jamie goode's wine blog: I visit terroirs wine bar

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I visit terroirs wine bar

Went last night to Terroirs, a new wine bar in London focusing on 'natural' wines, located just a few yards from Charing Cross station.

There's already a thriving natural wine bar scene in Paris, and it's about time it came to London, because these wines are authentic, interesting and affordable. Terroirs manages to do the difficult job of combining a nice ambience, good food and a stunning, fairly priced wine list – and I thoroughly recommend it.

What exactly are 'natural' wines? They're wines that honestly express their sense of place ('terroir'), which usually means that they are made by committed wine growers who add as little as possible to their wines and allow their vineyards (usually managed without reliance on synthetic chemicals) to express themselves to the full. Typically, this will mean fermentation without the addition of cultured yeasts, no new oak, no added acidity or tannin, and no added sulfur dioxide until bottling, if at all.

I met with Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrene who are partners in Terroirs and who supply around 90% of the wines. We ate at the bar, and enjoyed a number of wines with our food. The food was fantastic. The chacuterie plate had two excellent terrines, plus an awesome, melt-in-the-mouth jambon iberico, as well as a smooth, delicate salami.

We then shared potted shrimp on toast, bone marrow and truffle on toast, grilled eel, and belly pork with beans. All were superb.

What about the wines? I let Doug choose, and he chose well.

Domaine des Foulards Rouge Cuvee Octobre [2008] Vin de Table
A young wine from the Roussillon, this is amazingly fresh and bright, with sweet, pure, sappy cherry and berry fruit. Vibrant and joyful this is superbly drinkable with lovely purity and freshness. 89/100 (£6 glass; £23.50 bottle)

Philippe Valette Macon-Chaintre 2005 Burgundy, France
Lovely concentration and intensity here, with beautiful balance between the rich bold fruit and smoky, spicy minerality/ A tiny hint of oxidation adds richness. Complex rich, toasty and intense with lovely boldness and intensity. 92/100 (£8.50 glass/£33.75 bottle)

Massia Vecchia Bianco 2006 Maremma, Toscano, Italy
65% Vermentino, with some skin maceration. Orange coloured, this has lovely aromatics: fresh, lifted floral notes with lemons, herby notes and a hint of sweetness. The palate has some lovely spiciness with herb and mineral notes. Quite beautiful, and almost like a red wine in terms of its structure. 94/100 (£48 bottle)

Carso Zidarich ‘Teran’ 2005 Friuli, Italy
This is a varietal Teran/Terrano (a special sort of Refosco). It’s powerful, minerally and super-fresh with notes of gravel and citrus. Lovely fruit purity, with black cherry, plum and raspberry. Vivid, intense and delicious. A sappy, grippy character keeps it fresh. 91/100 (£38.50 bottle)

Clos Lapeyre Jurançon ‘Magendia’ 2005
100% Petit Manseng, late harvested. Savoury, herby and pithy with intense citrussy fruit and lovely complexity. Richly textured and quite pure, with nice acidity. 92/100 (£6.50 glass)

We then finished off with some weird stuff.

Massa Vecchia ‘Aliatico’ is a red Muscat variant, and its wild, sweet and volatile with musky, herby, grapey fruit and a blast of vinegar. Sounds weird but it’s lovely. And three from Maison Laurent Cazottes:

First, an Aperitif aux Noix Verts. This is weird: it’s spicy, earthy and nutty with notes of cinnamon and curry spice, as well as sweetness on the palate. It’s actually walnuts seeped in wine. Second, an eaux de vie made of Poire William, which is pure and delicious. Third, an eaux de vie made from greengages (Reine Claude Doree), which is weird and delicious.

Summary? Terroirs is a great addition to the London gastronomic scene, and is a must visit for open-minded wine lovers.

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At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

While I heartily welcome this, I'm not sure I am personally prepared to spend the money it entails (perhaps OK for a glass or two).

For example, the Zidarich wine (Which Plamen of Zelas sent me a bottle of) is not cheap, but is certainly very strange and something of an acquired taste!

In this time of credit crunches and wotnot, are natural wines too expensive?

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Hi Alex,

There are 25 wines under £20 and nearly 70 in total under £30, so hopefully not too bad value for the West End! Cash mark ups on the top end wines of £20 per bottle will make those expensive wines more accessible.

Some natural wines are expensive and some are not. They are not necessarily obscure and they are certainly delicious and surprisingly easy to drink (although some, admittedly, are an acquired taste).

At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Simon Ellis said...

It's great to see a sensible policy on mark-ups. Hopefully this is catching on more widely in London - it seems to have worked with great success at The Frontline Club in Paddington station.

I like your descriptions of the wines you tried. This could be a workable pre-theatre destination, methinks.

At 12:06 AM, Blogger Martin said...

Interesting - wine with no sulfur/yeast etc and yet they serve preserved meat full of SO2 and various chemicals and bread (made with naturally occuring yeast - as if). I love the ongoing tasting notes for natural wines on various sites - seems to be the same wild yeast derived earth/ toast/ mushroom/ aldehyde characters all over the world - true regionality seems to not matter in the vast majority, as long as we smell the yeast who cares about the fruit.
Can someone please explain how it is possible to offer a 'natural' sparkling wine? Or should we just turn a blind eye to the 2nd ferment yeast and sugar addition? Or perhaps a slat cultured yeast is different from a dry culture?

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Colin said...

I visited last night. It was busy and buzzing. I enjoyed a glass of Montlouis (how many wine bars can you get THAT in) before a southern French red whose provenance escapes me right now. The Bourgeuil I wanted wasn't available.

It's an unusual location. I'm not sure they will see much passing trade but, for those in the know, it's ideally located for theatres, Soho and the train home from Charing Cross.

At 2:21 PM, Anonymous brian said...

It was postively heaving when I visited this week. Whilst the staff were run off their feet, there's much to enjoy here. I struggle to name all the wines tried, but I remember a bottle of Albarino and some Cahors standing out in patricular. I hope they do something interesting with the downstairs (not open yet).

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

I work in Rioja and we made a natural wine this year, 2008 Mazuelo (Carignan) with just 30ppm SO2, Beautiful voluptious fruit, made me wonder why we don't do more of it.

At 2:30 PM, Blogger Becky McKevitt said...

What a great place. A passionate and knowledgeable bar, kitchen and management - how rare! Loving the wine list and the polenta with chanterelles!

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Scott K. said...

I visited this week and was enchanted by the place. There's a great ambience and the service is exceptional. A contender for the best wine bar in the capital.


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