers who work organically and using wild yeasts and basically produce natural wine may prefer to fine their wines. However, most natural wine makers are pretty responsible types and would be unlikely to use animal based products for fining preferring something like a clay based material called bentonite.
However, there are plenty of grey areas here particularly when talking about biodynamic wines. Biodynamic producers use a special organic preparation in the vineyard called preparation 500 and 501 which is basically burying cow horns in the ground. The horns come from cows slaughtered for their meat. Ultimately the cow horn goes nowhere near the wine and is used to produce organic composts for the vineyard. But, I am not sure ardent vegans would be too happy about this part of the production despite the fact that biodynamic wine is most natural and holistic method of producing wine.
I am not sure I have made this much clearer for anyone.
So for all vegans out there, the best thing to do is check with your wine merchant and make sure they know their producers and fining agents. Sometimes vegan wines are marked as such on the bottle but with small artisan producers, that is unlikely too.
To sum up...
Not all organic wine is vegan.
Not all natural wine is vegan but is more likely to be vegan.
Absolutely not all vegan wine is natural or organic wine and the two things are not particularly linked.
Biodynamic wine is absolutely likely to be vegan in its wine making but then they bury the horns in the ground, tricky one...
Madeira is magical wine. It is quite literally created by doing all the things that any self-respecting wine makers tries to avoid, yet results in one of the most indestructible, and utterly delicious creations in the known world.
What is it? Madeira comes from the Portuguese Island off the coast of North Africa of the same name, and refers to the fortified wines that come from there. They range from dry to sweet styles and there are different age categorisations for each style.
How is it made? The wine is fortified when the sugar levels in the wine reach the desired amount, to stop the fermentation and leave it either sweet, dry or somewhere in between. It is then subjected to a series of ordeals which are fairly unique to Madeira, including repeatedly heating and cooling the wine, and exposing it to oxygen in part-filled barrels. What this does to the wine is change the flavour, giving it a caramelised, dried citrus peel and nutty characteristic. It also makes it virtually indestructible. This process is done to replicate days when the barrels were transported by ship and exposed to the elements in similar ways. These days it is often done in heated tanks, or in hot attics of wineries.
Buying guide: Madeira can range from dry to sweet. Sercialis usually the driest style, and has a crisp, lemony minerality. It still has a slight sweetness, but this is offset by the acidity. Serve chilled as an aperitif. Verdelho is slight more concentrated and richer, with a smoky characteristic that makes it great for pairing with something like a seafood bisque. Boal or Bual is sweeter still, with fantastic complexity and aromas of nuts, stewed fig, roasted coffee and caramel. Great with rich cheeses. Malmsey is the richest and sweetest, with those lovely dried fruit and nut characteristics, it is perfect for desserts or just enjoying by the fireside. There is also Rainwater which is a lighter, fresher style inspired by a rather romantic tale of barrels being left on the sand ready for shipping and absorbing some of the rainwater that fell on them.
Once you’ve picked a style, there are then a range of age classifications. Reserve is usually aged for between 5-10 years. Special Reserve is aged for between 10-15 years, and 20 year olds are a blend of different aged Madeiras (rather like Port) which give a style of a wine that has been aged for 20 years. High quality madeiras will be made using the Canteiro method, (as opposed to Estufa), where they are left to oxidise naturally in hot rooftop rooms, or out in the sun.
Why should I buy Madeira? Firstly, it is massively underrated. It is a truly delicious wine of varying styles that can be enjoyed on its own or matched with pretty much every stage of your meal. It’s also an absolute steal, giving you wine that will last for 100 years in your cellar, and pretty indefinitely in the fridge once opened as well. Its pre-bottling hazing means that a bit more oxygen and exposure to extremes of temperature is highly unlikely to do it any harm.
Join us on the 2nd of December for Madeira Day, where we’ll have some Boal Reserve and 10YO Sercial open, with some delicious Molasses Cake to enjoy.
El Rombera Pansa Blanca Do Allella 2016 (Spa) NEW WINE - £22.00
Le Coste Danjou-Banesset 2016 (Fra) NEW WINE - £26.00
Albarino Leirana Genoveva 2016 (Spa) NEW WINE - £28.00
Chardonnay La Justice Belle Vue 2014 NEW WINE - £28.00
Fendant Domaine de Beudon 2010 (Swiss) NEW WINE - £35.00
Savennieres Les Vieux Clos Joly 2015 (Fra) - £35.00
Chablis Cotes Aux Pretes San Soufre Beru 2014 (Fra) - £38.00
Primitivo Mocavero 2016 (Puglia) - £11.95
Primavera Clos Ouvert 2012 (Chile) - £16.95
Cahors Le Combal 2014 (Cahors) - £18.95
Le Vallon Milan 2011 (Provence) - £21.00
Maupiti Clos L'Elu 2016 (Loire) NEW WINE - £22.00
Gamay Chautagne Jacques Maillet 2015 (Savoie) - £23.00
Alarico Terre Nobili 2014 (Calabria) - £24.00
Palistorti Tenuta di Valgiano 2013 (Tuscany) - £27.00
Hauts Cotes de Beaune Fanny Sabre 2014 (Burgundy) - £30.00
Taurasi Nero Ne Il Cancelliere 2011 (Campania) - £31.00
Josephine Gut Oggau 2013 (Austria) - £35.00
Valis Gamay Dom de Beudon 2009 (Switzerland) NEW WINE - £42.00
Barolo Perno Elio Sandri 2010 (Piemonte) - £51.00
Sottoriva Col Fondo Malibran NV (Veneto) - £15.95
La Vie Danse Petillant Naturel 2012 (Loire) - £24.00
Piollot Cuvee Reserve NV Champagne - £30.00
Piollot Rose de Maceration Champagne - £32.00
Efflorescence Champagne Marie Courtin 2012 - £50.00
Dettori Vermentino Romangia 2015 (Ita) - £25.00
Albarino Cos de Pez Salnes 2016 (Spain) NEW WINE - £33.00
Colosia Fino del Puerto - half £8.50 /full £13.50
Oloroso Seco Gobernador Hidalgo - £21.00
PX Colosia Half Bottle - £15.95
Umeshu Plum Sake 500ml - £18.95
Frinire di Cicale Malvasia Candida 2011 500ml - £30.00
Banyuls Rimage Traginer 2015 500ml - £29.00
Jurancon Doux Madame de Souch 2015 - £39.00
Just pop in any time during the day from 9am - 6pm on Saturday and Sunday and taste as much or as little as you like. The team will be here in force to talk you through the wines and there are some really special bottles, carefully selected to match your seasonal food. There are plenty of spittoons on hand for drivers. We also have a great selection of Christmas gift ideas for you to sort a few pressies out while you are here. Love your natural wine this Christmas with Buon Vino Natural Wine Tasting. Cin Cin.
For wine fans, a mere 3x3 wine rack simply isn’t enough to hold their collection. Once you start collecting wine, you start to understand that fine wine needs more than a shelf in the kitchen cupboard or a rack in the pantry. There are different options for storing wine so what are they and how do you decide what is right for your collection?
If you have the space, then you can go as big as you want with wine racks – those neat little versions you find in the supermarkets are really the babies of the family. Wine racks can also come in different formats and styles that allow you a degree of personalisation, ideal if you plan to have some on show in your kitchen or dining room. Some wine fans even have custom made wine racks created to handle non-standard bottle sizes and shapes.
Wine refrigerators are a specialist piece of equipment that allows you to maintain the right temperature for your bottles. Different types of wine are ideally stored at slightly different temperatures so if you have different types of wine, it can be ideal to have a refrigerator for each one. Ideal temperatures are:
Red – 12-19 degrees
White – 8-12 degrees
Champagne – 5-8 degrees
You can buy refrigerators that are under counter sized to store some wines in the kitchen for easy consumption and also find larger cabinet styles that are perfect for those bottles that you have acquired but have no immediate plans to enjoy.
Should you have space under your home, then, without a doubt, a wine cellar is the best way to store wine. Not only can you manage the temperature better in these spaces but can also look at humidity, which can dry out the corks in a bottle. You can even ensure that the space is free from UV light, which damages wine and that the room is relatively undisturbed so there are no vibrations to spoil the bottle’s contents.
In order to properly age wine, it is best to keep it in a situation where there is no movement, a consistent temperature and humidity and also that it is safe. After all, if you invest your money in quality, fine wine, you want to keep it safe and the prospect of wine theft is sadly a real one.
Professional wine storage
If you find you have a good collection but don’t have the right place to keep it, then another option is to use a professional wine storage company. These companies offer dedicated wine storage space that creates the perfect conditions for wine to mature while allowing you to relax and be certain that your collection is behind the best security systems.
Enjoying your collection
Whether you plan to drink, sell or simply enjoy viewing your collection, getting the right storage is key to long term success. Whether you store it at home or in a dedicated wine storage facility is entirely up to you but do plan ahead because wine collecting is addictive and your collection is bound to grow.
We recently noticed an article in the Sunday Times with some of Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli’s favourite things in life, which included a bottle of Sagrantino di Montefalco from a fantastic producer Paulo Bea. We have to agree that there is no finer choice! This is a pretty special bottle of wine – inky black, layers of lush fruit and deliciously savoury earthiness. Sagrantino as a grape has some of the highest levels of tannin, so requires a minimum of 30 months ageing in barrel or vat prior to selling, which contributes to its high price. But boy, is it worth it! You can also buy a fantastic passito dessert wine made from the dried grapes - a bottle of that and some gorgonzola sounds heaven to me.
Sagrantino di Montefalco really is one of the jewels in the crown of Italian wine making, even if it is sometimes overshadowed by Barolo, Chianti and some of the more recognisable names. It comes from a small town nestled within the hills of central Umbria. The vines grow in sort of bowl created by the Apennine Mountain, which creates perfect conditions for the grape to ripen with plenty of sweet fruit flavours to balance out its naturally high tannins. Amongst the wines of Montefalco, Paulo Bea makes some of the best – using Natural methods of viticulture on their tiny farm estate, which has been in the family for generations. A true non-interventionalist, he believes that "nature should be observed, heard and understood - not dominated", thus his wines are a depiction of the year from which they came. Pagliaro is his signature wine, which sums up the traditions of this historic wine in a single glass. Certainly not a bottle for every day drinking (if only!), but a wine to be truly savoured with that special someone, in front of the fire with some roasted pheasant, or truffle infused pecorino cheese.
Wine etiquette is an absolute minefield, and cork taint can strike at any time. You always see in movies that moment where the waiter in a fancy restaurant hands the customer a freshly popped cork to smell to make sure they are happy, and the customer usually has no idea what to do. What the waiter wants you to look for is cork taint.
You probably hear the term ‘corked wine’ banded around a lot of the time, but what does it actually mean? It has nothing to do with bits of cork floating in the wine – that’s probably due to clumsy bottle opening (believe me I have done it plenty of times!) What it’s referring to is a specific chemical compound which is found in cork or other wood in the winery (such as barrels) that makes its way into the wine and ruins the flavour. The most common of these compounds is 2,4,6-trichloroanisole or TCA, as it’s usually abbreviated to.
Whilst it’s not actually harmful, it can render a wine undrinkable, and if it’s really taken hold, the smell is unmistakable as soon as you open it. That smell of mouldy, musty cellar just jumps straight out of the bottle and hits you round the nose. But even to lesser degrees it can suppress the fruity characteristics of a wine by up to 50%, making it seem utterly dull and lifeless. It really is only a tiny amount as well, with anything from between 2-5 parts per trillion being capable of literally sending your bottle of wine down the drain.
A lot of work is going in to preventing the spread of TCA in cork, but given that most cork is only harvested every 8-10 years, progress is slow, so it’s estimated that around 3% of wines under cork will still be affected.
You may wonder why wineries still insist on using cork if this is such an issue. But for many producers the benefits of a cork outweigh the negatives. Cork is, after all, the perfect stopper that allows the very slow exchange of oxygen from inside and outside of the bottle which gradually allows a wine to age and develop without spoiling or leaking. Airtight screw tops are brilliant for preserving the fresh and fruity characteristics of a young wine, but not so good for allowing that magical development which is part of what makes wine drinking so enjoyable and thrilling. So it seems that, for the forseeable future at least, cork is here to stay - so keep on sniffing that cork!