Couple open natural wine shop in Suffolk town
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Maddie Bryett and David Jimenez Fernandez want to revolutionise the way we drink and have a unique selection of bottles for customers to try.
As autumn slowly arrives, and people look to settle in with a bottle of wine in the evenings, one couple is here to help the people of Suffolk really savour their next glass – with a strong focus on all things good, organic and top shelf.
Maddie Bryett and her partner David Jimenez Fernandez have recently opened Saltpeter Wines, Woodbridge’s latest independent shop, aiming to offer customers a truly artisanal experience.
Based on New Street, the business has just had its grand opening – but why Woodbridge, and why wine?
Maddie, who is originally from Ipswich, has spent years working extensively in the hospitality and retail industry. Her partner David, who is originally from Málaga, had previously been working front of house at well-known tapas bars such as Brindisa in London.
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“I was working in wine retail, and my hours were being changed at work which meant my job was no longer financially viable, so we came to Suffolk to escape the London life. We loved it, but it became very intense,” explains Maddie.
“My speciality is natural wine, and we quickly spotted there was a gap in the market for the wines we love, which we just can’t get hold of here. So that’s what we came to Suffolk to do.”
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And thus, Saltpeter Wines was born – but where does the name come from?
“It’s translated from David’s favourite word in Spanish, ‘salitre’, which is a natural mineral that comes from the earth and causes a lot of erosion. It’s particularly prevalent in coastal areas, and we thought it would work well as we’re based here in Suffolk.”
Talking about the growing trend for natural wine, Maddie adds: “It’s wine without the bad stuff, basically. Natural wines contain less sulphites and less additives - you can have over 50 additives in bottle of a wine and you don’t have to specify that on the label.”
Sulphites are the components found in wine that typically cause hangovers – meaning, anecdotally, natural wines are a lot less likely to give you a fuzzy head the next morning.
“Quite a lot of people are sensitive to sulphites, and you can find significant amounts of these in white and sweet wines - and certainly in wines at lower price points, where the emphasis is on volume rather than quality.”
Maddie says she believes natural wines also tend to taste better, and have a less detrimental effect on the environment.
“When harvesting grapes for natural wines, there’s minimal intervention in the vineyards. That means less chemicals are used on the vines themselves, and the producers try to keep treatments to a minimum. They are passionate about their terroir, and all the work in the vineyard tends to be done by hand. In terms of flavour, the wines tend to have a lot more fruit clarity. They’re not as over-extracted, they’re lighter in flavor and are easier to drink, with a real sense of place and time.
“If you buy a wine for £4, there’s also usually an environmental consequence to that, and agriculture is one of the biggest polluters - so we just want to champion the opposite of that, really. We’re also doing refillable wine bottles from sustainable wineries. Our aim is to deliver, reuse and recycle - like the milk man. Where possible, we will source organic wines for this, as for us it’s still about the quality.”
With bottles at Saltpeter Wines starting at £8.50 for a refill, Maddie and David are not only intent on selling reasonably-priced, high-quality, eco-friendly tipples – but are also incredibly keen to work closely with fellow local independent retailers across the region.
“I think working together is really key to having a successful business. By complementing each other, rather than trying to be in competition, it will help us get our name out there during these strange times.”
The couple have been working alongside Ed Barnes, owner of Ipswich-based craft beer shop Hopsters, and Sam Denny-Hodson from New Street Market, who suggested Saltpeter Wines move in to the area.
“We could’ve tried to get into craft beers ourselves, but Ed’s knowledge is far superior to ours, so we just thought we would draw on that and work with him. In turn, he is going to stock some of our wines, and we’re very much looking forward to that. They’ll be sold in the Ipswich shop, and possibly the Chelmsford one too.
“Sam from New Street Market has also been amazing – what she’s doing for local businesses is brilliant, and we’re really pleased to be a part of that. We’re also selling glassware and decanters from Pascale’s - who are based at New Street Market - in our shop. It’s quite nice to have that sense of community, helping our fellow traders and supporting each other.”
Maddie and David, who will be stocking a variety of both British and imported wines, are keen to let people know that their immersive approach to the world of wine means visitors can come to expect a high level of customer service and expertise whenever they visit.
“I’ve had hands-on experience with vineyards, so that really helps. I know some of our producers personally – and it makes a real difference when you’re communicating, as you have a connection with where the product comes from. We simply want to champion the artisan, and the lesser-known appellations.”
For anyone who’s looking to try a wine that’s particularly seasonal, Maddie suggests popping in and grabbing a bottle of red Gamay to help you feel especially autumnal. “We are massive Gamay fans, and it’s actually Beaujolais Nouveau Day next month.”
Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine produced using Gamay grapes, harvested from the Beaujolais region of France, and is always released for sale on the third Thursday of every November.
“Our favourite Gamay wine is called La Napoléon, and comes from a very dear friend of mine, Clotaire Michal. The name relates to a little chalet that he has at the vineyard, which features some of the wood from the ship that brought Napoleon’s body home.
“He only has five hectares of vines and makes just 10,000 bottles every year. It’s a beautiful red, and pairs especially well with roast lamb. It’s an absolute treat – the perfect Sunday lunch wine for this time of year.”
Alongside selling a number of fine and rare wines, Saltpeter Wines is also dedicated to helping its customers learn more about the art of the vine, and is currently offering after hours winetasting sessions.
“At the moment, we’re running our natural wine workshops, for those who are interesting in finding out more about this style of wine. People can book in groups of six and attend a tasting experience. Elsewhere, people can also find us out and about doing supper clubs with Fork and Field at Cragg Sisters and Vida Haus, creating exciting food and wine pairings.”
With aims to expand its offering to also include spirits, Maddie and David have future plans to eventually turn Saltpeter Wines into a bar.
“It’s so great to finally be able to communicate to people about the wines we are so passionate about. Right now, it’s a work in progress and we’re far from finished.”