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Natural Wine — What is it? And why do we love it so much?

If you’ve ever popped into our little temporary bottle shop (two weeks until it turn into a bar!) or you had a look on our webshop when it was online during the Delivery Days, you’ll have noticed our natural wine selection.

Spanning France, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, we’ve had natural wines from all over the world on our shelves, from regions that you might never have heard of or drank wine from before. We love that. Finding unusual and amazing wine unexpectedly is a total joy and we will NEVER get bored of it.

But what exactly is natural wine? And why do we love it? Let’s have a bit of a chat about it.

Natural Wine is made with “low intervention”

When we say “low intervention” or even “low intervention wine”, what we mean is wine that’s been made with as little extra fuss and faff as possible.

Natural wine isn’t an official term (although some certifications are available… we’ll maybe talk about that another time) and it’s mainly used as a way to single out wines made a certain way.

Natural wine is essentially the way wine used to be made in the olden days: grow some grapes, squish them, let the juice ferment with it’s own natural yeasts, maybe filter it, store it, bottle it (maybe with a dash of sulphur, maybe not), drink it.

Some winemakers like to go a bit further and use Biodynamic processes to make their wine in connection to the land and things like the moon’s phases. We’ll write about that another time!

What’s “conventional wine”?

Wine you might find in the supermarket can still taste great, but it’s normally what you call “conventional” wine, meaning that it’s not made in a low intervention way. In fact, it can be made with a whole ton of intervention, from using reconstituted concentrated juice, to having additives added in to improve flavour, colour and texture. And that’s not even mentioning additional sugar, preservatives, co2 or the unnatural pesticides and fertilizers used on the grapes as they grow.

We aren’t against conventional wine. In fact we sell some, sometimes. We choose our wine based on how it tastes and how much we can appreciate the care and attention to detail the winemaker has given their wines from vineyard to table. 

What we often say is that we choose mostly natural wine because this way of making wine can prove that the winemaker has thought about every aspect of the winemaking process, and is making the best possible wine from the raw materials at hand — and that’s what really excites us about wine anyway.

Natural wine at Corto

When Corto opens as a bar on Friday 4th June 2021, we’ll be serving natural wine alongside a huge range of natural cider and craft beer. To us, each of these tasty things is just as important as each other.

Natural wine can be a little more expensive compared to mass-produced wine, and so we’ll be selling a range of different wines by the glass (BTG) every week to give you the chance to try them. Making delicious things accessible is something we’re really keen on at Corto and often a whole bottle of something unfamiliar can seem offputting. 

Come in for a glass and see what you think — wine shots will be available too if you can’t make your mind up!

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Bandarra Vermouth – It’s Red and Delicious and You Need It

Are you a vermouth person? We love it. Nigella loves it too, and honestly, whatever Nigella says should be law. 

Red vermouth, or “rosso”, has this wonderful warming character that’s ideal for early spring, when it’s sunny but there’s a bite of winter chill lingering in the air. If you’re not familiar with the drink, you might expect it to be syrupy like port, or even hot with alcohol like eau de vie, and while it’s around the 15% ABV mark, red vermouth has a mouthfeel much more like a smooth-drinking sherry or rum. Sweet, but not over-sweet, and bitter too, gently bouncing with aromatics.

We’ve got some in stock now, and we wanted to talk about it a bit more because we don’t think it gets enough love!

What is Vermouth?

Vermouth is a fortified wine first made in Italy but now popular in France and in Spain, where it’s especially loved in Madrid and Barcelona. 

Red vermouth, known sometimes as “Italian vermouth” is an absolutely vital ingredient in some of your favourite cocktails like the Manhattan and the Negroni, and every Martini has dry white vermouth – the “French” style — in it whether stirred or given a good old shake.

Traditionally vermouth is made with upwards of 50 aromatic botanicals, including cinnamon, clove, bitter orange, liquorice, rosemary, chamomile, bay leaf, hops and ginger, and some even have wormwood in!

Over the years, and especially recently, makers have taken what they love about vermouth and tweaked it in their own directions, losing flavours they don’t care for and adding aromatics that better represent their locality or pair better with their cuisine. It’s really cool to see these adaptations being made, bringing modernity and global palates to a drink that’s often seen as old-fashioned, or just simply unfashionable.

Spanish Vermouth? Isn’t it Italian?

We’re currently stocking red vermouth, because that’s what Katie drank last time she was in Barcelona. Even though it’s historically Italian, she can’t separate that deliciously bittersweet aperitif from memories of the Gothic Quarter, pulling an olive from a cocktail stick, and snacking on plates of croquetas.

So then, we’re selling an amazingly nostalgic vermouth by Barcelona-based Bandarra Vermut.

Nostalgic how? 

Bandarra Vermut Red is a vermouth that emulates vermouth from mid-century Barcelona, looking away from contemporary takes on the drink and back to a time when sweet vermouth wasn’t cool or uncool — it was just enjoyed everywhere by everyone.

We like that vibe. A lot.

How To Drink Vermouth

We’d never want to tell anyone how to drink anything, however if you’ve never tried vermouth before, it might help to have a few serving suggestions.

On Ice, With A Slice

Grab your favourite lowball glass — go on, get the crystal out — and chuck a couple of chunky ice cubes in there. Add a twist of orange peel, or a whole slice, or a lemon slice if you prefer. Throw a couple of olives in there too. Enjoy.

Vermouth Spritz

Bye bye Apérol spritz (not really, we love you), hello vermouth spritz. Just pop equal parts vermouth and soda water into a highball or wine glass with ice cubes in it, and chuck an orange wedge in there. Eat some olives while you drink it. Delicious.

Negroni

Come on now, who doesn’t love a negroni? Last year we read they were both very cool, and very sad at the same time. Luckily, we don’t care. Pour equal parts gin, Campari and vermouth into a jug, with ice. Stir and stir and stir until the jug feels cold. Strain into a glass, add a fresh ice cube, and garnish with a slice of orange — blood orange if ya fancy. Invite us round to help you finish off the jug.

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Cosy Boxes! Take Corto Home and have a Cosy Night In

Like every hospitality business in the country, we’ve been pulling the most interesting faces trying to figure out how best to get our delicious drinks to you this week.

We’ve made a few changes to how the shop looks, and we’ve also made a few additional changes to make it a bit easier for you to pick some ideal things to drink for your Big Cosy Weekends In.

We might be back in lockdown, but we can’t let that beat us. We’ve had a bit of a yell and a bit of a strop, and now we’re ready to get back to spreading positivity. LET’S DO THIS!

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We’re Still Open! Get the beers (and ciders and wines) in for New Year’s Eve!

So it’s not the NYE we’d hoped for. But one thing’s certain, and it’s a really good thing: 2020 IS ALMOST OVER.

Let’s ring this year out good and proper. Make sure it never comes back again. SEE YOU NEVER, WORST YEAR EVER!

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Woohoo! The Corto Shop is Opening on Saturday 19th December 2020

We’re OVERJOYED and OVEREXCITED to tell you that we’re opening Corto as a shop on Saturday 19th December from 11am – 6pm.

Has anything good happened in 2020? Well, lots of great beer, wine and cider was made. So we want to share it with you.

We’re getting a temporary wall in place so you don’t get covered in building dust or fall down any holes, and the front of the bar is being turned entirely into a shop, selling natural wine, natural cider and perry, and a whole massive selection of brilliant beers.

We’ll also be serving hot and cosy mulled cider, made by us with cider from Udders Cider in Huddersfield.

Come in, say hello, don’t be shy. Have a little nosey. Ask a bunch of questions. We’re here for you!

Whatever you like, we’ll find you something you’ll love!

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Wine List Tasting with Tom and Matt at Whalley Wine Shop

Two wine bottles, a Provence rose and an orange Albarino. A wine glass is filled with rose wine.

On Wednesday 2nd September (oh my god how is it already SEPTEMBER) we spent an awesome evening in the socially-distanced company of Tom and Matt, part of the Whalley Wine Shop dream team, tasting wines from an importer of cool, groovy, unusual wines.

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