Natural wines have been causing something of a global brouhaha over the past year or so, and finally the trend has reached Singapore. Although there are still only a handful of establishments that specialise in the brew at the moment, the newest is Le Bon Funk, which opened two months ago at 29 Club Street.
Headed by chef/owner Keirin Buck (formerly the sous chef at Burnt Ends), Le Bon Funk represents his first solo venture. The space, which Buck terms as a “casual neighbourhood wine bar which one can return to repeatedly”, specialises in rustic yet polished dishes (think cedar jelly foie gras, handmade charcuterie and bread) and has an extensive wine list curated by head sommelier Josée Yeomans.
We speak to the duo on their thoughts on the natural wine trend:
What’s the story behind the name?
Buck: “People tend to assume that natural wines have a bad funk – but that’s just bad wine-making. What we’re trying to focus on is the good side of it. Of course, natural wines have a particular profile that some people might not be used to but the idea here is to not take yourself so seriously.”
How would you define natural wines to someone who’s new to it?
Yeomans: “Natural wines encompass a lot of things but at the base of it, all these wines are organic, even if they haven’t been (officially) certified. The idea behind is basically wine-making that starts from the ground up. It’s about the farming practices, which is what bio-dynamic, perma-culture and all those terms you hear being thrown around. Regarding the actual wine-making process, natural wines are the ones with the lowest intervention possible – we’re trying to take synthetics such as preservatives out of the wine. More and more it’s becoming a mentality as well – it’s artisanal, made in small batches and made by people who are very passionate about it, because it’s not a big money-making business.
Why are natural wines such a divisive topic?
Yeomans: “It’s definitely a hot topic right now. One, I think it’s just natural – something new is going to take some time to get used to and the natural wine movement caught on very quickly over the past few years and people are wondering if it’s just a passing trend. Also, I think a lot of people have tasted natural wines that aren’t that great or representative of the scene as a whole.”
Would you say natural wines are an extension of the slow food movement?
Buck: “I wouldn’t say it’s an extension per se, but the idea behind both is fundamentally the same – going back to the way things used to be.
So how many wines does Le Bon Funk stock?
Yeomans: “It ranges anywhere from 120-200. Everything comes in small quantities… I don’t put too much information (on the menu) either, because I want people to talk to us about their choices. Most of our wines are sourced from Provence primarily, but also Italy and Austria.”
With wine, naturally comes food pairing. What cuisine/dishes go best with natural wines?
Buck: “It pairs with everything, because at the end of the day, they’re still wine, natural or not, and it covers every genre of wine, big reds, rosé … At Le Bon Funk, we’ve designed it so that most dishes are meant for sharing and the wines never overpower any one dish. We want people to be able to feel like they can continue their night after a meal here and not feel weighted down.”
Tell us about the food, we hear you have a kaya dish?
“We change the menu fairly often but some of the dishes that have been on the menu since the start include cedar jelly foie gras that’s our interpretation of kaya. My parents are farmers in Canada and they regularly send me stock… the jelly is meant to take the place of the Kaya while the foie gras replaces the butter – just light shavings of the foie gras so that it’s still fresh but you still get that delicious foie gras taste. We also have handmade brioches. All of the breads are made on-site.”