This moth’s blog is by Richard Bracken who works for local wine merchant Grapevine. It’s a role he’s new to, having worked at Askham Hall and the George and Dragon Clifton over the past 5 years. Richard’s passion for wine developed whilst at Askham Hall where he was fortunate to be plucked by Nico Chieze to be his assistant, which entailed drawing from his vast knowledge. Nico encouraged him to take exams with the Court of Master Sommeliers and Wine and Spirits Education Trust, being tutored along the way by a number of Masters of Wine, as well as helping him reach the Regional Finals in the UK Sommelier of the Year competition. He also undertook a number of trips to work voluntarily in some of the top restaurants in London and had the chance to help in the 2016 vintage at some fantastic Chateaux in Bordeaux. His thirst for knowledge has certainly not been quenched and he has every ambition to reach the highest echelons of qualifications within wine.
“First things first it’s an absolute pleasure to be writing this blog post for the guys at 1863. It’s a restaurant and team that is so enjoyable to work with as a wine merchant and, as I’m about to explain, we’ve had some real fun with their new and improved wine list!”
“Wine is a subject for everybody but is often overlooked as pretentious and scary, with guests having no idea which direction to take on a wine list. Yes there’s a tasting note, but if you haven’t actually tried that wine before is it worth taking the gamble on trying something different? Far too often we fall into that trap of sticking with our New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or our Argentinian Malbec. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these wines but in my opinion part of going out to enjoy a fantastic dinner is to experience new flavours and ideas – with food AND wine.”
“In a recent previous life, I was a Sommelier. My job was to look after a 600 bottle wine list and to help guide guests through it. Nothing gave me more pleasure than being able to recommend wines that were interesting and unique and take guests out of their comfort zone. I’m hoping to bring this experience to help restaurants like 1863 have a diverse selection of world class wines on their list for you to discover and enjoy. Below are a few bottles of killer juice that have made their way to Pooley Bridge!”
“The Susanna Balbo ‘White Blend’ from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina, is a real stunner and made by one of the leading female winemakers in the world. It’s a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon which is the primary blend of grapes in white Bordeaux’s. What gives this wine an interesting twist however, is the addition of Torrontes into the blend. This is Argentina’s national grape that you’ve probably never heard of and is a rich, floral and spicy characteristic which works well with the freshness and acidity of the Sauvignon Blanc. There’s also a struck match character from a little bit of oak ageing which gives another layer of complexity. It’s a real stunner and I know it’s a wine that’s stolen the hearts of everyone that’s tried it!”
“We’ve also added a fantastic Vinho Verde to the list, much to Nuno’s delight! Vinho Verde is a region in the very North of Portugal and produces wines that are light, fresh and zesty. This example, from Quinta de Raza, is a blend of Arinto and Azal which bring flavours of lemon zest and grapefruit. It’s great enjoyed on its own as an aperitif or with light and fresh fish dishes. If you have the chance to try it, notice the slight spritz. That’s due to the wine being bottled when it’s fresh and young which traps the CO2, creating a real sensation in the mouth.
At the opposite end of Portugal, we’ve brought in a wonderfully rich and succulent red called Euphoria from the Algarve – a fitting name! it’s a blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Sousao that spend 9 months in used French oak. This brings a touch of toasty spice to a wine packed to the brim with plummy, berry fruit. It’s absolutely crying out for a great piece of Cumbrian Venison or a rich beef dish.”
“You might spot Sir Richard Branson tucking into Phil’s food when he hears his wine is on the list. Believe it or not he owns a vineyard in the Franschoek Valley, South Africa, called Mont Rochelle and uses the talents of a brilliant and pioneering English wine making team to produce wines of top, top quality. The Little Rock cuvee is blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with dollops of Mourvèdre and Petit Verdot – Bordeaux meets South of France if you will. It’s bursting with cranberries and raspberries with a lovely supple texture, as well as South Africa’s trademark smokiness. If it’s good enough for Sir Richard, it’s good enough for me.
There’s plenty more than the above on offer, but I suppose you’ll just have to head for a meal and find out for yourselves! Have a chat to Mark, Anne and Nuno who will pass on their passion for these fantastic wines and help guide you towards something new and interesting. After all, great food deserves great wine.”