Monday, 29 June 2009

Vin Naturel update

Despite our wide network we can't be ubiquitous so it was with an element of innocence that we thought we had 'discovered' Vin Naturel in January 2009 and amazement that there was a wine merchant in Archway Road specialising in Vin Naturel and as good as any to be found in Paris; 'Wine of Course' (Zelas).

What ingenues we are! We suddenly discover the UK is practically seething with such places:

Terroirs; a wine bar and restaurant which opened in the autumn of 2008 in the West End of London modelled on "Parisian Natural Wine bars with their emphasis on superb, rarely-seen wines, informal yet informed service, and excellent, hearty food." This is getting a lot of media attention including a favourable piece by Jancis Robinson. There is a link with Les Caves de Pyrene (see below) who own the lease. Presumably a lot if not all the wine comes from them.

Les Caves de Pyrene; have probably been doing it for years. A recent visit to their HQ near Guildford showed us to what extent. The Caves de Pyrene wine list which seems to incorporate the concept 'idiosyncratic' contains even more but there is so much else going on in that literary and scientific publication that whether a wine is 'naturel' doesn't stand out as it might otherwise. There are no prices in the wine list by the way. Our realisation that Les Caves de Pyrene is a major stockist of Vin Naturel came just in time to award them joint 'UK Wine Merchant of the Year' together with 'Wine of Course'.

Artisan and Vine; opened in 2008 in Clapham. You can also eat there, the food echoing the 'natural' policy. I notice among their extensive list they list the 'Rosso del Contadino' also sold by Caves de Pyrene. This is a field blend from Mt. Etna including both white and red grapes such as Carricante, Inzolia, Catarratto, Nerello Mascalese, Alicante,... what they call 'promiscuous'. We have a bottle scheduled for tasting around mid-July. Can't wait.
In addition to Vin Naturel they specialise in Englsh wine selling wines grown within two hours' drive from Battersea.

And last but not least, Berties of Bourne End aka Bertrand and Nicholas of Furlong Road, Bourne End, Bucks. This is an amazing Tardis of a shop with not only an interesting selection of wines but also a Traiteur department, coffee shop and more besides. Bertrand Prevost has lived in the UK for 20 years but lost none of his gallic ("call me Bertie") bonhommie. He is the exclusive importer of most of his wines and even the food he sells. Bertie is an enthusiast and hopes to communicate his enthusiasm. He had several wines on tasting and made all kinds of generous offers on them. " This one I'll give you 10% off, this one 15%. This one I'll let you have half-price because I love it and I think you will too" Now where have we heard that before? No wonder he has a day job in addition to running the shop. We bought 7 wines for an average of £10 a bottle which is a good deal less than usual in this field. A Cot (Malbec) from the Lot called 'Fruite' proudly dispalyed a sticker saying it had won 2nd prize in some French competition. It was indeed fruity and only 12.5%.
Bertie makes a speciality out of (mainly French) Malbec He says the English like it and reminds us it was the English wine before Claret. He is also one of the very few UK stockists of the wines of 'St Pourcain', an undeservedly obscure appellation south of the Loire producing a deliciously light Pinot Noir and Gamay blend appreciated by Samuel Beckett.

There may be more Natural Wine merchants or wine bars out thare. We'd love to hear from you.

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