Natural wines with Doug at Brawn

Had a tremendous evening last night with Doug Wregg at Brawn, out in the wilds of E2 (near Bethnal Green and Hoxton).

It was my first visit to Brawn, which, like Terroirs, is backed by Les Caves de Pyrene, importers of interesting terroir-driven and natural wines. The setting is informal, and the food is based around small plates. The wine list, supplied by Les Caves, is just beautiful.

It’s also incredibly popular. On this Monday evening, the place was heaving by 8 pm, and quite a few of the tables were turned (their rate for turning tables is around 30%).

We had four wines, and more dishes than we really should have. All were excellent. The first wine I Vigneri Vinujancu 2009 Sicily is made by Salvo Foti, who also makes the wines for Benanti. No sulfur is added, and it’s made from Riesling (50%) with Carricante, Grecanico and Minella. Made in a slightly oxidative style, it’s the palate that thrills with lively, piercing citrus fruit and amazing acidity. There’s also some tannic structure. First food plate came: evilly good pork crackling.

Some more wine. A decanter of orange-coloured liquid: the thrilling Panevino ‘Alvas’ Bianco 2008 Isofa dei Nurughi, Sardinia. This hits the spot, with lovely apricot and peach fruit, kept honest with firm tannic grip. Fantastic complexity, but really accessible. More food came: some asparagus, a brandade gratin (salt cod, with lots of garlic), and sensational Proscuitto di Parma.

The first red we tackled was new to me. Julien Guillot Macon Cruzille ‘Manganite’ 2009 is made from 100 year old Gamay vines in a 2000 year old vineyard, with no added sulfur dioxide. This is Gamay with intent, purpose, elegance and structure, and plenty of textured cherry fruit.

Then something quite rare. Dard & Ribo’s Hermitage 2009. This is just a baby, from a ripe vintage, and is sweetly fruited and almost lush. Supple and easy to drink, with real sophistication. I reckon a few years in the bottle will bring some edges to frame this lovely fruit.

The neighbouring table was beginning to look curiously at us. So many wines. Note taking. More plates arriving. Baudin Noir, fried duck egg and broad beans impressed. So did squid in aoili with chickpeas. The neighbours cracked: ‘Excuse me, are you food critics?’ they asked.

I can’t wait to return to Brawn. With its rapidly changing menu, it’s the sort of place you could visit weekly and not be bored.

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