London

East London wine bar crawl

A few weeks ago, I met up with friend and wine journalist Jamie Goode, to go wine bar hopping out East. 

Sager + Wilde

The evening began in Bethnal Green at Sager + Wilde, Paradise Row, where we chatted with Michael Sager and mixologist Marcis Dzelzainis. S+W is very well known for its wine list (which is excellent), but this time we opted for cocktails which were delightfully inventive. 

I had the Tahona (Derrumbes Espadin mezcal, roasted pineapple shrub, lemon and agave caramel), which was fresh, tangy and delicious - one of the best cocktails I have had in a long time. Jamie had the bergamot negroni and an amazing pine negroni made from a distilled pine infusion which Marcis makes himself. The flavours were incredible - a really exciting ingredient which I am sure will become a key component to many cocktails. Next, there was the Bijou (gin and chartreuse), followed by an aperol sgroppino - so pink and yum. We also had some amazing small plates - Chris Leach was appointed head chef in January and is doing a fantastic job with the food (they've also introduced a pasta (really good pasta) and glass of wine for £10 deal between 5 and 7pm Mon - Sun which is pretty unbeatable). 

The Tahona

The Tahona

Michael Sager, proprietor of Sager + Wilde

Michael Sager, proprietor of Sager + Wilde

The Laughing Heart

Next, we walked over to Hoxton/Haggerston, to another of my favourites, The Laughing Heart, which was opened in October last year by Charlie Mellor, opera singer and sommelier.  They have recently opened their Cave downstairs, which has a dreamy bottle shop. 

We pondered over the wine list for a while, which is also excellent, and opted for Charlie's last bottle (meant to be) of Les Dolomies Les Grandvaux Savagnin 2015. It was seriously, seriously good.

Very pure - mineral and lean, lemon pith nose. Striking minerality on the palate. Tense and direct. Saline mid-palate with underripe pear skin notes with some fresh pineapple. Really beautiful wine and a reason that I need to go to the Jura.

Brilliant Corners

Next, we strolled a little further up to Dalston, to a more recent discovery, Brilliant Corners. Last time I went it was mid week and very chilled, but when we arrived this time it was really kicking off. It was a hot night so it was bustly and pretty toasty in there, so we went for a refreshing pet nat, one that I have actually always wanted to try - Jean-Pierre Robinot's l'Opera des Vins des années folles (VdF - Chenin Blanc and Pineau d'Aunis). Notes of red apples, raspberries, cranberries and a nice mineral edge. Lovely raw cider flavours. Great purity and very clean - sometimes petnat can have a mousey edge, but none of that here at all. 

A super fun evening with brilliant wines at great venues, all of which I highly recommend. You can read Jamie's account of the evening here

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NEWCOMER WINES, DALSTON

On a bleak rainy Saturday a couple of weeks ago, myself and two friends took shelter in Newcomer Wines’ shop and bar, in Dalston, where we set up camp (for many hours). 

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On a bleak rainy Saturday a couple of weeks ago, myself and two friends took shelter in Newcomer Wines’ shop and bar, in Dalston, where we set up camp (for many hours). 

I’ve had a keen interest in Austrian wine for a while now: particularly impressed and thoroughly encouraged by the wines of Judith BeckAndreas TscheppePeter Veyder Malberg and Alwin Jurtschitsch (the latter two of whom I met recently at Sager and Wilde, which I’ll also be writing up soon). The country has a wealth of highly interesting and unique indigenous grape varietals of excellent quality. This, combined with minimal intervention in the vineyards and gentle winemaking, means the wines act as very clear vehicles of their unique terroirs.  

Founded in 2014, Newcomer Wines began as a student start-up by Peter Honegger and Daniela Pillhofer. They source Austrian wine from the new generation of growers, and are importing into the UK. They work with many great wine establishments in London, helping them to source Austrian wine for their lists, such as The Clove Club, Fera at Claridges, Sager + Wilde, the Hawksmoor Group and many others.

2016 saw them open their bar, and visiting the venue has been at the top of my list for a while. I was very impressed by their impeccable range, as well as Toni Tossman’s thorough knowledge, and also the low mark-ups, still quite rare in London. We drank some wonderful, eye-opening wines. 

The bar itself is lovely. Great light for tasting and lovely decor with bare bulbs and wine on all the walls, with Noble Rot magazines hanging invitingly. 

I’d recommend the wine bar to anyone wanting a glass of wine, or a bottle to takeaway. 

WHAT WE DRANK

All four of these wines are excellent examples of what Austrian terroir and Austrian varietals are capable of. 

SIGHARDT DONABAUM‘S GRÛNER-VELTLINER

Indigenous yeasts, minimal intervention Gruner with long yeast contact.

Lovely floral nose of honeysuckle and blossom. Zingy palate of lime, lemon peel and fresh pear, with some fresh peach notes also. Tons of aromas. Pure, lifted finish, and actually has quite a prominent body.

CLAUS PREISINGER’S KALKUNDKIESEL

Biodynamic. Fermented on skins. Six months in oak barrels on the lees. Unfined and unfiltered. Limestone and pebble sites.

Red apples, stone fruit and apricot nose, quite heady and gorgeous. Layered and complex on the palate, with distinct minerality and a certain savoury and a surprisingly creamy finish. 

RENNERSISTAS – WAITING FOR TOM

Pinot Noir, St Laurent and Blaufränkisch.

Rennersistas are two sisters, Susanne and Stefanie, who are beginning their natural wine journey, having taken over their parents winery, which was founded in ’88. After spending few years working abroad for growers such as Tom Lubbe and Tom Shobbrook, they returned to the family winery, and 2015 was their first vintage. They farm 13ha in Burgenland, in the surroundings of Gols. All vineyards and wines organically certified, and winemaking techniques are gentle.

Bright cherries, raspberries, fresh blackberries and some spice. Really vibrant and so juicy, with a lovely slight earthiness with liquorice on the finish. Up there with my favourite reds of the year so far.

WEINGUT WERLITSCH – FREUDE

In 2007 Sepp Muster and Ewald Tscheppe from Weingut Werlitsch started experimenting with skin fermented wines in clay bottles. This is the first wine Ewald has bottled in clay since 2010. Freude (joy) is a Morillon (Chardonnay) Sauvignon blend kept on the skins for a year. The grapes began their spontaneous fermentation in amphorae and were then moved into large oak barrels for another year. 

Amazing, textural and rich orange wine, with notes of honey blossom and acacia on the nose, with a dense, orange peel and nutty palate of fresh almonds, with a lovely lean, slightly sappy finish. Banging wine.

Thank you to Toni who was a brilliant host to us. Will be back soon!

Christina 

L’ENTREPÔT IN HACKNEY FOR WINE, BEER, FOOD + ART

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I popped down to L’Entrepôt in Hackney Downs yesterday to have a glass of wine after work. It was sunny and warm, and they’ve set up a great outside area where we managed to get a seat, something that’s quite the rarity as we all know.

Plus, as an added bonus there’s an art exhibition on downstairs with Dan Jamieson‘s art (see below).

Originally an outpost of Borough Wines, L’Entrepôt has now gone independent, still listing a lot of their wines, but also buying independently now.

The bar boasts a good selection by the glass, no mean feat when most pubs only list probably around 8. What’s more – they’re really reasonably priced, and span a vast array of winemaking regions. 

I tried the Rocca Maura, a Chardonnay from the Languedoc, from the Vignerons de Roquemaure.

Rocca Maura is the Provençal name of the black rock on which was built the castle’s square keep, and gave Roquemaure its name.

The wine is fresh, with a nice rich mid-palate, floral fruity, with a strong sense of citrus accompanied by richer pear and stone fruit notes on the palate.

 

Next, I opted for a wine not on the list yet: the Racine Pinot Noir from the Pays d’Oc, made by Bruno Lafon and Francois Chamboissier, of Nos Vins de Sud.

From the Limoux in the South of France, this wine comes from the best plots of Pinot grown on 20 hectares. Short extraction, so it’s a delicate, light fresh and fruity wine, perfect for summer drinking.

Notes of cherry, roses, red berries with silky tannins. This could even benefit from being slightly chilled.

They also serve a couple of beers on tap – the beers over at Crate, as well as The Five Points.

What’s more – they have an exhibition on. The wacky, hilarious and talented Dan Jamieson of Broth Art, I find to be like a ligher hearted David Shrigley, who I love.

I think art of this style is great, and Dan’s lighthearted portraits of celebrities bring them down a notch back into humanity.

I took some snaps of my favourites below. Would I Pick Ryan Gosling’s nose? Not so sure, but I know many that would.

Thx for a great exhibition, Dan.

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RAW DUCK IN HACKNEY: ON TREND PAIRING WITH HARISSA AND CORIANDER WITH AN EXCEPTIONAL ORANGE WINE

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I recently visited the Raw Duck in London Fields for brunch. It’s a trendy, charming and buzzing spot where care has gone into every aspect of its decoration. Industrial chic with plants all around and raw produce on the counter to underline its healthy, clean approach to eating.

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They produce all of their own ferments, pickles, jams and juices in house. The harissa paste I had was so good I wish it was possible to buy it (they ought to sell them). As usual, I couldn’t decide what to pick from the menu so I veered away from my usual choice and went for harissa eggs on charred flatbread, greek yoghurt & coriander. I’m into fresh yoghurt and spice at the moment, and I love fresh coriander.

It was amazing. Eggs poached to perfection and the (again – back to the harissa paste) the best I have had. Thoroughly recommended to anyone passing by Hackney.

Onto the wine. I actually read about Raw Duck in one of Jancis Robinson’s articles – London for Wine Lovers. Which, by the way, if you haven’t read is a must read. Not just for the wine aspect but for excellent, reliable and trendy spots for food and atmosphere.

She mentions Raw Duck. I’m challenging myself at the moment to learn as much about organic, biodynamic and natural wines. Here’s a really good short summary about the three from Will Lyons in the Sunday Times this week – what actually is organic, biodynamic and natural wine?

Organic. The UK tends to be quick in picking up trends, fashions and styles, but we’ve been a bit slow on the uptake with this one.

The UK market lags behind the rest of Europe when it comes to purchase of organic wine. However, in the independent sector, growth is appearing with some independents reporting growth by 12% year on year. In my experience, trends appear first in independents: whether that be wine, beer, fashion or even as far as the independent music sector. After these independents thrive, the “multis” follow.

Organic produce. We should be eating it (we are – organic food sales have risen 2.3%) and we should be drinking it where possible. I appreciate in many wine regions it’s hard to produce organic, due to climate difficulties. However, in many warmer and drier regions, we can.

The Raw Duck has an exceptional wine list of organic, biodynamic and natural wines.

That’s the case with this wine. It comes from Sicily, made from  a  local Sicilian grape which I had never heard of called Catarratto. In a nutshell, orange wine is sort of white wine but made in the style of red.

This wine is made with minimal chemical intervention in the vineyard, but without organic certification. It practices the “la lutte raisonnée” method, meaning ‘the reasoned struggle’. Growers who practice this kind of viticulture claim to use chemicals less often and less aggressively than conventional growers.

In this case, the wine is allowed to macerate (sit on its skins) for three whole days. Maceration with white grapes is either actively avoided or allowed for a few hours, to max 24 hours (much more extreme), generally speaking.

In this case, the maceration gives the wine its bronze colour, and the tannic structure similar to a red. If you shut your eyes, it’s likely you would be fairly confused.

This round, big wine is the perfect match for harissa.

It has rich nutmeg and spice notes combined with deep notes of cooked apples and plums that perfectly balances the heat of the harissa. Moreish and delicious, the best pairing I have made in a long time.

SAGER + WILDE, HOXTON, 10.03.15 WITH WELLS GUTHRIE FROM COPAIN WINES, SONOMA COUNTY

I picked the perfect evening to head to Sager + Wilde for the first time - Wells Guthrie, winemaker of Copain Wines in Sonoma County, California, was present. The bar itself is small, cosy, dimly lit with bare wood and stripped walls.

Sager + Wilde works in a very unique way with a sole purpose to please the wine enthusiast. In a dog eat dog world, it is increasingly rare nowadays to find somewhere that specifically caters (and cares) for the consumer. Small mark-ups = very thankful. When it’s payday, I’m coming back to try some of the finer wines that I no doubt would not be able to taste for those prices elsewhere. It is clear this is a bar born from love and passion, evident in the owner's exuberance.

Their wine list changes daily, with a large selection of wines available by the glass. We chose the Syrah ‘Tous Ensemble’ 2012  and the Pinot Noir “Tous Ensemble” 2012, both from Mendocino County.

Tasting notes:

Syrah ‘Tous Ensemble’ 2012: Blackberries and black cherry aromas with pepper, with underlying hints of spice. In the mouth, the tannins are already developing well, with a slight meaty presence. 

Pinot Noir ‘Tous Ensemble’ 2012: Wonderfully earthy nose with hints of moss , with cherry and some ripe raspberry in there too. In the mouth, round , supple and moreish.

Wells Guthrie came and spoke to us personally, first introducing himself, explaining his career thus far in winemaking. He originally started his love affair with wine with Syrah, and moved to the Northern Rhone working with Chapoutier. he has also spent time in Burgundy with Frédéric Mugnier (this revelation left me painfully jealous – there’s really no better way to learn about Pinot). This French background shines strongly through in his wines, and I must admit in a blind tasting, the Pinot Noir could have fooled me for a Burgundy (perhaps a Beaune? They had similar qualities).

Wells emphasised that he admires the European style, and shies strongly away from the often very bold Californian new oak style (good). He stressed that he does not use new oak, indeed French barrels of approximately ten years old instead. This really allows the varietals to shine through and leaves them without the overly present and often overpowering Californian oak style.

The Syrah is  15% whole bunch, a good percentage, adding the right amount of tannin. The Pinot Noir is 100% only grapes, no stems, which Wells said was important to him as he is a Pinot purist. I strongly agreed! Both wines demonstrate an impeccable balance, and I would be very excited to try them again in a few years’ time. The Syrah is produced in large 600l barrels, whereas the Pinot is in standard, which again demonstrated to me exactly why the wine is the way it is. The Syrah needs this larger barrel to develop as well as it has, and this shone through evidently in the wine in front of us. The small production and low yields of both are vital in recognising just how excellent the quality is.

He certainly impressed me, as did the wines, and I’ll be looking out for them.