No posts for ten days, but not exactly slacking. I’ve been out and about buying too much wine (as usual), and I thought I’d share some of these with you. I’ve got a few things to write about in the pipeline, and August will be a busy month. Whilst half the people I know will be off on their hols, the other half will be sweltering (we hope) in London drinking wine.
Next week we’ve another Beaujolais dinner (at Quality Chop House, or QCH from henceforth as it’s good enough for an acronym). The week ends with one of our bi-monthly Oddities lunches at Rochelle Canteen. Later in the month I’ve got two visits to La Trompette, one for a lunch with Kevin Courtney of Marlborough’s Riverby Estate (next door to Cloudy Bay, excellent wines but a touch under the UK radar, see blog post of 01/12/14), and the Germany/Austria edition of the winepages “Wimps” lunches. Not been to La T yet this year, so twice in a month will be no hardship.
A couple of weeks ago I made my first visit to the Gun Room at Alfriston, so called because it was supposedly a gun store for the Duke of Wellington. Anyway, now it houses the tasting room for Rathfinny Estate, and although they aim to become one of England’s premium sparkling wine producers (64 ha out of a potential 160 ha planted and the first fizz will be released in 2017), they’ve just released their very first wine. It’s a still white blend of 55% Pinot Blanc and 45% Chardonnay called Cradle Valley, the grapes harvested in October 2014.
It’s the start of the journey for Rathfinny, but they are clearly serious in their intent to be a major player on the English wine scene. I’ll write about them again in the future, but in the meantime I’d recommend Alfriston, an old Downland village of chocolate box houses, tea rooms, a good book shop (Much Ado Books, go upstairs to see the “vintage” selection), and a lovely old flint church beside the Clergy House, the National Trust’s first ever property. You can walk along the river, and if you have all day you can reach the sea at Cuckmere Haven, below the beautiful Seven Sisters white cliffs. Or you can walk up on the Downs with views over Newhaven towards France.
Another quintessentially English market town, Market Harborough in South Leicestershire, has a little less going for it than Alfriston, but it has a certain charm, and it does have one of the growing band of independent wine merchants cropping up all over rural England and Wales. Duncan Murray is well established now. Some years ago I remember him as a source of some interesting Languedoc wines, and then he won awards for his Portuguese range. But it was for his Greek wines I popped in when passing through a week ago. If you are anywhere near, do check him out. The wines are shelved by style, not country, so you would be advised to ask for help in locating all the Greeks, but he has a good selection, one of the best in the country for a non-specialist perhaps, right now.
Yesterday I made what might be my last visit to Roberson‘s Kensington shop (see Ode to a Wine Shop, 6th July). Don’t worry, I’ll still be an eager customer of the brand, but I wanted at least one last look at the bricks and mortar. I admit I’m not really an old-timer. It took me years to venture that far down High Street Ken’, but ever since I strode out I’ve always considered it one of the three or five most exciting wine retail environments in London. I said it before, but I’m sad to see it go. Still, grabbed a few of Jeff Coutelou‘s wines, including the Carignan Blanc, which I’ve never had before. And a Vin des Amis with which to toast my blogging friend, Alan March, who has been helping out at Mas Coutelou this year.
Oh, and as if I wasn’t carrying enough wine I also collected my share of these little beauties from a friend (before he drank them): the new Equipo Navazos Florpower (bota 57, MMXII). They should keep me going now that the first two releases are nearly depleted.
Although I’ve not made it to Winemakers Club for a while (due to all my travels), I do want to unashamedly plug them. John & Co have turned this into so much more than a wine shop, perhaps even surpassing the site’s great “Oddbins Fine Wine” heritage. They’ve not only got enomatics, wild wines, and tastings, but now it’s gigs and pop-up food events. It might just be the coolest (in both senses) place for wine in London right now, under the arches below Holborn viaduct. Sorry I missed Tuesday’s tasting, and I think a few mates were round this week as well.
Now I need to try to make some more room in the cellar, starting with a Julien Sunier Morgon 2013, appropriate both as an appetite whetter for more Bojo on Monday and, well, because this afternoon Brighton could not be sunnier! And we have won the cricket! That probably calls for gin…