Sunday, 30 December 2012

As one door closes, others open

We were truly saddened to hear that Kate Thal's creation 'Green and Blue wines' has to leave their headquarters in Dulwich. At the height of their career they had a second outlet in Clapham.

Now they are reduced to the æther selling wine online only. Dulwich had been a lovely shop with a place out back for nosh. They expended this to make a full scale place to eat (now in front) with a wine shop at the rear.
Clapham had always been more of a wine bar but closed after only a year or so..

Through all these improvements they operated a series of evenings devoted to tasting and education Their bias had always been towards organic wines, natural wines, bio-dynamic wines etc. They had a loyal and enthusiastic local following for their fascinating and original winelist. So what did they do wrong? If initiative, hard work a great name and imagination are worth anything they should be flourishing. We fervently hope that the present situation will turn out to be just a retrenchment from which they can rebound with increased vigour. Their website asks if anyone knows a suitable property from which they can relaunch themselves.

Meanwhile a more modest enterprise has already existed at 259 Hackney Road, London E2. Their name is "259 Hackney Road". Hackney Road is perhaps a cooler place than Dulwich these days. 259 is not far from the Columbia Road market, Hoxton, The Soho House and indeed Hackney. They are specialists in a very narrow range of vins naurels mainly from the Jura, Savoie, Beaujolais and the Loire - Mmmmmmmm!

The shop is one of those French places selling Vin Naturel who seem to have imported the atmosphere and even small of a second-hand bookshop.

In the case of 259 Hackney Road they have even brought in two adorable young French people both from Paris, Florian Tonello and Milena Bucholz whose English is charmingly un-fluent. This is perhaps not surprising since a great many of their customers are from the sizeable London French community and one can find oneself delightfully outnumbered and speaking French despite oneself. We don't recall having to present our passports at the door but there is a visitors book which  kind of belongs to the idea of entering a special place.

The wines are displayed in an original way; empty bottles are placed on a table or on shelves with the prices written in tipex in that inimitable French handwriting, in £ sterling fortunately.

These prices are in the main not modest given the fact the business probably doesn't command much of an economy of scale and Natural Wines are rarely cheap.

Here's their Spiel (including delightful spelling mistake);

259 Hackney Road is a little wine shop focusing on traditionally made French wine.
Sharing wine by small winegrowers and winemakers who we've met is really important to us; which is why we've decided to bring their wine to London.
Our selection may be small, but knowing our wines by heart is what matters most. Wether it's for vin de table (table wine) or vin de garde(wine that aged well), craftsmanship, terroir and tradition is what we offer.
Florian TONELLO & Milena BUCHOLZ

We found all kinds of treasures.

Firstly our all-time favourite Chardonnay, the one by Pierre Overnoy/Emanuel Houillon from Arbois Pupillin, Jura. This bottle is fairly priced given the difficulty in obtaining it and its fantastically aristocratic mien.

Also from the Jura, a wonderful Poulsard 'Les Gruyeres'

our first vin naturel Aligote

a cheap and dare we say somewhat too light Beaujolais Nouveau if such a thing is possible (a very delicious Beaujolais 'Tete de Cuvee' was better)

A Cot from the Loire

and our favourite Gringet from Savoie.

Maybe Hackney would be a good place for Green and Blue?

While all this was going on there was some rather sensational news from The Wine Pantry, the award winning English (and Welsh) wine specialist from Borough Market. They have opened a branch on the Grand Terrace of St. Pancras Station. The Grand Terrace is where the Searcy Champagne Bar is, so not actually on the level where the Eurostar check in and arrivals are.

In other words, the message has to get through to departing and passengers that the best present for anyone they are visiting in Brussels, Paris, Bourg St. Maurice etc. is to be found upstairs and not anywhere once they are through security and passport control. So get there an extra 10' early! Arriving passengers can make a detour too! Th Wine Pantry sell all kinds of things as well as wine by the way such as beers, ciders, spirits and teas.

We paid a visit as soon as we could - slightly too soon perhaps as things were not quite straight and there was no Gribble Bridge Dornfelder to be had (imagine!). For encouragement we left with Biddenden's Gamay.

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