'Homage to Catalonian Fizz'

According to Harper’s, cava is coming back, with one importer reporting a 40% uplift in sales for the January-May period compared to the same time last year – and that’s before Summer had even started. Having long sung of solidarity with the traditional-method Spanish fizz, shedding tears as it has been frequently sidelined during prosecco’s reign, we are ecstatic to see the beginnings of a new era.

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'Fitz Coming Home'

Well, don’t worry Fitz. We at Wine Rascals love you, for your moxie and of course, your bubbly. What’s more, at a time when Prosecco prices are risingpubs like Wetherspoons are announcing huge hikes in English stills and sparklings, and national pride is higher than it has been since 1966, we know the fizz-mad punters across the country are gonna go mad for you too. They’ve already had a feature recently in Harper’s Mag.

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Introduction to my 'Sustainable wine' Campaign

We want to acknowledge that our beloved industry is sadly a somewhat decadent one, and more must be done to reduce its impact on the environment. By celebrating partners on both ends of our supply chain that who making the change, and promoting the availability of a sustainable alternative, we hope to make wine more relevant to an increasingly climate-conscious generation of consumers.

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The future of winemaking? A Rascal Welcome to Pig in the House

We know.

You’re probably sick of hearing about all the new friends we’ve been making. We’re like some keen bean fresher who’s just moved to University and made a whole bunch of BFFLs.

Well, just hear us out, ‘cos there’s more, and they’re like, so great.

The latest addition to our Rascal Family are Pig in the House. Our third producer from down-under, but our first from the esteemed winemaking region of New South Wales.

As you may have realised, we’ve been making a real push lately to add only the most

Rascal-y, innovative, tree-huggin’ Rascals we can; only the absolute top dogs in the Eco-friendly wine game. These guys are certainly that, and, surprise surprise, they’re another sweet little family producer to boot.

Jason O’dea and his wife Rebecca work tirelessly and uniquely in order to maintain their farm as an environmentally friendly, self-sustaining ecosystem. As it turns out, these guys produce their delicious, vegan wines through completely biodynamic means, making them our second biodynamic producer alongside Kamara, our maker of natural wines.

But as you’ll see, they don’t even want you or us to know that, for fear of an important environmental ethos being seen as nothing more than a mere marketing tool.

But that’s not how we see it, and we know you scrupulous bunch don’t either, so we got it out of them eventually! Read our conversation with Jason below about his wonderful process, and don’t miss an important last word from us at the end!

Starting with Pig in the House, what are some of your favourite things about this vineyard and its wines?

This former free range pig farm was originally selected as a vineyard site due to its aspect, and uniform soil. The decision to farm organically was driven by the birth of our first child and a desire to push the boundaries of viticulture.

When we began the journey we set out our mantra.

Our ultimate desire is to live in a chemical free, sustainable environment producing wine that reflects where we live and what we believe in.

It’s fair to say I have a love hate relationship with this vineyard. It surrounds my house so we see each other often. Sometimes too often.

I am always delighted to watch the season unfold in the vineyard and as the vines mature so do we as a family. There is something really special about this relationship of vines growing up and children growing up. I love the fact that the vineyard is not a monoculture-there are many plant species and critters to be found throughout the vineyard.

The wines are truly a reflection of this place. Winemaking influence is based around adding balance to the wonderful varietal fruit flavours that this vineyard produces.

We do not want our wines to taste like something from somewhere else.

We do not want our wines to be dominated by oak from half way around the world.”

We learned recently that NSW has some of the best examples of water re-usage in the wine world, due to having so little in the first place. Are there any other sustainable practices in particular being done here, perhaps by Pig in the House, that you would like to see more of in other parts of the world?

“A healthy soil is the building block to all good organic farming. A healthy soil holds more water naturally.

The height of the vines has been lifted to allow sheep to graze all year round in the vineyard.

The vines are mulched with ‘’on farm’’ produced straw.

Monitor, experience, learn.

Spending time in the vineyard looking at what the vines are telling you while keeping a constant eye on the weather (boring farmer talk) is critical.

I always like to ask what kind of wildlife our winemakers are up against. Who is giving you grief in NSW? A few kangaroos? Perhaps the odd black widow spider? How do you deal with them in the most responsible way?

We like to think our vineyard is a safe working environment. We do however attract lots of critters due the health of the vineyard floor. When many surrounding area’s have little food often the organic vineyards have plenty (due to soil health and no insecticides).

There are only really 2 constant visitors that can kill you.

Redback spider is common and boots/gloves and under ledges are checked daily.

Brown snake -(commonly known as Joe Blake) these are more common than I would like and have been found in our house. Avoid avoid avoid-not aggressive unless cornered but living 30 min from the nearest hospital does not give you much time to get antivenom.

Other visitors:

Eastern Grey Kangaroo- they hang out under the vines during the heat of day and eat grasses (do not like vine leaves) early morning and late in day. The main danger here is car damage!

Lizards-various-frillneck most common. No harm except potential heart attack when they surprise you.

Insects -plenty and varied however we like to think they are part of the ecosystem and are in balance. A lot of different insects is a far better sign than one insect dominating

My favourite is the ladybird. These are fragile and only found in balanced environments”

Of course, the environmental benefits of organic, sustainable and biodynamic winemaking go without saying. But can there ever be positive effects on the flavour of the wine itself? Or perhaps health benefits for those drinking it?

There is absolutely benefits to wine quality. We take fruit from conventional vineyards and organic vineyards from same vineyard sights. Organically grown fruit has more intense flavour. The organic sites also produce less fruit so this is part of the riddle

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they like drinking our wine because they do not feel anything the following day I would be an organic wine producer!

This is a discussion that requires an open bottle of wine and plenty of time. A few points I would make

If sulphur is an issue then our PF Shiraz will be fine. Organic wines are lower in S as there are limits to how much can be present for export when calling your wine organic

There are many additives that winemakers can use including but not limited to; grape sugar, grape colour and acid. These types of additives are generally used when the fruit is of poor quality. With lower yields and better fruit quality we do not need to add anything to make our wines taste great!”

Finally, I know that you are very passionate about biodynamic winemaking. One of our biodynamic producers in Greece explains that, for him, it is a means of achieving permaculture, as an ultimate goal to reduce the detrimental effect of mankind. What attracts you most to biodynamic viticulture and what would you say you merchants and consumers in the UK to encourage them to try its wines?

Another bottle of wine please.

Biodynamics is a personal choice for us and not a marketing tool. Nothing annoys an organic Biodynamic farmer more than someone claiming this as a marketing edge and 

producing sub-standard wines. In its worst form I have seen winemakers make this claim without being organic which sh*ts me to tears!

We practice biodynamics in our organic vineyards -when I say ‘’we’’ it is mainly my wife Rebecca who ensures this is practiced and timing of applications.

We have been certified Biodynamic in the past but choose to be only certified organic due to previous reasons outlined. So are we Biodynamic – yes we practice Biodynamic principles.

For me Biodynamic farming is largely a way of thinking. It is treating your farming environment as a living organism rather than just a plant growing in a medium (soil).

You need to look at the environment (in my case vines) as a whole not as a crop.

When I look into the vineyard I do not see vines I see a living organism made up of 20 plants, hundreds of insects, thousands of fungi and bacteria (in soil) and animals. If you think this about your farm in this way Biodynamics makes a lot of sense. 

Biodynamics involves minimal interference with what happens naturally in your environment.

It is our job to guide what is happening not to wrestle with the natural environment.

To understand Biodynamic farming is to understand your environment and the impact you have on the environment. As a “guardian” of this land for the remainder of my living days is a huge responsibility.

When we are no longer roaming these lands what do we want to leave behind?

We want to leave behind our patch of earth in a state where future generations will benefit from what we are doing now.

In our view the very heart of Steiner’s thinking is that a farm should become self- sufficient. The use of Biodynamic principles takes a huge step in this direction as many inputs are from within the immediate environment/farm. Straw is grown near the vineyard for the vineyard for example.

The flow on effects of this are obvious for the farmer and the environment in general.”

 

So there you have it. Some great insight on why organic wine tastes better, and why a recent Harper’s article confirmed, biodynamics are all the rage right now

Consumers are getting more and more ethically conscious by the day, and your wine lists need to keep up.

That’s why we’re going to be going to be exhibiting an exclusively vegan and organic selection of wines at the SITT tastings in London and Leeds. So if you want to have a taste of these beauties, you’ll have to sign up quick!

And you won’t get another chance for a little while after that. Turns out organic wine of this caliber requires rather a lot of paperwork and waiting time before it can land on our table. In the meantime, subscribe to our HTML or give us a shout to find out exactly when it gets here.

New Tricks for the Wine World

New Tricks for the Wine World

After a fruitful but fatiguing few days at London Wine Fair back in May, one of our Rascals packed his bag, made his escape from Olympia (the closing down of which was starting to get a bit Mad Max) and headed into central London for a leisurely evening free of wine, marketing and business networking.

Well, that didn’t quite go to plan. Coincidentally, on that very same evening in Covent Garden, it just so happened there was a very different wine event going on, in what felt like an entirely different world to LWF. Red chinos and winklepickers were swapped with baggy workpants and slip-on trainers, notepads and brochures were swapped with skateboards, and the average age dropped by at least a generation. What was consistent, however, was a glass of wine, being enjoyed enthusiastically and respectably by everyone present.

The event, held in the Carhartt clothing store, was the launch of a skateboarding promotion video and magazine, collaborated on by Carhartt WIPa brief glance skateboardmag and Grey Skate Mag.

The project itself was based entirely around winemaking. The skate team visited and skateboarded in several vineyards around Italy. The magazine itself serves as a great introduction to different wines and their regions.

Imagine our surprise when we realised that two of the four vineyards the team visited, were ones exclusive to the Rascal family!

We were ecstatic to see our old friends La Farra and Vignetti di Ettore amongst the photos in the magazine.

We were already excited to see such a different crowd enjoying good wine, but after that revelation, we had to find out more. We asked photographer Davide Biondani for some insight on why he took on the project, how it went down, and how it has been received since.

Hi Davide. First of all, what made you decide to incorporate wine and vineyards into a skateboarding magazine and video?

“At the magazine we organize different skateboard tours every year. Some of them are classic “skateboard trips”; you go to a city for a week, shoot some photos and film some tricks with skaters (usually a team) and that’s it. Sometimes you organize more structured projects with a concept behind.


Personally I’m very passionate about wine. I’m from Verona, Italy and wine is a strong part of our culture – every family in Italy has a bottle of good wine on the table for lunch and dinner. So the idea of matching these 2 “worlds” of wine and skateboarding comes from these personal passions.”

How do you think the wine aspect been received by your team and your readers?

“The guys in the team were amazed by the whole experience and the wine tasting. All of them are used to travelling all over the world and visiting some beautiful places, but it they don’t often have the chance to drive in beautiful settings like the countless “road of wines” we have in Italy, and to stop in fantastic wineries to taste the finest Valpolicella, Chianti, Barbaresco or Prosecco you can imagine. Everybody was hyped to be part of the project and very interested in all the information we got in the wineries. We are getting great feedback from readers and from everyone who attended the launch events in London and Verona, read the magazine or watched the video. This unusual combination has been really, really appreciated.”

I noticed that at the London event, the complimentary wine was gone quicker than the beer! Wine isn’t the typical drink of choice for the younger market, do you think projects like this could help to change that?

“Nowadays the “skateboard world” is made of many different personalities with different tastes. The classic cliché of skaters as beer drinkers has gone. Of course skaters drink beers, as everybody does, but there is more and more culture and varied interests between skateboarders all over the world, and quality food and quality wine are certainly a few of these.

 

Also the average age of skaters has grown. Today, a substantial proportion of skateboarders are over 30 years old and in many cases exceed 40, so it is normal to find more skaters interested in thing like wine and quality living.

 

Energy drink corporations invest millions in the skateboard market, as it is one of the most effective industries that sets all kinds of trends and influences younger generations. Hopefully with the “Sotto Torchio” project we have stimulated the interest in good wine, even in those who have never been interested in it. Drink a glass of good wine and be happy!”

Skaters at Vignetti di Ettore

Do you have any funny stories from the trip? Particularly any at the Vigneti di Ettore or La Farra wineries? They must have got a bit of a shock when you all walked in.

“Yes. Maybe we were not the “standard guests” for wine tasting… Marcus Marcoux, a skater-sommelier from Canada, our “wine-expert” for the trip, dyed his hair green for the occasion…  It was pretty interesting watching him discussing tannins and maceration with winemakers for hours.

 

Everyone at the wineries welcomed us in a fantastic and professional way. They showed us the whole production process, the vineyards, the winery… everything. Before the tour it wouldn’t have been easy for them to understand what we do and what a skateboard tour is. For us it’s something normal, but imagine someone who knew nothing about skateboarding. It must hard to understand why we’d crossed the whole continent just to jump over one specific handrail behind one specific church.

When I contacted some wineries and explained the project we got some refusals. So thanks to all the winery owners who understood the potential of the project and opened their doors to us.

 

La Farra winery

They were actually super hyped on what we do and happy to have people coming from different countries to visit. They don’t often have young people tasting their wines and being so interested in them.

 

It was really intense and pleasant in equal measure. We visited four medium size, top quality wineries with a long family tradition, and we saw and effort the passion they put into their job. It’s the same passion and dedication skaters put into skateboarding everyday, trying their tricks again and again. We clicked straight away. Everything was natural and smooth.

Some funny stories?

 

Vigneti di Ettore was the first winery we went, there was a lot of hype and curiosity. We were there at 10am. Gimpaolo, the owner took us to the vineyard to show the harvest of the grapes they use for their Amarone. It was great to see the care they put in selecting only the best grapes.

 

Then we headed back to the winery for the tasting…. On the table there were these empty glasses where you were supposed to spit the wine, but a few of the guys spat…  imagine drinking 8/9 glasses of Valpolicella at 10am. After the tasting we were supposed to go skating to film some tricks – the guys spent an hour lying in the garden instead. After a good lunch, we got some good tricks and footage in the streets of Verona… but it was hard. Lesson learnt from then on!

 

At La Farra, we tasted the finest Prosecco you can imagine. The extra dry one was magic. After the whole presentation, which was a bit formal at first, the Nardi family showed us their appreciation and told us they were stoked to have such unusual guests in their winery. Our visit ended with a little skateboarding demo for the Nardi family and the 2 kids were pretty amazed. We ended up giving them a brand new board.”