What is natural wine?https://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/vidacycle-blog-1.png559397AbbyAbbyhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/bc0658bd664acadb95f3bbdd8e28d6a2?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Whether you are a wine-lover, or not, natural wine is a whole new experience. Most of us only ever go through life tasting chemical wine: mass-produced red, white or sparkling wines that taste the same year after year, bottle to bottle and give you a nice hangover to boot.
Real wine is radically different, this is vibrant wine that is filled with exhilarating flavours and that’s better for you and the planet!
Our small farm was setup with the purpose of building and sharing ecology, beauty and abundance: we live in a coastal hill valley which is very dry, so we work with what is there already, we do not use irrigation and only grow crops that will be resilient in the face of changing climatic conditions. Our 100 year old vines have survived multiple fires, frosts and earthquakes. The vines are dry-farmed, amidst a wealth of biodiversity so they stay healthy. We never add any chemicals or fertilisers, constantly listening, learning and working with nature. We call it “beyond organic”.
So it seemed totally ludicrous to take the carefully crafted grapes and doctor them with sulphates to ensure they tasted very similar to every other bottle of wine you’ve ever drunk!
Hence the hours of research began and we came across the world of natural wine-making pioneered by some phenomenal winemakers and farmers in France and spread by the brilliant Isabelle Legeron.
Natural wines are diverse in flavour and colour: bright yellows, burnt orange, cherry red, blossom pink, golden, each year a slightly new flavour or hue depending on the sun and rain. And what’s more, no one can tell you how they are meant to taste.
Natural wine is a craft, not a science, where you work with the gifts of the land: organically-farmed grapes, fermented with local yeasts (already plentiful on the grape skins) and the microbiome of the fermentation process, fully alive from start to finish. And you get a much more exciting and unpredictable collection of wines as a result.
We invite you to taste with an open mind and heart and experience the journey of flavours as they swirl into your mouth.
Plateau – a natural wine wonderland in Brightonhttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/vidacycle-blog-2.png559397AbbyAbbyhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/bc0658bd664acadb95f3bbdd8e28d6a2?s=96&d=mm&r=g
By Natalie Valenzuela, Natural wine lover based in Pucon, Chile
Friends, Thierry & Vincent, arrived in the UK in 2001, 17 years ago (thanks for the photo @RestaurantsBrighton)!
After working in the catering world, they discovered natural wine & fell in love (as many do, me included). Together they realised they wanted to open a wine bar, the first was Mange Tout: a natural bistro, and then came Plateau: a natural wine wonderland & cocktail bistro.
Plateau is on a winding street just set back from the seafront in the centre of Brighton. They describe themselves as a place where – “everything is curated with a focus on the authenticity and the passion behind the raw product“. YES!!! Authenticity & Passion, two things we love at Vidacycle.
In fact we love it so much that sisters Abby & Joy from Vidacycle headed to Plateau for a tasting of their new vintage of Tinte & to talk about permaculture, biodynamics, mixed farming, soil health & natural wine. Below are some photos from the event. 🙂
Plateau is definitely worth many visits: delicious food, lots of fun, and an amazing selection of natural wines, including our Tinte 2014 and 2015.
The curious beings that we are, we thought it would be cool to ask Vincent from Plateau a bunch of questions about wine in general. Maybe you can ask yourself these questions too…
What is your first memory of wine?
Wow, this takes me right back to my childhood when I used to get offered a water diluted glass of Saumur champigny (cab franc) on special occasions! Usually followed by a bit of champagne with the cake, I remember not liking that harsh acidity…
What wine regions would you love to explore?
Most of South America is appealing to me, a complex place to make natural wine- but amazing stuff is produced there. Plus ancestral wine regions located in Georgia & Slovenia, for their use of amphora in winemaking.
What is your favourite part of the wine making process & or the business of wine bars?
Probably the unmaking – opening the bottle!
Working in hospitality is hard, & everyday is different to the next. You get to meet a lot of interesting people and provide them a good time.
Describe Tinte as you see & feel it in your mind? What does it remind you of?
Tinte is a gentle expression of respectful farming and friendly wine making. Depending on the millesime, Tinte can be generous and sweet or bright and fresh, and always honest, alive and tasty!
Thanks Vincent and Thierry for all your support over the years, you inspire us every day and always make us laugh 🙂
Bonus: We love this short video of Vincent and Thierry talking about what are natural wines with the crew from Restaurants Brighton
From London to Peru——meet TINTE lover Maja Belichttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/vidacycle-blog-3.png559397AbbyAbbyhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/bc0658bd664acadb95f3bbdd8e28d6a2?s=96&d=mm&r=g
Maja developed her love for TINTE while living in London and shares her story——
“I lived in London for 4 years where I worked as an architect. I found your wine, TINTE, on the shelves at E5 Bakehouse in East London where I bought it and had it at home—— and it was delicious! Loved it!
I continued enjoying TINTE in London until I moved earlier this year to work on a sports project in Lima, Peru. So far it’s been an amazing experience!”
“I absolutely love Lima. I didn’t really know what to expect as this is my first time in South America. The people are very warm, welcoming, kind and generous. That’s definitely helped with the transition. Plus the work is interesting and I work with a really interesting and diverse group of people.”
“The food is amazing here! Beautiful seafood—wonderful ceviche! And I live by the coast so I’m learning to surf and try to go surfing in the mornings before work—— a great way to start the day.”
“Whenever I can, I always try to get a natural wine. To be honest, when I tasted TINTE it just stuck with me and I’ve not had that kind of reaction to many wines. It’s quite earthy and dry and very fresh. The flavour develops in your mouth and tends to linger a while after you sip it and you get a tingling in the back of your mouth. It’s not sweet——it’s dry and pleasantly acidic.”
“When I got to Lima I was looking for a similar wine, but orange wines, or even organic, aren’t very common here yet. I knew TINTE came from Chile, so I got in contact with Vidacycle to see where I could get TINTE in Peru—but sadly it’s not available here at this time.”
“So I was trying to figure out how can I get some TINTE?—— when my parents were coming to to visit me in Lima via Santiago. Thomas from Vidacycle kindly arranged for a case of TINTE to be delivered to their hotel and they brought it to me in Lima, which was perfect timing!”
“I really like the naturalness of it. It reminds me of a perfect wine to have with a group of friends over food. We love to cook and we love to host people, so everyone eating, talking, laughing around a table enjoying themselves——that’s what I think of when I think of TINTE.”
We love that image Maja, (and the amazing table of food you shared with friends – yum!) – definitely TINTE is all about everyone laughing around a table enjoying themselves! As winemakers, young entrepreneurs and caretakers of the earth, we are excited to share our naturally produced wine ‘TINTE’.
Community is the future of our continued creations and our commitment to build beauty, ecology and abundance, so thank you Maja for telling your story and sharing your experience.
Sustainable Summer Drinks at Ducksoup Soho, London: The Dry Ginger Cocktailhttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/vidacycle-blog.png559397AbbyAbbyhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/bc0658bd664acadb95f3bbdd8e28d6a2?s=96&d=mm&r=g
by Natalie Valenzuela woman of the world, natural wine lover, currently residing in Pucon, Chile.
Sometimes the most unpredictable ingredients when mixed together make mouth-watering flavours, like sea salt, peanuts, rosemary & chocolate (for me this is a mind-blowing experience, every time). Ducksoup a restaurant and wine bar on London’s Dean St is a place that does this – they mix unique ingredients & serve dishes with amazing aromas & flavours.
Ducksoup is a special place, when you enter & retreat into the space you feel like you’ve teleported to an underground bar from the 50s, possibly Californian or Greek, the record player forever spinning sweet tunes to up the ante on the already mid-century modern vibes.
Back to the food & wine, they’re known for their use of fresh sustainably-sourced ingredients, aromatic flavours, instagramable beauty-filled food & of course their selection of natural wine (more on this in a future post). When in London we definitely recommend heading there…some of the best food and drinks around, no faff, just top quality offerings.
(Image via @Ducksoupsoho instagram.)
Rory McCoy (co-owner & all round legend) has invented a cocktail using a most unusual ingredient, our very own Agraz – enter The Dry Ginger cocktail: Mezcal, fresh ginger & Agraz. Mmmm, got you thinking. Rory has described our Agraz as “Its own thing. It goes so far to the extreme that you can’t actually drink it neat but you can recognise it’s going to bring equilibrium to whatever it’s used in”.
Co-founder Rory McCoy & Clare Lattin, Tom Hill executive chef. Images via @Ducksoupsoho instagram.
Agraz or verjus, French for green juice, is used as a healthy and delicious alternative to vinegar or lemon. Ours is made from unripened Pais grapes handpicked in early Spring at our farm Fundo Meza, as Rory mentioned it’s got the right kind of acidity & minimal sweetness. It’s grape-based, but not fermented & alcoholic, & therefore the flavors complement whatever it’s being served with. In this case, Mezcal & ginger.
Mezcal is native to Oaxaca, Mexico, made from 100% Agave, it is one of the oldest distilled spirits in the Americas. Artisanally distilled it has a smokey, sweet & floral flavor. Like wine, the soil & growing conditions are important not only for quality but for its naturality, meaning it’s one of the cleanest spirits on the market.
Fresh ginger as we all know is a healing spice, an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, a natural gem.
Rory mixed these 3 together and The Dry Ginger cocktail was born. A peachy coloured drink, tarty & smokey, he describes it as “a total new dimension in your mouth, you have to adjust your palette. Tart and sharp to that extreme are not normally eaten, nor drank — almost an inversion of how you normally approach drinks”.
The Dry Ginger cocktail is available at Ducksoup, try it there and get the whole experience. Or try it at home with friends, Ducksoup said we can share the secret with you all 🙂 – recipe below. Shop Vidacycle Agraz on our online store.
THE DRY GINGER
25 ml Mezcal
50 ml Agraz
few grams of fresh ginger
In a cocktail shaker, smash or muddle the ginger, release the fire and liquid from within it, quickly chuck in the mezcal and agraz, then fast shake it with lots of ice. Double strain into the glass ‘ you don’t want bits of ice it in nor do you want it to water down.
Almost 12 years ago, my family started farming in Chile. Our time there has been full of ups and downs. We’ve survived one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history, as well as a devastating forest fire that burned through all our olives and vines last year (I wrote about it here). But we’ve also experienced the joy of drinking wine and eating olive oil made by our own hands. We’ve lived the dream of harvesting almonds straight from the tree (the tastiest evening snack imaginable!). Plums, pears, peaches, black beans, tomatoes, squash — there’s an abundance we are grateful for and savour.
At first, I found farming dull, old-fashioned and backwards. I was interested in science, technology, culture and cities — the way forward, the future. Farming seemed to be about sitting on tractors and keeping animals in dark, smelly barns. But over the years, I’ve realised that farming is a key part of the future and it’s incredibly innovative. Farms are our way of making food, fuel and fibre: they’re at the heart of our existence.
As a co-creator of monthly podcast Farmerama, I share the voices of the smaller-scale farmers who will shape the future of farming. But what does that mean, and what does that future look like? Over the past two years of making Farmerama, I’ve had the privilege of visiting farms across Chile, the UK and the US, and the pleasure of sharing amazing stories from Malawi, Cambodia and beyond. By attending conferences and field days, and speaking to everyone I can, I’ve gained insights into what an ecological farming future might look like. Here are the 10 trends I believe will create a positive farming future for all and enable us to feed the world in 2050.
1. Soil Health: We are in the middle of an agricultural revolution, where soil is king. Much agricultural land has just 60 harvests left before nothing can be grown there, according to latest forecasts. Faced with rising costs and declining yields, farmers across the spectrum are focusing on improving soil health. Knowing that the important thing about soil is not just its chemical components, but also its structure and the critters that live in it, has changed everything.
2. Diversity: At the heart of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is the idea that diversity is key to resilience. A farming future that will last the next 50 years — never mind the next 100 — must be rooted in diversity. Mass monocultures are the opposite of this. Diversity comes in many forms: agroforestry; companion cropping; cover crops; multi-layered animal rotations; wheat populations; growing heritage seeds; and seed saving, to name a few. If you haven’t heard of any of those, look them up — they are all very exciting!
3. Inclusive & Female Leadership: Last month, I attended a conference celebrating female leadership in the farming world. It was so inspiring to hear from female farmers and food crafters from across the US. Making space for a more diverse mix of people as the leaders of our farming future is a big part of ecological farming. Diversity on the ground will be reflected in the diversity of people making choices and working together.
4. Ecological Farming: The binary times of organic vs conventional farming are slowly fading away. New Ecological farming methods — working with and listening to natural systems — are being adopted across the organic and conventional divide. One example is Conservation Agriculture — never ploughing the soils (no-till) and growing a diverse mix of crops — which has brought a new level of wildlife, health and financial return to many conventional farms. Mob grazing — regularly moving a herd of animals to graze on different parcels of land — is another ecological practice adopted by farmers across that old conventional-organic divide. The new more nuanced world of ‘good’ farming is not yet being reflected in public discourse. We will find force in uniting under the new banner of ecological farming — leaving behind discussions of elitism that have haunted the organic farming conversations for years.
5. Data and New-Fashioned Farming: New tools and technologies will enable more ecological farming methods. For example, the ease of adoption of mob grazing is thanks to polyethylene pipes and electric fencing, which allow the traditional, labour-intensive system of rotational grazing to be managed by one or two people over a large land area. New digital services such as Open Food Network, which provides a centralised platform for farmers to sell direct to customers, promote more efficient harvesting and help smaller operations thrive. Mobile phones also let farmers collect data and observations in the field, so they can start to draw out patterns of what works and doesn’t work on their farm. I call this Permaculture 2.0 and have developed an app to help fellow smaller-scale farms here.
6. Multi-layered businesses: Part of resilient farming is having multiple income streams. One option is an alternative business run on-farm — such as adding solar panels to one field, or having a wedding venue in a barn. Another is a multi-enterprise farm — for example, a dairy farm might have a cheesemaker, honey producer and market gardener working in harmony on one farm. Equally, a grain farmer might work with a roaming herdsman. Clever land-sharing agreements are also opening up new ways of sustainably supporting multiple incomes from the same plot of land.
7. Sharing and Stories: For ecological farming to become the dominant paradigm, everyone who is part of it will have to share their stories far and wide. We’ll need more peer-to-peer learning networks, and we’ll also need to share the realities of farming — including the raw details of the constraints we face — with political leaders, cultural organisations and the public. Not everyone will want to be involved in farming, but everyone needs to believe that it’s possible for smaller-scale farmers to feed the world. Once people believe, we will regain our food sovereignty (the right for people to demand their own food and agricultural systems) as we start demanding this approach from governments and retailers.
8. Waste and Cycles: It turns out waste is a very human concept. The reality is that everything is cyclical. By shifting to this perspective, we can make better use of what is produced on the farm and that of neighbouring farms. That means we can work together to create more localised ways of sharing resources — a win for all. This message has already hit the public psyche in recent years and could be a great success story to follow. Many supermarkets now sell ‘wonky veg’ and several enterprises that make use of ‘waste products’ have sprung up.
9. Bigger is Not Better: More farmers are recognising that the ultimate success story is when what you produce is profitable, good for the environment and good for people. We’ve heard stories of people halving their sheep herds, so they can graze them outside all the time, and increase their profits. A farm in Denmark is dividing its 1,000 acres into ten 100-acre farms, as this opens up more potential for the farms to thrive. We can strive for maximum abundance as the ultimate success, not just maximum profit. Sometimes economies of scale do not maximise abundance. Abundance is a wishy-washy term, but I hope we can use tools such as True Cost Accounting to better understand the actual cost of scaling up or down, in order to define value beyond pure financials.
10. Working beyond your borders: For all the amazing improvements you can make on an individual farm, some of the most exciting projects are happening at the scale of water catchment areas and community-wide. For example, collaborative groups are tackling flood prevention across the borders of many farms. Others are implementing wildlife migration routes that traverse many plots of land. All these projects require a concerted effort across communities (or ‘bio-regions’) to transform the system.
Wanna find out more about these trends? Tune in to our monthly episode of Farmerama Radio to hear stories from farmers across the world, check out the apps I have helped create here and see a bit more about what we are doing on my family’s farm here.
Thank you to Hayley Ard for editing this article and James and Fred for looking over it! And thank you to all the farmers, scientists, & people supporting the farming community who have shared their time, thoughts and insights to help me formulate these ten points. This article is a tribute and thank you to all the great work you are doing.
The full storyhttps://vidacycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2.png559397AbbyAbbyhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/bc0658bd664acadb95f3bbdd8e28d6a2?s=96&d=mm&r=g
About ten years ago, we heard about a opportunity to become part of the farming community in the Loncomilla Valley, Chile. Friends of ours informed us that their neighbours, the owners of a small farm tucked away in the coastal hills near San Javier, were moving away. Our family had fallen in love with Chile on a recent trip. It seemed as if the stars had aligned and that small farm, Fundo Meza, became our home. At first, our dad (and to-be farm manager) Tom spent some time camping out on the land to get a feel for the fields, before the entire family joined and the hard work began.
And so began our journey into regenerative farming.
We planted our first baby trees in 2008. Since then, we’ve worked with the land to slowly and steadily grow over 8,000 olive trees, from which we produce our delicious extra virgin olive oil. Each olive is harvested by hand on our farm as part of our simple philosophy: we do not add anything synthetic and work with the life of each tree. It takes time, but we learn more from each tree year upon year. Sadly the farm suffered a devastating fire earlier this year, destroying almost all of our olive trees and making our produce minimal. However, our energies are focused on healing the land and subsequent regrowth. You can read more about the effects of the fire here .
Olive trees are only part of the story. We began making natural wine and agraz from the old pais vines that remained on the land. We also work with the bees to produce a small amount of honey and care for our vegetable gardens. Today, we distribute our raw, homegrown products in the UK and Chile.
As we learn more about the web of life and organisms everyday, we also learn more about the vital elements of creating a flourishing farm. We aim to work with all parts of the ecosystem to increase biodiversity on the land. While we initially drew influence from ‘conventional’ organic farming, we have expanded our thinking toward permaculture practices, natural agriculture, solar energy and more.
Without access to irrigation canals, our nearby natural springs and two shallow wells are our only source of water. We’ve embraced this by nourishing our olive trees with little water to eventually become dry-farmed. Over the last decade, we’ve experienced earthquakes and forest fires that have dramatically changed the landscape. Still, we do what we can to work with the land in its natural state, which helps us stay aware and have respect for the lifecycles around us. In doing so, we’ve gone far beyond our farm’s organic origin.
We’re committed to building a holistic ecosystem.
Inspired by certain challenges we met along the way, as well as the observation of the archaic ways in which many farmers record vital information about their farms – we set out to create more modern solutions. Abby, the coder and physicist of the family, developed mobile apps designed as smart and simple farming solutions: Sectormentor, to help us keep track of our fields, and Workmentor, to help us keep track of everyone working in the fields. Through building these tools, Vidacycle Tech emerged as a way for us to empower other smaller scale farmers around the world to be more resilient in the digital age.
Along with these apps, we’ve also built a combination of solar pumps and windmills on the farm that keep our water running. From our windmill pump and our solar hot water, to our organic vegetable and fruit gardens that feed us year around, there are many exciting and forward-thinking things happening here.
We’re keen to nurture our growing community, both locally and globally, as we share our journey. Whether visiting us on the farm or following us on social media – instagram, twitter, facebook – we want to share with you as we carry on learning by doing. Together, we can inspire a better future for people and earth.
We wanted to record a unique* Chilean lifecycle. The healthy green growth so full of life now, in Winter, suddenly dies back in late Spring and looks completely brown withered and dead but then in March the stems rise once again to yield these amazing pink flowers. Always a wonderful surprise.
*(as far as we know this only occurs with this plant in Chile, would love to hear from you if you know other examples of this.)
Last month Francisco, an olive expert came over to discuss pruning techniques for our trees that vary in age from two to five years. Pruning convention is to leave the straightest shoot with the strongest growth and prune away everything else below about 50cm – this leads to a perfect tree for harvesting. Sadly, this didn’t seem to be working for us as repeated late frosts hit the young trees hard. On trees where there was only one shoot, if that shoot was damaged by the frost, the whole tree died back and had to start again.
This year we decided not to prune and the trees survived the frosts much better. Although there was still some die-back, it seems that the unpruned trees had more chance of survival – there were lots of other shoots and branches on the tree that were still growing strong. Also maybe the additional growth around the base provided some extra protection from the frost.
So we combined our experience with Francisco’s initial advice and settled on a pruning technique that leaves two strong shoots for all younger trees, that way each tree has two lifelines and more chance of surviving late frosts. We will see if this works come next October!
The oldest olive trees are now pretty large and winged with a splurge of green leaves drenched in white blooms. The trees have fully flowered this year and hopefully this means there will be lots of fruits to follow.
This route takes you up the highest southerly peak that can be seen from the main house, weaving along disused logging roads through the verdant pine forests. Emerging from the pines, you traverse the ridge with excellent views to the west, and then dip back down into the forest and across the creek.
Distance: 10.6 km
Time: 4hrs 10 mins.
Ascent: 428 m
Beginning at the main house, walk towards the beehives, through the olive trees. Cross over the fence to the right of the stand of trees that is next to the beehives. Once on the other side of the fence, turn right (West), and follow the small path running along the fence-line downhill. When this path branches in two, take the left turn that levels out and widens, leading you into the pine trees, rather than continuing on the small trail downhill. (NB this trail running along the fence leads down to the creek, where there is a refreshing swimming hole and sandy bank. Good to remember for when you return from your walk!) This path curves around the perimeter of the hill. When you come to a branch in the path on your right, follow this downhill to the creek.
Cross over the creek at the stepping stones and walk up the bank on the other side. When you come back to a clear path, turn left and follow it until the path branches in four. Take the left hand trail, and cross the small stream that feeds into the pond that is on your left. Climb up the bank, and turn right at the broad path. Follow this path through the pine forest, continuing straight on until you emerge onto a dirt road.
Turn right along the road and continue straight. Eventually the road leads you past a disused quarry on your right. The quarry is in three main sections. Follow the road until you reach the end of the third section, and the space along the road narrows again.
Here there is a sharp left turn that takes you off the main road and back into the pine trees. This left turning can be easily missed. As a marker, at the end of the quarry where you will turn left, there is another, more visible, path that branches right. If, having passed the quarry, the dirt road begins to climb steeply, then you have missed the turning and gone too far.
After turning left off the dirt road, follow this forest trail through the trees, as you begin to ascend the westerly hillside. Turn right at the first and second forks in the road, continuing your ascent. After this, when you come to a T-junction, follow the road to the right and uphill. At the second junction, leave the road and continue walking straight uphill, due East through the trees. (If you turn left at this junction, the road curves to the south and then ends at a steep ravine, where you can go no further.) When you come to the edge of the planted pine trees, there is a narrow track that curves around the cleared cliff-face, then leads you back into pine trees on the eastern face. This is the best view North, looking down into the Valle Botacura. Here it is possible to leave the track and cut straight uphill, through the thick bush to the peak, for views south and west towards Huerte Maule.
Then return to this narrow track.
When the track re-enters the pines, continue walking east until you come upon a dirt logging road again, which leads you along the ridge with clear views to the west and back at the hilltop you just climbed. Turn left on this road, following it downhill. Passing the first junction, continue straight on, downhill. After the road makes a hairpin turn, take the first left that leads you off the dirt road onto a grassier track. Follow this path downhill through the pines, until you re-emerge on the dirt road. Turn left onto this dirt road, and follow it around the hill, to where you first emerged onto the road in Stage 1 (before reaching the quarry). Turn right, and walk back along this path through the pines, across the stream with the pond now on your right, across the creek as before, through the trees and up to the property fence. Here you can either walk back up to the beehives and cross the fence, or turn left and follow the fence downhill to the creek. At the creek, if you walk about 100 meters upstream, there is a pleasant pool for a refreshing swim, and sandy bank to dry off in the sun.