When Lasse Melgaard and Elliott Martens first came up with the idea for Two Raccoons Winery, little did they think they’d be serving up 10,000 litres of fruit wine less than a year later.
The co-founders had two things in mind when starting the business. The first was to make good wine, but the second, and probably the most important element, was to help reduce food waste.
Using surplus fruit waste from businesses across the region, Lasse and Elliott make fruit wine in the heart of Aberdeen at their new winery which they have been kitting out over the past few months.
Taking up residency in the city’s new street food venue, The Bike Yard on Hutcheon Street, the duo will bring their handcrafted wines to the masses from Friday at 4pm at a special event where customers will be able to purchase the products for the first time.
Flavours include mango and banana, strawberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, pear, raspberry and orange.
Made with fruit, sugar and yeast, the ethos of the brand is to have as little waste as possible, with just the pulp of the fruit generated as waste. However, this is then recycled and used in wormeries to ensure the firm is as zero waste as it can be.
Working with The Crafty Pickle (a small fermented food firm) on a project during university sparked Elliott’s passion for starting an eco business, and with Lasse’s enthusiasm for brewing, wine made from surplus fruit seemed like a winning idea.
“Lasse would always have wine on tap when we lived together. He has been brewing for around two years,” said Elliott.
“I was thinking of things to do for an eco business and through my course I worked with The Crafty Pickle to find ways on how to make more kimchi with surplus food. We contacted many fruit and veg farmers where there could be food waste. We found the veg they were looking for wasn’t present in the north-east, but there was a lot of soft fruits being wasted in Scotland.
“One day Lasse came back with 20 kilos of blueberries and we just thought ‘let’s make wine with it’. Seeing how much fruit was being wasted we figured we’d try it.”
4.3 tonnes of fruit
The name Two Raccoons is fitting for the brand with Lasse and Elliott describing the mammals, and themselves, as “scavengers”.
But how they scavenge for soft fruits and how raccoons scavenge for their next meal is very different.
Lasse added: “It was summer last year we decided we wanted to move things forward. I got more time during lockdown to experiment and now we have brewed 10,000 litres of wine from 4.3 tonnes of fruit surplus.
“We started off in my flat and were looking for a place and The Bike Yard opportunity presented itself so we now have a space which is 10 times bigger than we had hoped. We’ve used things like wooden pallets and things we’ve found to make the space into what it is now.”
Now working with Scottish food firm, Baxters, the duo have been helping the company combat their food waste by using their surplus fruit to make the wine.
Elliott added: “They had a bunch of fruit they weren’t going to use anymore so we managed to help them while they were helping us. They are aiming to reduce their food waste by 50% by 2030 and they said they could give us two and a half tonnes.
“When the delivery came it was actually four tonnes of frozen fruit surplus.
“We needed two tonnes of sugar and we had to open all of the packs of sugar individually as we haven’t managed to get a company to work with us in selling bulk orders.”
Production set up
Upgrading their set up from small demijohn glass containers, the firm now has 12 1,000 litre tanks full of wine.
It takes the duo around a month to a month and a half to create their products, unlike other wine which the co-founders say can take from six months to a year.
Elliott said: “We don’t’ have any freezers so when the fruit comes in, we process it immediately and get it in our tanks.
“We work with any type of overripe fruit. We’ve used brown bananas, mangos, anything that people don’t really want.
“We use demijohns and moved them into the winery and there’s tiny ones, big ones and massive 200 litre IBC’s as well. We’re now brewing in 1,000 litre tanks – we have 12 of those.
“We don’t use any clearing agents to make the wine clear, we like it how it is. It is quite sweet too and we have lots of flavours.”
A future for wormeries
Looking to potentially offer tours in the future, the real focus on the business is to combat food waste and make the firm as zero-waste as possible.
Elliott said: “Lasse is studying microbiology and I studied plant and soil science. We really value organic matter and from all of the fruit surplus there’s fibre and pulp waste.
“Our big dream is to take that waste and give it to a wormery or grow mushrooms from it. We know if we had a piece of land, that we could dump loads of organic matter and it could be used to grow things.”
Lasse added: “We’re looking to partner with other businesses and food waste is something we all really need to tackle. We want to work with wholesalers, food firms, food banks, you name it.”