A Wild August
The past few months have been wild – the situation and various rules seem to be changing everyday and we barely know which way is up, and which is down. In keeping with these wild times, our picks for the month are all wild fermented (you see what I did there?)
In beer, wine and cider, wild fermentation means that the liquid has been fermented using wild yeasts found naturally in the environment, rather than the brewer/winemaker/cidermaker pitching in yeast – it’s like the difference between sourdough bread and regular bread. Wild yeasts can be found in the air, on fruit skins (like grapes and apples), and they like to hang around in porous materials (like oak barrels). In most alcohol making, steps are taken to ensure that the wild yeast is made inert so fermentation happens with a specific chosen yeast (usually lab-grown), but with wild fermentation, the brewer/winemaker/cidermaker encourages this wild yeast and all the wild and wonderful flavours that come with it!
August Staff Picks
An elegant and expressive red from the Rhone region. Made up of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, the grapes are manually harvested from old vines before undergoing natural fermentation. It’s unoaked and full of clean, fresh blackcurrant flavours, with hints of wild herb, liquorish, and a bretty spiciness. Pair with big and hearty food, like roast meat and vegetables, and mature cheeses.
Benimaquia Tinajas £21
Orange wine gets its beautiful colour from extended skin contact. In white wine making, the juice is normally separated from the skins before fermentation, but with orange wine, the grapes are fermented with the skins (like red wine) – this imparts colour, as well as extra flavours and textures from the grapes. This beautifully bright orange wine from Spain has been naturally fermented with the skins in tinajas (large clay amphorae). The result is a complex, funky, and zesty wine, with a touch of orange oil bitterness. Enjoy it as an aperitif, or with seafood.
The grapes (Viura, Garnacha Blanca) are sourced from 80 year old vines on clay, stone soil in the North of the Rioja Alta area – these sustainable vineyards are of outstanding quality. After wild fermentation using indigenous yeasts, the wine is aged in oak barrels for 9 months. It’s a gorgeous white Rioja: a creamy texture, with complex notes of florals, preserved lemon, cashew, and apricot. Pair with creamy dishes, particularly those with fish.
Olivier Cousin Pur Breton Cabernet Franc £26
Unencumbered by oak, this is a wild and juicy celebration of natural fruit flavour. A mouthful of juicy black cherry, blackcurrant, plums and chalk tones with a naughty whiff of mushroom, undergrowth, and green pepperiness. It’s got a bright acidity, with a refreshing and light finish – a perfect red to pair with a ratatouille and warm, slow evenings.
Trevviban Mill Pet Nat £22
Pettilant Naturel means ‘naturally sparkling’: these naturally fermented wines are also naturally fizzy. Pet Nat is bottled before fermentation has finished, and the CO2 created in the fermentation process is trapped in the bottle, making it sparkle (this differs from the champagne method, where a finished still wine is refermented in bottle with the addition of sugar). This one from Trevviban Mill in Cornwall is pleasingly orange coloured from the extended skin contact. It’s bright and tropical with notes of sweet elderflower. Pour carefully to avoid shaking up the yeast!
Pilton Max Lux £10
Pilton are artisan cider producers from Somerset and they make traditional keeved cider – that’s cider that is fermented naturally with wild yeast. Max Lux is a 2014 vintage cider – a particularly sunny year which produced gorgeous sweet and fruity apples. This was bottled while still fermenting to create fizz (like a Pet Nat). It’s dry, with tight champagne-like bubbles and complex fruity flavours.
Tilquin A L’Ancienne Gueuze £18
Gueuze is like the champagne of the beer world – it’s celebratory, complex, fizzy, barrel aged and blended (and often comes with a ‘top shelf’ price tag!) This quintessential Belgian style is made from spontaneously fermented beer – lambic. Lambic is made when the wort (that’s the unfermented malty and hoppy liquid) is exposed to wild yeasts in a large open-topped vessel called a coolship (it looks like a beer swimming pool!) Once inoculated with wild yeast, the long and slow wild fermentation takes place in wooden barrels, and gueuze is a blend of one, two, and three year old lambics that are refermented in bottle (like champagne). This gueuze from Tilquin is lemony tart, with notes of biscuit, spice, and funk.
Yonder Boshi £6
Yonder a modern farmhouse brewery and blendery based in Somerset. They specialise in low-intervention and mixed fermentation brewing, using local ingredients. Boshi is named after Japanese fermented plums – Umeboshi. For this beer, local salted plums have been added to wild ale, resulting in a moreish sweet and sour beer with a luscious syrupy texture.
De Castilla Antique Fino £25
Sherry styles and flavours depend on the flor created by wild yeasts. Young wine is placed into porous barrels and wild yeasts produce a waxy film on the surface of the liquid – this is called flor. As well as adding characteristic yeasty-bready flavours, flor also controls the oxygen in the barrels. Little or no flor will give oxygen access and the wine will undergo oxidative aging, resulting in amontillado or oloroso sherry, but a good flor covering will create a protective cap, which means the wine will age anaerobically and create manzanilla or fino sherry. This Fino from Jerez is rich and complex, with a salty tanginess – pair it with paella and olives.
Have a wild and wonderful August, everybody!
Lots of love,
Tiny’s crew x