Edinburgh wine merchant The Bon Vivant’s Companion has plenty of ideas for sparkling wines to grace the Christmas dinner table, as Peter Ranscombe finds out.
I PROMISE that I don’t have a favourite wine shop – but if I were to draw up a top ten then The Bon Vivant’s Companion tucked away on Thistle Street in Edinburgh would be somewhere on that list.
There’s always an interesting bottle or three on the shelves, and many an enjoyable evening has been spent at tastings in the shop’s cellar.
And why is it a “companion”? Because it’s next door to The Bon Vivant, an equally as exciting restaurant and wine bar.
The same group also owns Mexican cantena El Cartel across the road and The Devil’s Advocate bar and kitchen on Advocates Close across in the Old Town.
The latest additions to the chain are The Register Club on the fourth floor of the new Edinburgh Grand apartment-hotel on the city’s St Andrew Square and The Lady Libertine, soon to open on the ground floor – more of that to come.
And it was The Register Club that hosted last night’s sparkling wine tasting, when The Bon Vivant’s Companion and its suppliers unveiled some exciting ideas for fizz to serve over Christmas and Hogmanay.
There were two dozen bottles on offer last night and here’s my pick of the top seven…
Lallier Loridon Grand Cru Blanc de Blacn (£40, The Bon Vivant’s Companion)
The Champagne of the night, for me. Made using grapes from a single 1.4-hectare vineyard called Loriden, this fizz crackled with almond, vanilla and toasted brown bread aromas, which led into a rounded yet still fresh mouthfeel. Importer Only 4,000 bottles of this wine are produced each year, with importer Boutinot brings about 250 into the UK.
Billecart-Salmon Sous Bois (£60)
Champagne on a whole different plane. Fermented in barrels instead of stainless steel tanks and then aged for between six and seven years on its lees – the dead yeast left over from the second fermentation that adds the bubbles to the still wine – the result is aromas of honey, cream and vanilla, joined by flavours of brioche and toast, which don’t mask the peach and apricot notes.
Domaine Khur Cremant d’Alsace Sans Souffre (£22)
Not all bubbles from France are Champagne – sparkling wine made using the same method but in other regions is called cremant and some of my favourite examples come from Alsace. This particular bottle from Alliance Wine is made by a biodynamic and organic producer using no sulphur and has those tell-tale ripe red apple skin smells that I always get with organic fizz. Plenty of acidity, plus baked apple and brown sugar flavours for balance.
Elie Renardet-Fache Cerdon de Bugey 2016 (£22)
And not all French fizz is Cremant either – this pink fizz uses the “Méthode Ancestrale”, in which no extra yeast or sugar is added, relying instead on the sugar in the gamay and poulsard grapes and the natural yeast found on their skins. The result is light at only 7.5% alcohol-by-volume and spells and tastes like a blackberry and apple crumble. Hats off to importer Raeburn Fine Wines for finding such an interesting bottle – go gamay go!
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee (£33)
Away from France, my wine of the night was Nyetimber’s English sparkling wine from Justerini & Brooks, which was showing particularly well. A complex nose of red apple, lemon and lemon curd hinted at the apple crumble flavours on the palate, which was much rounder and even more balanced than I remember.
Ken Forrester Sparklehorse 2015 (£22)
Exploring South Africa’s Cap Classique sparkling wines was one of the many highlights of visiting the Cape Wine fair back in September, but somehow I missed these new bubbles from chenin blanc master Ken Forrester. Enotria & Co put that right last night and it turns out he not only produces outstanding still whites but he can turn his hand to sparkling wine too, with vanilla cream sandwiched between sweet biscuits on the nose and then stalky green apples and peaches and cream on the palate. Yum! Plus, who could fail to love a wine called “Sparklehorse”?
Bodega Ruca Malen Sparkling Brut (£23)
Like a peach melba in a glass, with a mix of sweet peach aromas on the nose and then ripe raspberry flavours on the palate. Made using the traditional method in Argentina by two Frenchmen from a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, this wine from supplier Corney & Barrow struck a great balance between its fresh acidity and rounded fruit flavours.