Popular Posts

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Cambridge Wine Merchants Wine Bar - and an Austrian Grüner Veltliner

I first went to the Cherry Hinton Road branch of Cambridge Wine Merchants on its opening day and met branch manager / former-almost-art-rock-star Steve Hovington who told me about his plans to add a tapas bar at the back of the shop.

I have been back a number of times - for Steve's book launch and tastings of aged Mosels and fino En Rama - but until the other week I had never made good on my promise to try out the wine bar itself.

However, the need to have a catch-up with a couple of friends who live in different parts of Cambridge gave me the opportunity I needed, so I dropped Steve an email and he reserved us a table and kindly arranged for the shop to stay open late if we needed.

Arriving early off the train from London after work, I was the first there and arranged a plate of meats and cheeses, with bread, oil for dipping and some olives.

As my friends happened to be the Chairman of the Cambridge Food and Wine Society and a WSET Diploma student who in her day job is the marketing director of a law firm, I was a little nervous about choosing an appropriately impressive wine for the scrutiny of two fellow enthusiasts and wondered about a Palo Cortado.

However, as the shop assistant-cum-waiter came over to ask about our choice, Steve the Chairman threw me a lifeline by mentioning my enthusiasm for Austrian wines and from there it was plain sailing as the waiter announced they had an Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Julie the Diploma Student readily agreed it would be a good choice.

The wine turned out to be a GV Terrassen from Domaene Wachau, one of my favourite producers from Austria and considered as one of the best co-ops anywhere in the world.

Austrian Riesling was my first white-wine love but in recent years I have come to appreciate GV just as much - I'm not sure whether it's the wine that has changed or my palate.

Our wine was a 2010 Federspiel - a mid-level Wachau classification blended from a number of vineyards built on terraces (hence Terrassen). 2010 was a cool vintage in the Wachau meaning that the wines are higher in acidity and benefit from a bit more bottle age.

Had I been drinking this wine at home, I probably would have decanted around half-an-hour before serving, but served straight from the bottle it showed a crystal clear purity, green apple and citrus fruit and a taut, rounded acidity which, with its medium body and minerally finish, made it a perfect match with our tapas-style food.

Over the course of the evening we talked road safety, exam technique and strategic marketing as the wine had the opportunity to open up. However, served as it was in an ice-bucket, it remained fresh and crisp with little of the characteristic GV lentils and white pepper apparent on the nose.

The decor of the bar is one of its strengths - all Cambridge Wine Merchants branches have a somewhat edgy look, but with painted bare-brick walls, beautifully arty black-and-white photos and wall-mounted chandeliers, it feels funky, quirky and effortlessly chic all at the same time.

The food, from nearby deli Bolzano was also excellent with three or four different types of salamis and cheeses all served at just the right temperature and in generous proportions.

On a mid-week night, I was not entirely surprised that we were the only ones in the bar but in many ways, it is the perfect venue for recessionary times - edgy yet simple with an emphasis on the quality of the food and wines with low overheads (mark-up on the wines is a flat £3.50 on top of shelf price) and perhaps the widest selection of wines anywhere in Cambridge.

And whilst the location is not central Cambridge, it is still handy for anyone visiting The Junction nearby or who is based in the Hills Road area whilst, if you have a designated driver, parking is much easier than in the centre, too.

Perhaps it's my age, but I can't help feeling that, if it lacks the buzz of a city centre bar, that just means you can actually hear the conversation and there is room to sit down and all-in-all perhaps that gives it the status of a "hidden gem".

At least one of our group booked a return visit within a week and it won't be too long before I'm back there for sure.

A plate of meat and cheese with bread, olives and a bottle of wine costs around £35 for three people.

Mark-up is a flat £3.50 on the shelf price of any wine in the shop.


Cambridge Wine Merchants - http://www.cambridgewine.com/
CWM Bar on Twitter - https://twitter.com/#!/CWMwinebar
Domaene Wachau - http://www.domaene-wachau.at/

No comments:

Post a Comment