A Dusty Ramble


I’m not convinced that anybody is going to be interested in the past 4 days of our trip. It involved driving…a lot. The length of France, through the Alps, down to the coast of Liguria and following the ocean as far as Pisa before cutting cross country to our current location – Montespertoli. Whilst the trip was beautiful and punctuated by a few key stop offs, like pizza in Turin and camping on the beach south of Recco, it doesn’t make great literary fodder. Once we fix a glitch on loading pictures onto this blog, I will do so. Far more interesting.

Instead, I am going to throw in some ramblings about natural wine, as we are due to visit a natural vineyard outside of Castelnuovo Berardenga later today and with plenty of driving time, I have been thinking a lot about it!

My true introduction to natural wine was through Joel Wright of Wrights Emporium (also now Wrights Wines). I had heard much about it, but understood little. I had read a little, but had not had the opportunity to try any as it is pretty much illusive around Wales, unless you are in the know of where you can pick it up. What’s more…I didn’t feel I had a particular reason to seek it out. I was enjoying my wine just as it was. But one day Joel spoiled me! He gave me a taste. And I can confidently say I haven’t looked back. I’ll explain my reasons why.

(A quick pause, just to be very clear. There are assumptions that people automatically know what natural wine is. I am going to explain as if I was talking to myself pre-Joel. I am no expert, so very happy to be corrected. I enjoy continually learning and happy to put myself out there. Simply put, natural wine is the process of making wine with minimal interference from the winemaker. Nothing added, nothing taken away. Usually grown following organic/biodynamic principles. Very crudely, if you put a bunch of grapes in a bucket and leave them you will get one of two things. Wine or Vinegar. What you get depends on the amount of good/bad bacteria on the grapes. The influence of how many good bacteria versus bad bacteria comes from the vines, landscape, soil, how they have been grown – the terroir.)

At Dusty Knuckle we go to huge lengths to make sure we are supplying the best food. This isn’t just paying lip service to knowing your food or jumping on the ‘eat local’ bandwagon. We know the provenance of everything on our menu. If we don’t, it doesn’t go on. We are careful to ensure that we understand the processes involved in creating the ingredients. This involves spending time on farms where the food is produced such as with Charcutier Ltd, getting to know the majority of the people who produce the foods, if thats not possible then we rely on organisations such as Slow Food to inform us. Whatever avenue we take, if we can’t confirm the product….we don’t use it. It can be frustrating at times, when we have great ideas for new items, but can’t find a good source of ingredients, but it is what we have chosen to adhere to. What doesn’t make sense is to go to these lengths and then pair this food with the wine equivalent of a pot noodle. Processed and full of shit!

In producing a commercial bottle of wine, producers have an apothecary of up to 70 additives they can chose from approved for use in the EU. They can manipulate the wine using these additives to produce millions of bottles of wine that all taste exactly the same. If you want a softer wine then add some shit, want the wine a bit more fruity…add some more shit. Keep adding shit until you have the wine you think will be most commercially successful and duplicate. When was the last time you had anything natural with a consistent flavour over and over, year on year. The frustration of eating a plum that is absolutely perfect, then going for a second and finding it to be too sour, too hard, too sweet. That is nature. So you have to ask how can a wine producer make every grape produce exactly the same wine. They can’t without chemical additions. What is as concerning is that there is a veil of secrecy about what is used in our wine. If a winemaker uses an additive as part of the process as opposed to an ingredient, it doesn’t have to be spoken about. Doesn’t make the label. Doesn’t have to.

So what’s the difference? Natural wine is alive. The flavours are like waves that come crashing into your senses. It can be weird. They can taste different with just about every mouthful. Pour a glass and take a sip, leave it half hour and it can be very different. They can be quite undrinkable and then you match them with a bit of food and they are perfect. The point is, they have their own character. They are living things. They are not manipulated to behave in a certain way. They are cared for in the sense that someone is checking them through the process. If there is something wrong a good wine maker can use a natural process to correct the issue. If they can’t, they will get rid of it! Save the addition of perhaps a small amount of sulphites when absolutely necessary, nothing added.

It is how wine has always been produced. It isn’t a new thing. The addition of antiseptics, fermentation nutrients, stabilisers, etc. is a relatively new thing. Before this, all wine was natural. It was a source of nutrition…considered a food almost. The term natural wine is problematic, but I will talk about this another day.

So these are the main reasons I can’t look back on our decision to only sell natural wines at Dusty Knuckle. This information and my opinions have been formed through conversation with people like Joel and Simon Wright, reading books such as Natural Wine by Isabelle Legeron and online resources and meeting wine grower themselves. As with food, I’m not trying to tell you what to eat or drink, just have the information and make a decision. So far we are one of the very few places in South Wales that are selling these wines following the lead of Wrights and I really hope this changes. But until consumers start asking for it and giving a shit, I suspect it unlikely. So if this makes sense to you, start looking into it a bit more, start trying a few and see what you think, and start asking for it!

Now I’m off to meet Stefano and Giovanna at Pacina to learn a bit more…..

Dusty Does the UK


We’re off and we’ve completed our first leg of the journey to Dit Unto.

On Thursday 28th we left for Presteigne. After having put a plea out on social media for places to trade in both Herefordshire and Brighton we received a great response with Dani from Skyborry cider being the first good Samaritan to give us a home. He replied casually that he could organise something at the community barn in Presteigne if we fancied although he couldn’t promise much of a turn out. It really didn’t matter to us. Just the opportunity to pitch up somewhere is enough. It gets us moving. So of course we welcomed the offer of a home for our pizza making for the night, but also the chance to visit Dani and his brother Adam at their cider making pad in the Powys hills.

Presteigne is a small border town with a population of around 3000. Dani had seen my plea around 4 days before we arrived and had placed some posters around the town to try and drum up some interest. He mentioned as we arrived that he reckons there should be a good 30 turning up later, which we were chuffed with. A very short notice event in a small town on a Thursday night. 30 is good and pays for our fuel and some ingredients so we’re happy. He’d also arranged for his mate Rich to sing a few tunes and promoted a bring your own affair. Come 6pm, the time we’d agreed to begin, it was pretty obvious by the queue beginning to form that Dani may have been playing it safe! 2 and a half hours later, having fired out just shy of 100 pizzas to a very welcoming community, we were about ready to find somewhere to pitch the tent!

Having missed the campsite we found a hidden spot in the field we were stood and pitched up. Bit of a rough night given the torrential rain, but Dani came in the morning and took us back to his for a bowl of porridge and then a trip to where the magic happens.

If you are yet to try Skyborry Cider, I urge you to seek it out. Dani and his brother Adam have been making cider for a number of years, but like all good producers are continuing to tweak year on year. When they began they would add some sulphites and some enzymes as is typical in cider making, but through years of experimentation and honing of their skill, the cider is effectively a natural product now. They use wild yeast and a series of natural processes to produce an incredible keev cider like no other. There is nothing added and nothing taken away! Which justifies us having a tipple at 9:30am…..its apple juice after all.

We left skyborry to travel to Swansea. A bit of a detour, but having been offered an evening trade at the new Swansea University Bay Campus we thought it would be worth it. Needless to say freshers came hungry and 200 pizzas later we were done and moved on calling into Roath Market on our way through to Oxford for some more supplies.

Rob at The Star Oxford put us up at his pub back in February and amazingly as more than happy to welcome us back this time. We set up out the front around 5:30pm and a steady flow of punters meant we had a healthy evening trade by the time we packed up at 9:30pm and headed south to Brighton where we’d had the promise of a bed. Sadly our planned days trade in Brighton had to be cancelled due to shitty weather, but we’d had a considerably better run so far than we imagined and it meant we had a day of getting set for the next couple of weeks.

This is where, this time we leave the mobile oven behind. The kind folk ,where we are setting up for the Chianti Marathon have a wood oven outside (of course they do!), so we have elected not to drag the oven all the way again and use theirs instead. So, 1 trailer down, we’re onto the ferry at Newhaven……

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