It had been a while since I was at Brunswick House in Vauxhall, so I was very pleased to be back, even on a miserably wet night, earlier this month. When I’ve been before the food has been exceptional, largely because the sourced ingredients match what the kitchen does with them. This was also a chance to catch up with friends I’d not seen for a while, but who habitually drink what one might call more classical wines than I often write about. Yet there will be plenty here to interest everyone. I think, in fact, we’ll begin with the wines this time.
We managed a couple of aperitifs before the food began to arrive. We serve all the wines blind at these events, only for a laugh, but I think the first was already revealed when I got there. Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese 2004 is a wine which was possibly unfairly criticised by the man who brought it, but I saw his point. It has a pretty good attack and really suggests some complexity. The problem is that this didn’t really last very long. Everyone agreed on that, but coming in from the rain, it still made a nice refreshing glass, not too sweet but needs more length.
Joseph Perrier Cuvée Joséphine 2002 was my offering for the evening, part of a batch from London merchant Jeroboams which quite a few of us bought into at the time. It’s fair to say that others have had mixed experiences, but my last bottle was very good, hence my decision to give it a go. It was quite rich and evolved after an initial reticence. I have one bottle left and will drink soon. Good, but not a patch on the last 2002 I took to a wine event, the magnificent Pierre Péters Les Chetillons. Whilst the latter wine should be good to around 2030, I wonder whether the Joséphine is more likely best by 2020?
The next wine was fun to try to guess, and after initially suggesting it might be Swiss, I suggested Loire. It was in fact from Margaret River, and based on a blend of Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. LAS Vino CBDB 2013 is a wine I’d heard about but never drunk, and it may be worth seeking out (I think the current vintage may be the 2016 though). LAS stands for something like Luck (of the weather), Art (of making wine) and Science (which underpins it). The man behind the label is Nic Peterkin, whose dad is behind Pierro and whose mum is Vanya Cullen’s sister, so he’s Margaret River Royalty.
The 2013 is nicely evolving. You get honey and almond, then a creamy peachiness to the fore, but also some tropical fruit too. I’d love to grab a bottle as it’s really quite distinctive. It doesn’t lack freshness, despite about 14% abv, and it costs around £40 from Liberty Wines. I wasn’t sure what CBDB stands for. Apparently it’s Chenin Blanc Dynamic Blend, but it somehow got me humming Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer. Obviously thinking of CBGBs. Wonder whether that was intentional?
Things turned a little serious next, although as a consequence the wine (if not the vintage) was not too difficult to guess. Lopez de Heredia Rioja Blanco Viña Tondonia 1973 is a beautiful iteration of a wine which almost never fails to amaze, especially when given the requisite cellaring. You really would not believe how fresh this is. Waxy and with some salinity on the nose, the palate is honeyed, and so so long. Stunning! The man sitting next to me said “maybe a fraction light on the finish”. I think he was being a bit picky. You can still source the 1973 GR for a small fortune, and the 1999 for around £300, but the current vintage, 2004, is usually around £30 retail (and might be had for less). It is, potentially (assuming you keep it), one of the bargains of the wine world. I’m just waiting for the next vintage of the Rosado to come along.
The next wine was obviously Sherry, but even this pretty knowledgeable bunch could not quite decide which type. It was a luminescent bronze colour, mellow and scented, but at the same time so fresh. Darker than a Pasada for sure, yet with a lightness on the palate. I was quite firmly thinking Amontillado, though certainly Equipo Navazos. In fact it was Equipo Navazos Palo Cortado Bota 75, probably the most elegant Palo Cortado I’ve ever drunk. It turns out that the juice here is exactly the same as that which went into the first edition of the EN Table Wine, Florpower, from Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín in Sanlúcar.
At just 18% alcohol, moderate for a Palo Cortado, this shouts breed and finesse, and indeed even those who find EN bottlings quite a shock should appreciate the elegance of this one. In fact it combines a smooth middle with something quite floral on the finish. In this instance, to say it lacks the intensity usually found with ENPC is merely to suggest that this allows a whole different dimension of Palo Cortado to become apparent. It was quite a revelation.
I’m going to have to zip through the reds a bit more quickly, and unfairly. Artadi Rioja Grandes Añadas 1999 was clearly a modern Rioja, wasn’t it? Well, I was thinking Super Tuscan to begin with. The nose was very much cherry and raspberry, with a touch of stalk and quite a bit of oak. Don’t get me wrong, the nose was in fact the best part. The palate was much more dumb, a phase perhaps?
It was put to shame by my red of the night, Produttori Barbaresco Riserva Paje 2004. Most went with Barolo but soon guessed The Prod when directed to its neighbour. Anyway, this is way more delicate than the tar and roses cliché, more fruity (raspberry), with that lovely cold tea note. A gorgeous wine which I’d suggest is drinking now, but in the early part of full maturity, with a bit more to give.
Three classic Bordeaux followed. Château Giscours 1966 came as a Berry Bros bottling and was a privilege to drink. It contains two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon, which has doubtless sustained it as it gave us a good twenty minutes of good fruit before fading rapidly (longer, I think, than anyone expected).
It was tough for Clos du Marquis 1983 to follow it. I’d had some bottles of the 1982, which I really enjoyed, and generally 1983 produced some under rated wines just lacking the longevity of the preceding year (that was my experience, not shared by all critics). This was nice to drink but, as with many 1983s at this level, it is approaching the end of its drinking window.
I bought a few wines from the vintage of the next bottle, it being still available, if not in great quantity, when I began to appreciate finer wines. It’s a vintage which I, at least, found quite distinctive. This enabled me to guess the vintage of Château Giscours 1975, and as it was a backup for the 1966, the property. There is something hard about a lot of ’75s, almost like a full stop after the upfront fruit. Very nice, though, and it didn’t fade like the ’66 (this bottle was under the Château label). I’d be very happy if I owned a few bottles of this.
Our last wine of the evening was a classic red from Burgundy which I kicked myself for not getting near to identifying exactly. It’s a producer I used to drink quite regularly up to a decade ago. De Montille Pommard “Pezerolles” 1er Cru 1996 is classic Hubert, with that firmness of structure which Pommard exhibits ramped up another notch. In light of the producer and the wine, it really does need a good half-decade more in the cellar, but yet I found it hugely enjoyable, especially as it warmed up and the underlying fruit began to peek out.
I’m sure I have some 2001 of this. I had a look but it must be buried somewhere. On this showing of the 1996 I didn’t feel I needed to look too hard.
An immensely enjoyable evening of wines was matched by some exceptionally nice food. Red Mullet tartare, Stonebass pan fried with artichoke and black garlic, Venison and Pork Trotter Ragu, and well aged English Longhorn Beef (two porterhouse and two tomahawk steaks of some depth between us) were all highlights. The beef was mouthwateringly immense, and the small dish of ragu was very rich and filling (but you just know you’d love to come back for double helpings some time).
It is true that the service was probably a little slow, but then we were eight of us. The only surprise of the evening was the bill. We’d asked for a set menu (and arranged BYO), and it is true that the beef was an optional extra, but I walked away paying twice what I’d previously paid at Brunswick House, which is a reminder to know what you are paying for. So it turned out to be an expensive Tuesday night out, but with the quality of the wine, the food and the company, the bill was something I was able to get over after the initial shock.
Brunswick House is at 30 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 and open every day for lunch, and dinner (but closes 5pm Sundays). Nearest Underground is Vauxhall, and if you get the right exit, it’s only a couple of minutes or so to walk.
The restaurant is part of a warehouse selling antiques and architectural salvage, much of it going to restaurants etc. If you want a flavour of the quirky but very attractive dining room, take a look at the front page of their web site below.
Check them out at brunswickhouse.co