Laura Martin and Matt Davies are behind new Norfolk-based natural wine retailers, Kvlt Wines. Here Laura talks about how the name is inspired by the Norwegian Black Metal community and why they’re more than happy to cultivate an cult following when it comes to wine
I’ve worked in Sainsbury’s, organised weddings, lived on a canal boat, served some famous people and lived in Japan. I’ve tried my hand at cheesemaking and vegetable farming. I have never lived in the same house for longer than two years. I think Norfolk might be where it all settles down (please).
Pre 2020 I was working out what career direction I wanted to take – so lockdown sort of stopped the need to panic about it and forced us to stand still and work out what we wanted to do together. We settled on Norfolk as our next big life move, to be closer to old friends and buy a house. I’m really grateful for the temporary outdoors work I got to carry me through the initial new world order, and that Matt managed to maintain his work throughout the whole thing so we were lucky. We made the move in September 2020 and now the world is waking up again, it’s surreal to be so far away from the lives we lived when it all started.
I spent 10 years working and living in London, and honestly, I think my heart was telling me to get back to the countryside a few years before I started listening to it. I’ve definitely been re-learning that generally things just work at a slower pace – especially mid-pandemic, but so far, our business links have been slick and it’s magical to be able to use local businesses for things like signage and printing. We’re happy to swap the speed of London for personable customer service – just have to remember to make plans further in advance!
Matt went to the University of Arts and has lived in Norwich from 2005 to 2010. Norwich has since been a destination for us to visit as often as we could, we have a great community of friends to support us up here. We both grew up in the countryside so the country feels very much like home – more of a re-adjustment than a new one.
Matt and I met when he was a regular in a natural wine bar I worked at (Weino BiB, Dalston). We both miss it very much and when we moved to Norfolk we couldn’t find our new spot, so we decided to make it, and it’s as simple as that. I’ve spent every waking minute of my working life in a restaurant, setting up events, tasting wine, getting home at 2am after eating a wafer all day. Matt is the mastermind behind the branding. We are all about alternative music and lifestyle, and in our community, we are sorely under-represented as foodies or wine enthusiasts. We wanted to create an authentic brand that allowed us to bring all our favourite things together and connect with our likeminded brothers and sisters. Kvlt is a name we chose as a beacon to anyone who might share our love of metal music. It’s a term used in the ‘Trve’ Norwegian Black Metal community describing a reference to an obscure band or rare recording and represents the utterly niche and underground, seminal and original – it’s also slightly tongue in cheek. It’s a pronounced cult, and we think we’re charismatic enough to lead a following of wine loving uniform wearing followers. I make myself laugh sometimes, but it’s true!
I can go on for days about this if anyone lets me, but natural wine is basically a term that doesn’t have a legal definition, and so it can mean a lot of things. We generally use it to describe grape farming and wine making practices that tread lightly on the earth: no heavy machinery, small plots of land, no pesticides, no additives to flavour or influence the beverage. Grapes are grown, picked with care, and fermented like they used to do before we found out the world was round. It’s a practice that’s been used for 2000 years, but since industrial wine making has dominated the market, it comes across as a sort of rebellion to the intensively farmed, over manufactured plonk we all know and love. Many winemakers are choosing to ditch traditional methods which create somewhat uniform products suitable for a giant consumer market to return to the more ‘natural’ and less intensive methods of wine making, and we are living for it! There are many wines out there that do not choose to brand themselves as natural, but there is a sort of culture around the current trends in the natural wine community. Transparency in most consumer arenas is pretty terrible, and wine is no exception. There are branding tricks, laws and marketing choices that just make it really hard to know what’s in your wine. Gotta speak with your specialist shop to know more!
Should we all be drinking it? Well from what we can assess the day after a bottle or two is much easier to cope with than supermarket stuff if that answers anyone’s questions. As with most sustainable and ethically produced stuff, it’s not cheap. By its very nature it’s not something that can be produced on mass, cheaply. If you’re keen on giving it a go however, a whole new world of flavour experiences might open up to you. One of our favourite things about low intervention wine is that a large number of winemakers are burning the rule book set out by appellation laws – those pesky laws that say a wine can only be called a certain wine if it’s got very specific things in it – so each new glass is a new experience.
Creake Abbey was a one-off event but we might be back for their Christmas market… We are exploring a few avenues for a permanent shop/wine bar which we hope will happen this year, but right now you can buy from our online webstore. If what you’re after is not available, get in touch and we will get it in for you. We are also planning a few pop-ups, collaborations and event appearances throughout the year, so our events page or social media will keep you up to date on those as they are confirmed.