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Buon Vino Natural Wine Blog

  • Yeast in wine

    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.

  • A visit from Judith Beck - women in wine

    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.

    David Weale

  • Low sulphur wine - some thoughts from a recent convert.

    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

    Cin cin

    Karol Ann  – Recently joined member of the Buon Vino team and fully converted natural and low sulphur wine drinker


  • What the Cork?- what to do with all those leftover corks from Christmas

    Stephanie Cvetkovic - uses for cork

    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:

    1. 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:

    • Wine corks
    • 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.

    1. 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.

    1. Candle holder

    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.

    1. Plant compost

    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!

    Follow Expert Home Tips on Twitter: @experthometips

  • Vegan wine, is it all natural wine?

    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...

    Hope that helps.  Cin Cin


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