Deptford Fun City was a record label started by the Copeland brothers, Miles and Stewart, which flourished briefly in the late 1970s. It was an offshoot of Illegal Records, and was set up to release the music of several Deptford artists, most notably Squeeze and Alternative TV. I’d never been to Deptford before yesterday evening, but I do remember the joke, rather close to the bone, that Deptford was so poor they couldn’t afford a comma.
Deptford is still, well, perhaps the right word is authentic. It reminds me of bits of London I remember from the 1970s. If you think Shoreditch, or even Dalston, are edgy, then come down here. Around 85% of the population have lived there for a long time, and probably don’t travel the ten minutes it takes a Southeastern train to get up to Canon Street, one of the City of London’s more obscure mainline rail stations. But arriving at around 6.15pm yesterday, there were signs of infiltration. Gents in suits, ladies in macs, alighting with me. Not so much city slickers, but those city workers a little bit down the food chain. There is a sense that Deptford is beginning to get a makeover.
It is here that The Winemakers Club has opened its second location, Winemakers Deptford, at 209 Deptford High Street. If you turn right out of Deptford Station you find a large Poundland, and an Iceland, but turn left and it’s all local shops, with one or two more interesting venues being created. A couple of hundred metres in this direction you’ll find their fairly simple, unprepossessing even, frontage. Don’t be put off.
Inside, the decor is very simple. It has the air of a French bar à vins, and the only sign that this is no ordinary local bistro is the array of interesting bottles on the bar, and on the shelves opposite. There’s nothing like the number of wines for sale at Winemakers’ Farringdon bar/shop, but I’m guessing that equally, there are nothing like these wines elsewhere in Deptford.
Four of us dined there, and so we were able to share a wide selection of food from the menu, and I must say, it was all extremely good, some of it sensational for a place of this size. One time when “hats off to the chef”, in this case Rory Shannon, means something. Excellent brawn (listed as Head Cheese on the menu) came with finely cut, soft onions. Crab croquetas were sensational (could have eaten another portion), and smoked mackerel paté with Kent radishes was not far behind. Heritage tomato bruschetta had the taste of real tomatoes, the pigeon salad with garlic croutons only lacked for a little more pigeon (because it was so good), and a Lincolnshire Poacher souffle served with picalilli was also good. We all shared two portions of highland beef tagliata which, on account of the quality of the meat, was excellent.
Brawn, Crab Croqueta and Rory Shannon’s home cured Salamis
I began the evening with a glass of Meinklang Sziklafehér. This comes from their Somlo vineyards in Hungary, but from the bottom of the mountain where the volcanic matter is covered by a layer of loess. A field blend of Olaszriesling, Harslevelü, Juhfark and Furmint, it’s quite simple and light, but invigorating and zesty, with a slight prickle. A lovely summer aperitif. We were given a plate of home produced salami as an appetiser, including a very good Finocchiona, which you’d be hard pressed to tell from an Italian-produced version. Rory Shannon has his own curing cabinets and it’s something of a speciality here.
Next, Gino Pedrotti’s Nosiola 2015, bottled under the Vignetti delle Dolomiti IGT designation. It comes from Trentino, from valley vineyards swept by the southerly winds off Lake Garda. Straw coloured, there is a lovely scent somewhere between floral and fruity. The palate finishes with an unmistakable note of slightly bitter hazelnut.
Tète Red is a non-vintage blend of mainly Cabernet Franc (90%) with Grolleau, made by four young winemakers coming together as “Les Tètes”. They are based at Panzoult, and are one of a couple of new Loire producers in the Winemakers Club portfolio. This is simple, fruity and extremely pleasant. In fact, this is a perfect example of the bar à vins kind of bistro wine you’d be excited about discovering in Paris. Forget complexity, this is about thirst quenching. It does that supremely well.
The next wine was brought along by one of my dining companions. From a producer I am getting to like a lot, but a wine I’ve never drunk before (I tasted it at Viñateros this year, but that’s a different kettle of fish). Envinate Benjé comes from the island of Tenerife in the Canaries. It’s a red, made from one of the several Listan varieties on the island, Listan Prieto (with the tiniest touch of Tintilla, all vines being between 70 to 120 years old). Apparently, Listan Prieto turns out to be the same grape as South America’s Pais, the most widely cultivated red grape in Chile until Cabernet Sauvignon took over in recent times. Brought to South America by Spanish missionaries, one imagines that the Canary Islands was a stopping off point for victualing ships for the Atlantic crossing.
This is a beautiful wine, which really knocks on the head perceived wisdom about noble and not so noble grape varieties. It’s a lesson we are being taught all the time by the finest producers on Tenerife (cf Suertes del Marques as well). The part of Tenerife where this wine comes from, 1,100 metres up on the cliffs in the northwest, is quite marginal, with the vines benefiting from colder night time temperatures. This makes for a wine which has a certain concentration of fresh, bitter cherry fruit, but not excessive body. There’s a savoury, saline, quality to it as well.
A step up from their Tàganan cuvée, Benjé was Wine of the Night for me, a perfect demonstration of how to create true beauty from an unfavoured vine variety, from well beyond Europe’s classic wine regions. And it was decanted into a fish, thanks to Mr Zalto! Somewhat thicker glass than his usual fare, but Daniel, I want one.
Lazio Rosso IGT, Cantina Ribelà 2015 is made from the Cesanese variety, and is effectively, from its production zone, the red wine of Frascati (near Rome). This 2015 was more powerful and full-bodied than one diner remembered the previous vintage, and its 14.5% abv bears this out. A rich and smooth wine from volcanic soils, very well made for a modest price, but perhaps not a style I’d go a long way to seek out. But I could see others liking it more. For me, I loved the simplicity of the Tète Red, and the frisson of excitement generated by the Envinate.
Winemakers Deptford comes highly recommended. If you are fairly close to Canon Street, it’s also far more accessible than you might think, and just three minutes from Deptford mainline station, which is the first stop (trains seem to be going to Dartford or Strood). As the train goes through the side of London Bridge Station which is currently a building site, then presumably trains will stop there in future. Deptford, as you will see below, has its own claim to fame in the history of rail transport in London.