Alcohol made with spit: Here’s how spat-out wine is being turned into spirits
Tasmanian distiller Peter Bignell turns spit bucket wine into a clear spirit that tastes like fruity brandy. There’s also coffee made from beans taken from the faeces of an Indonesian civet cat and beer concocted by fermenting a chewed plant.more lifestyle Updated: Nov 24, 2017 12:49 IST
At the close of the Rootstock sustainable wine festival in Sydney last year, Tasmanian distiller Peter Bignell looked around the tasting room at the carefully-spaced spittoons and thought: what a waste.
Together the spit buckets contained about 500 litres of discarded wine, which had been swilled then dumped during the two-day event.
Some wine had been dutifully spat out by responsible tasters keen to get to the end of their extensive list with tasting notes intact, but the majority was the largely untouched leavings of an overly generous pour.
For Bignell, whose Belgrove distillery in Kempton, Tasmania, is the only one in Australia that runs entirely on biodiesel, all this wasted wine was hardly in keeping with a sustainable event.
The obvious solution was to drink it again.
After 12 months at Poor Tom’s gin distillery in Marrickville, the spit bucket wine has been transformed into an 80-proof clear spirit that tastes something like an unaged brandy. It is, reportedly, quite nice.
Bignell acknowledged some people might be a bit grossed out by the idea, but said the distilling process was sufficient to kill off any germs.
“It was lovely,” he told Guardian Australia. “It had quite a lot of fruit flavour in it.”
Some of the spirit has been set aside to age, while the rest has been put into 200ml bottles for the 2017 Rootstock festival, which begins at Carriageworks in Sydney on Saturday.
Bignell acknowledged some people might be a bit grossed out by the idea, but said the distilling process was sufficient to kill off any germs. “There’s coffee that they put through a cat’s digestive system and there’s a beer that they make by chewing on a plant and spitting it into a barrel and letting it ferment… so really it’s nothing new in the idea of using spit to make food,” he said.
The beer Bignell mentioned is Kava, a traditional Pacific Islands beverage made from a plant of the same name , which is not alcoholic but does have mild hallucinogenic properties. The enzymes in saliva help extract the active ingredients in the plant. A traditional Peruvian corn beer also uses saliva enzymes to turn the corn into fermentable sugars .
Kopi luwak, or civet-coffee, is made from beans taken from the faeces of an Indonesian civet cat, the anal glands of which create its highly-prized taste. It is the most expensive coffee in the world but its popularity with Western drinkers has led to a trade that has been accused of being neither sustainable nor ethical.
The ethics of harvesting second-hand wine from inner-city Sydney are more clear cut. “People go around for tastings, they pour quite a bit in the glass, and they have a little sip and they want to try another one so they tip it out again,” Bignell said.
“They are going to collect the buckets again this year and keep making it. It’s all about sustainability.
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