Do you ever stand in the wine aisle at the supermarket, gazing blankly at a huge array of bottles that look exactly the same, and worry that you’re going to pick the wrong one – the one that will tell everyone at the party you picked it based on the price and know absolutely nothing about wine? If so, you need to get out of Waitrose and down to Wolf Wine, a little shop tucked away in Green Park Station that’s crammed full of interesting and unusual booze.
Owner Sam gets his love of wine from his Mediterranean roots, and is emphatic that choosing and drinking wine should be relaxed and fun – something you don’t always get from intimidating wine experts with their highly-skilled noses and baffling vocabulary. Sound good? For the perfect introduction to the Wolf Wine ethos, check out Wolf Wine Wednesdays at The Dark Horse, a chilled-out wine tasting where Sam chats about some of his favourite wines from the past month.
This week we did just that. Hidden away under the well-worn paving stones of sunny Kingsmead Square, The Dark Horse is a gorgeously gloomy, moody space full of intriguing little details, soft candlelight and a seriously sensational cocktail menu. Blackbird is a small private bar off the main lounge, where all sorts of brilliant regular events are held (find out more on The Dark Horse website), so we tucked ourselves away in there with The Dark Horse’s fabulous cheeseboards and six of Sam’s favourite wines.
|The Dark Horse lives up to its name, making it impossible to take photos which aren’t dramatic and moody|
We started with an orange wine, something I’d never tried before. Don’t let the name confuse you, it doesn’t have anything to do with citrus fruits – it’s essentially a white wine, but unlike most whites, it’s made with the skins as well as the flesh of the grapes, leading to a deeper colour (hence ‘orange’ wine) and more tannins. It’s a process often associated with natural winemaking, which means the results can be pretty variable, and in fact the wine we tried, Eschenhof Holzer Invaders, wasn’t really meant to be an orange wine – but the happy accident of leaving the skins on the grapes during fermentation created something unexpectedly fabulous. It had the most incredible tropical perfume, whilst the flavour was much less ripe, full of greener fruits.
For the rest of the tasting, we moved on to reds. Our second bottle was French, Jules 2015 from Domain Balliccioni, using the Aramon variety which is exclusive to the region. The winery only makes a few thousand bottles at a time, using strict biodynamic methods. I’d heard this term bandied about but had no idea what it actually meant – it’s sometimes described as taking organic farming to a new, ‘spiritual’ level, based on astronomical configurations and other slightly hippy considerations… some winemakers dismiss it, others swear by it, but all I can say is that in this case, it made for a lovely light red, perfect with the smoked cheddar on our cheeseboard.
Wine number three was Raisins Gaulois 2016, from Domaine La Pierre in the heart of the Beaujolais region. This was one of my favourites, with the nose and the flavours making me think of black fruits, but nothing too dark – fat juicy blackberries (tangy but also a little sweet) and vanilla. The winery makes sure to pick the grapes as late as possible to ensure the fruit is gorgeously ripe, creating those big lush flavours.
Our fourth wine, Pas d’Histoires, translates as ‘no worries’ and was created as an easy-drinking wine from a blend of Carignan and Syrah grapes. I have to admit this one was a bit too much for me to consider it particularly easy-drinking – more blackcurrants than blackberries, it was a little too intense and sharp. I was pleased to move on to wine number five, which Sam admitted might well be his favourite – it was certainly mine.
|My favourite tipple of the night|
From American winemakers Evolution, Big Time Red is a complex blend of different grape varieties, which gives it a gorgeously floral nose and a lush, fruity flavour with raspberries, cranberries and watermelon. Oregon sunshine makes this a little sweeter than most European reds, giving it a hint of brown sugar, so not everyone at the tasting was keen on it, but I loved this one.
To finish, we tried Talento by Ego, a Spanish wine made with the native Monastrell grape which has adapted perfectly to conditions in the region, which would be too warm for most grapes. The flavour was initially sharp, making me think of redcurrants, but quickly became softer and sweeter, bringing to mind peppers and strawberries. This was another lovely one, but couldn’t dethrone the Big Time Red as my ultimate favourite from the evening.
For anyone who loves drinking wine, and wants to discover more interesting varieties and flavours in a lovely relaxed setting, I’d highly recommend Wolf Wine Wednesdays at The Dark Horse – the tastings take place on every second Wednesday of the month, with new and different wines to try each time, and tickets will set you back just £25, which is a bit of a bargain for six glasses of wine and a fantastic cheeseboard. Combined with the gorgeous setting and atmosphere of The Dark Horse, it’s a perfect night out.