The Boot and Flogger, London, UK

I like the ambiance of a traditional British pub as much as the next guy but the aromas and taste of stale beer are not so convincing. If only there was a place of tradition that replaced the ageing taps and casks with a wine cellar…

Oh wait – that would be the Boot and Flogger.

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Traditional pub on the outside; a temple to wine on the inside.

The Boot and Flogger lies 5 minutes from London Bridge station and the bustling Borough Market. Opened in 1964 by wine merchant John Davy this establishment claims to be the first real wine bar in London. It has the feel of a traditional city pub (in the best sense) albeit with a more upmarket clientele. Wine by the glass, by the bottle and a pretty impressive and fairly priced fine wine list is enough that John Davy’s wine bar deserves our attention. I have been here a few times now but never with a fellow wine aficionado so am yet to sample the wine by the bottle and the prices on the fine wine list are really rather fair.

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When I finally come with a fellow wine enthusiast I will be trying at least one of these.

It appears The Boot and Flogger also serves food, although I am unable to pass comment on either food or menu. There is plenty of wine paraphernalia inside, with some great maps, menus, and classic bottles – I get the impression John Davy really enjoys his wine. There is also a covered outside terrace, presumably suited to smoking the Cuban cigars sold at the bar. A decanter of vintage port (again very fairly priced) and a summer evening is starting to sound just the ticket.

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Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaine Simonin, Cuvée des Roches, Burgundy, 2013.

Given that this is white Burgundy I am assuming this is 100% Chardonnay. This was available by the glass on the specials board for around £6 – a fair price for central London.

This wine presents as dried citrus  on the nose- think more lemon peel than zesty and fresh. On the palate the wine is fully dry with a high acidity and an earthy quality progressing into nuttiness and butter from the mid palate without becoming satisfyingly rich. The mouthfeel was waxy, rather than buttery and there was a bitter note on the late palate, which at a push I could call minerality. You can really feel the acid on this and I think it falls just a bit flat rather than being tightly wound.

Impression: For all the above this remains an enjoyable wine.  It is fairly priced, refreshing and interesting enough to whet the appetite before moving on to bigger and better things from the fine wine list.

Score: 86pts (DT)

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Conclusions: All in all a pretty unique spot in central London with reasonable prices and a bit of history. Come with a fellow wine lover to make the most out your trip and sample the fine wine list. From Davy’s website it looks like the run a host of bars across the city  – let us know in the comments section where else is worth a visit.
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Côte de Beaune Burgundy

Burgundy is best known for two major grape varieties – Chardonnay, responsible for the white wines, and Pinot Noir for the reds. Burgundy is divided into a patchwork of appellations, some making white wine, some making red and some split between the two. The wines tasted below are both from the Côte de Beaune (towards the south of Burgundy) and are both made from the less characteristic grape variety in their respective appellations.

Savigny-lès-Beaune is located South of Corton hill, and north of the village of Beaune. This is an appellation I identify with pretty, elegant red wines, and the appellation produces approximately 85% Pinot Noir.  When I saw a white Savigny-lès-Beaune reduced to £6 as a bin end wine at Gauntleys I took the plunge, despite my fear that the wine may now be beginning to tire.  At this price point although the wine is fading it is hard to go wrong.

Chassagne-Montrachet is  famed for its proximity to the Grand Cru vineyard Le Montrachet, home to some of the greatest Chardonnay in the world.  Whilst Le Montrachet produces only white wine, Chassagne-Montrachet produces approximately two thirds white wine, and one third red.  Whilst I have been tasted white wines from the appellation this was my first opportunity tasting the Pinot Noir and it sure did impress.

Savigny.jpgJean Michel Giboulet, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Burgundy 2004.

The colour of this wine has a gorgeous golden hue and is clear with tartrate crystal deposits in the bottle. This is a dry wine and the fruit has faded substantially.  The Nose is muted with echoes of Chardonnay and some richer nutty aromas. This has high acidity and a long reasonably intense mineral finish. There is not really much fruit found on the palate either although there is a note of stonefruit kernels. I think this would be better 5 years ago but it works as a wine for food and a dry digestif/aperitif. What has not faded are the minerality and precision on the finish which set this apart from the younger, lesser wines.

Conclusion: For the price I’d still take this fading bottle over cheap over-oaked new world stuff especially to accompany food.

Score: 85-86/100 as it is- but it’s faded so not really a fair test.

ChassagneMontrachet.jpgBachey Legros, Les Plantes Momières Vieilles Vignes, Chassagne-Montrachet, Burgundy 2009

This wine was served over dinner, and had been bought back from a trip to Burgundy. From some research online it appears that the vineyard is situated below the  “Abbaye de Morgeot” Premier Cru, and the plot of Pinot Noir vines used for this wine were planted back in 1946. The age of the vines, quality of the site and careful vinification have made the best of low yields to produce a high intensity of flavour, rich tannins, and a pure expression of the terroir.

This wine was superb. Ruby in colour and throwing a thick sediment. Aromas of stewed raspberry dominate the nose with the slightest vegetal nuance suggesting bell pepper. The palate is dry and showed cherry and raspberry on the palate with capsicum underlying. This leads to a spicy finish with salinity and minerality giving length and persistence. The wine has moderate (+) silky tannins leaving the mouth dry whilst high acidity gives focus. There was a slight green nature to this evoking grape pips/stalks which I found pleasing.

This is a powerful wine yet it is most definitely feminine in nature. I felt this wine was not so far from the Grand Cru Chambertin I recently reviewed but on a shorter evolution with less weight and intensity.

Day 2: By now this wine was tasting boozy and rich with the tannin continuing to give structure. The aromas were intensifying and starting to get almost animalistic in nature with increasing complexity verses the more fruit driven presentation on day 1.

Conclusion: This really is a top drawer wine.  I wish I was successful enough in choosing Burgundy that I got hold of wines like this – I feel a trip to Burgundy is in order.

As I wrote in my notebook at the time (after a few glasses I hasten to add):  “Rather bloody superb.”

Score: 93/100

Learning Point: Red Chassagne-Montrachet may not be as famed as it’s white siblings but is well worth seeking out a good example.

German Pinot Noir and Grand Cru Chambertin

Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape to grow and low yields result in high prices. This grape is responsible for my both my best and worst wine experiences.  The best Pinot Noir is always perfumed and may combine this with intensity, elegance or even a beguiling ethereal nature.  At its worst the wines become thin and acidic. It is a grape that adapts phenomenally to terroir.  The patchwork appellation system of Burgundy is an attempt to categorise the myriad expressions of this noble grape.

The Grand Crus of Burgundy hold a hallowed place in the world of wine, but that is not to say they are alone as the top expressions of the grape. Indeed given the cost most of us will need to look elsewhere for anything but the most special of occasions.  The German wine from Stepp below would not be a bad place to start and the new world is also beginning to find its feet.

The below wines were tasted at The Sampler during my recent visit.  I have only minimal exposure to both German Pinot Noir and Grand Cru Burgundy so this was quite a treat. Check out the main article for a review of The Sampler.

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Stepp Pinot Noir, Pfalz, Germany, 2014:

No formal notes on this one but this is a producer I have been very impressed with over the past couple of years.  This was my first chance to taste the Pinot Noir and given it costs around £15 this is top flight for the price point .  I found this savoury, tasty and well balanced with a lot more complexity than I would expect at this point. I will be buying again soon. Bravo.

Leflaive & Associe, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2011:

I think this was probably too young to really get into.  It had an intensity but seemed somewhat closed.  Strangely this also had a strong note of capsicum running through both nose and palate, overlying rich fruit and good structure.  Medium body and tannin, warming rich and well balanced. At the moment I am unsure where this one is going but it has potential and is an interesting semi savoury, semi sweet expression of Pinot Noir.  Hopefully time will pull all the elements together.

Domaine Rossignol-Trapet, Chambertin Grand Cru, Burgundy, 2011:

Aromatic, sensuous, deliciously rich red fruit. In contrast to the wine above this was 100% together. The body was medium and the balance impeccable. Given this is so young I dread to think how good this can become with time. They talk about Bordeaux being cerebral and Burgundy being well, something else. My lack of tasting note says it all – this had us all with smiles from ear to ear: Simply Marvellous.

Chardonnay @ The Sampler

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I think we tasted pretty much all of the Chardonnay on offer.  It is great to be able to move through the different styles in a short period of time without breaking the bank.  For the old world wines we started off with the Chablis, moved up in weight to the Cote De Beaune and then on to the Puligny-Montrachet and Mersault. For me the Gaelle et Jerome Meunier Puligny-Montrachet 2012 was the star of the show with a classic burgundian nose and elegant well integrated oak.  Plenty of citrus on the palate, good acidity, a long finish and great balance  rounded off this wine.  The Sylvian Dussort Vielles Vignes Mersault 2013 was a different beast, more muted on the nose, less prominant oak, but a brilliant mouth feel and minerality that carried it to equally resounding heights. Unfortunately I struggle to remember much of the new world wines but I think this was purely the result of tasting them after the superb Burgundy that went before.

Wines tasted at The Sampler.  Please check out the main review on The Sampler for more information.