Vincent – Our French Restaurant Manager and Sommelier Gets Dewy Eyed and Romantic About Sancerre!

Colette, the famous French writer states in her “Earliest wine memories” :
The vines and the wine it produces are two great mysteries. Alone in the vegetable kingdom, the vine makes the true savour of the earth intelligible to man. With what fidelity it makes the translation! It senses, then expresses, in its clusters of fruits the secrets of the soil. The flint, through the vine, tells us that it is living, fusible, a giver of nourishment. Only in wine does the ungrateful chalk pour out its tears…
This month we’re going to discover “La vigne blanche” an outstanding Sancerre by the Bourgeois family
La Vigne Blanche. Sancerre. Domaine Henri Bourgeois 
Henri Bourgeois family 
An acclaimed producer whose wines exhibit the complexity of the terroir of Chavignol, being chalky with a touch of gunflint, initially steely, then ripening in the mouth with a broad array of flavours and wonderful length.
Since the eleventh century noblemen would try to outbid each other just to possess a small parcel of this prized land.
La Vigne Blanche comes from vines grown on slopes separating the village of Chavignol from Sancerre, the terroir being an amalgam of clay and limestone chalk. Oak aged in the barrel for five months on the fine lees, La Vigne Blanche is vinous with herbaceous notes of elderflower and ivy as well as a hint of kiwi fruit.
All the wines are sublime with cheese.
The oak and the Bourgeois family 
Once upon a time, O best beloved, a great oak was planted in what would become the National Forest of Saint-Palais near Bourges. As the centuries passed it grew bigger and stronger and one day became the eldest and most majestic of a line of great oaks that were used to build the frame of the Saint Etienne cathedral in Bourges. Located at the crossroads of telluric forces (yes, this was a feng shui oak tree), legend has it that Sully, King Charles V and Agnès Sorel came to rest at the foot of this great oak and many others since used it as a place of assignation. But in 1993 a violent storm struck down the 433 year-old tree. In the subsequent auction the Bourgeois family outbid interested buyers from around the world to preserve this piece of local culture and to renew it by crafting it into barrels in which they placed the fruit of their most cherished Sauvignon and Pinot vines. As you wipe away a misty tear know that the wines are magnificent, liquid testaments to the vessel in which they have been aged.


This month we’re going to discover one of the gems of that wine list. Arretxea from the Irouleguy Appelation Controlee. Located in the French part of the basque country, that very old vineyard link with the rich history of the Basque people.

It’s also particular because the grape Tannat which doesn’t exist anywhere else. (except in Uruguay but the basque took it there in the first place).
40 years ago at the start of the renaissance of the Irouleguy vineyard, that wine was extremely rustic and of a quality completely different of the actual wine. Awarded in many competition, they always totally surprise people in blind tastings.

The history of wine-making in the area goes back to at least the 3rd century when the Romans commented on wine-making in the area. It was boosted by monks of the Abbey of Roncesvalles in the 11th century who planted the first large scale vineyards to provide wine for pilgrims travelling along the Way of St James. Following the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, the monks had to give up wine-making and the vineyards which were taken over by the local villagers.
The region was hit hard by the great French wine blight of 1912 and a period of decline.
A cooperative was formed in 1952 under the lead of Alexander Bergouignan to rescue the rsituation and to work towards certification. The wines of Baigorri, Anhauze and Irouléguy were awarded VDQS certification in 1953 and Irouléguy was granted AOC status in October 1970. Today, some 210ha of land are cultivated again in the area.
The vineyards are often located on extremely steep slopes with inclines of up to 60°. This has led to the development of special growing and terracing techniques by Basque wine-growers to enable the cultivation of vines on these slopes.
Red grape varieties include Bordelesa Beltza (Tannat), Axeria (Cabernet Franc) and Axeria Handia (Cabernet Sauvignon), while white wines are made from Xuri Zerratia (Courbu), Izkiriota Ttipia (Petit Manseng) and Izkiriota (Gros Manseng)
They are cultivated on terraces between 100-400m above sea-level and although the soils vary, one of the chief characteristics of the soils in the region is a deep red coloration. This fact is mirrored in the name of the nearby town of Baigorri which is a contraction of bailara gorri “red terrace”.
Arretxea (from the Basque arre meaning stone and xea house) is a small six-hectare domaine entirely planted on south-facing terraces. Michel and Thérèse practise sustainable viticulture throughout their vineyard & use biodynamics in particular on the plot where they grow white grapes.
As for the Tannat-rich reds 4-5 week macerations, repeated pigeages and long elevage in oak with lees-stirring make for strong yet
harmonious wines. The ripeness of the grapes emerges in crystallised black fruit scents & a full palate perfectly structured by tasty tannins.

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Our Summer Cocktail – Izatonic

Ben Tunniclife is going to be the first one to launch a fantastic cocktail, Izatonic.

Made from the basque liquor Izarra this cocktail is getting more popular by the day ina lot of very trendy places in London;

Created in the Basque country in 1904 by Joseph Grattau, the liquor was originally produced in Bayonne. in the 80’s it was bought by Remy Cointreau . In 2015 Roland Giscard d’Estaing (nephew of the former French President)buy Izarra from Cointreau through his UK based company Spirited Brands.

Roland says :
“ Izarra is the Basque “star” that protects and guides us.

It was and remains one of the major symbols of the Basque Country that shines throughout the region, in France and around the world. Izarra is one of the Basque Country’s greatest ambassadors that has given a certain vision of the region for more than a century.

Marketed in the Americas in the 1910s and in 72 countries from 1970, Izarra has always promoted the Basque culture of its times. Exporting the image of the Basque Coast, Basque sports and Basque cultural traditions, Izarra now seeks to promote a way of discovering the elegance, beauty and vitality of the Basque Country through its landscapes and all those who defend its contemporary elegance. “

About Izatonic:

Izatonic is a perfectly balanced cocktail with a mix of acidity, bitterness and sweetness.

Created in 2017 in Les Aldudes (Basque Country) during a MasterClass gathering top local barmen and mixologits.

Izarra then created an environment ,a special recipe and a way to serve and present the newly created cocktail, including a new taylor-made glass.

Perfect alternative to G&T, Izatonic is a nicer floral version of it. The other interest , and danger, is that by the second glass you will be seriously in love with it…

A Little Known Classic from our Spring Summer Wine List – One of Vincent’s Favourites

Exploring our new wine list why not start by our top red wine , the one in the bottom of the list: Chateau Musar from Lebanon.

We’ll leave the tasting notes for once (we’ll explore them later) to concentrate on the history of the Musar venture betwen french influence and Lebanon wars.

The winery was established by Gaston Hochar in 1930 after returning from Bordeaux.

The current proprietors are the sons, Ronald and Serge Hochar, the latter managing the estate since 1959, with Ronald Hochar assuming marketing and finance department responsibilities since 1962.

In 1959, Serge Hochar becomes Chateau Musar winemaker, while completing his winemaking studies at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux, under the tutorage of Jean Riberau and Emile Peynaud

The international discovery of Musar took place at the Bristol Wine Fair of 1979 when auctioneer and taster Michael Broadbent and journalist Roger Voss selected Musar 1967 as the “discovery of the Fair”.

Despite war in Lebanon and frequent tension, with the exception of the 1976 vintage (1984 was made, despite difficulties in transporting the grapes to the winery. It has not yet been released commercially), wine has been produced at the Château every year, with employees sometimes working under high-risk conditions. The 1992 red Château Musar production was declassified due to a weak vintage.

Though comparisons are sometimes made with Bordeaux wine, Burgundy wine or Rhône wine, it is most frequently maintained that the wine of Musar is unique.


Wine Blog – Our New Wine List 2017

Summer is just around the corner so it is time for our experienced team to release a new wine list selected just for you.

The team bring to you the best from around the world, including possibly one of the best in fizz from right here in the UK. Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, a lovely pale and gentle wine with fine bubbles which pairs perfectly with our fish and chips.

Come and join us, where there is good food there is good wine. Our variety of wines are available which have all been carefully selected to perfectly compliment the food.

See our full wine list here.