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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Nutbourne Vineyards, Sussex, England

I was looking for somewhere to take my Grandfather on a May afternoon, and I could not resist making it a vineyard. I knew very little about Nutbourne Vineyards before visiting but it transpired to be a gorgeous spot on the South Downs.  The wines are not to be scoffed at either with Nutbourne producing a full range of wines from English sparkling to a still Pinot Noir. The quality of English sparkling wine seems to rise year on year and Nutbourne were among seven UK producers receiving Gold Medals at this years IWSC competition.

Nutbourne Vineyards was founded in 1980, with a new modern winery completed in 2010. The wine is currently made by ex-Chapel Down winemaker Owen Elias, who has a host of awards in his name, including quite a few whilst at Nutbourne.  The wine shop and tasting room are based around a disused mill with covered seating and the opportunity to walk between the vines. The member of staff that served us was courteous and knowledgeable making the visit a very enjoyable afternoon. Nutbourne Vineyards also provide guided tours/tastings of the vineyards and winery with prior reservations for a cost of £15.

Wines Tasted: Nutty Brut 2013, Sussex Reserve 2014, Bacchus 2013/2014, Chardonnay 2013, Hedgerow 2013, Nutty “Wild” N.V., Pinot Noir 2014

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The range of wines at Nutbourne – the illustrations on the labels are gorgeous.

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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.

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.

Meerlust Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Prior to visiting South Africa I had already tasted Meerlust Rubicon, and this wine helped set the yardstick to judge against. The visit to Meerlust came towards the end of the trip so I felt a certain trepidation for how the wines of the estate matched both expectation and memory.

Wine has been grown on this estate to the south of Stellenbosch since 1756. The estate has been recognised as a national monument since 1987, although we did not stop long enough to see more than the tasting room. Meerlust has been long recognized as one of South Africa’s top estates. The range at Meerlust is simple: 4 varietals (1 white and 3 red) and the flagship Rubicon (a Bordeaux blend). Here in the UK I have also seen an entry level Meerlust red although this was not available for tasting.

We travelled to Meerlust Estate from False Bay having followed the stunning R44 along the coast around the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. False Bay is still visible from the turning into the estate and this proximity to the sea is key to the wines. A sea breeze and mist keep the vineyard temperatures in check through the summer permitting a longer ripening season. This translates into a great intensity and permits elegance in the wines.

The tasting room and shop are in one of the estates historic buildings and are accompanied by an exhibition of photography and articles about the cape and the estate.

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 09h00 – 17h00, Saturdays 10h00 – 14h00.

Tasting fee: R30 per person refundable on purchase of wine.

Stockists in UK: The wines of Meerlust are relatively easily found in the UK.  The price disparity across the range is less here than in South Africa and so Rubicon is relatively more keenly priced.  I have included a link for each wine as some are slightly tricky to find.

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Wines Tasted: Meerlust Chardonnay 2014, Meerlust Pinot Noir 2015, Meerlest Merlot 2013, Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Meerlust Rubicon 2012

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