On the table: Bright

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The dining room at Bright. Photograph: Andy Leitch for Eater London

As the team behind P Franco open up their first proper restaurant, Bright, Sophie Thorpe settles in for a long lunch – finding food that is both fun and finessed

The scene at Bright on a Saturday lunchtime tells you a lot about the restaurant. A group of young parents have put the prams to one side, set up iPads for the kids and laid out their vertical tasting of Overnoy – possibly the cult name of the Jura, whose un-sulphured low-intervention wines have gone from off-beat trendy to uber-collectible. The tone (and table) was set.

It’s not surprising that this establishment is already a mecca for the natural wine cohort. Bright is the new restaurant from the team behind Noble Fine Liquor and P. Franco – an east London hotspot which has become known for the quality of guest chefs taking a turn on its induction hobs to create neat, inventive menus that partner its shelves of natural wine.

You may have a sense of déjà-vu arriving at Bright. It is perched at the foot of Netil House in London Fields – a spot which, until early March, was occupied by Michelin-starred Ellory (who in turn have de-camped to Shoreditch, opening a new restaurant, Leroy… and so the merry-go-round goes on).

Some might have seen it as a challenge stepping into Ellory’s long and award-winning shadow, but not so for Chef William Gleave (who became legendary after his P. Franco takeover in 2015-16) and is heading up the kitchen. Bright is shining unashamedly, well, brightly; with – just over a month into service – a signature snack already Insta-famous (the katsu sando – tender fried chicken sandwiched between deliciously, dirtily white sliced bread, served with a dollop of curry-spiked mustard: phwoar).

And that cheeky little snack is the opening gambit for an onslaught of superb dishes. Cured pork loin was deliciously melting and surprisingly delicate; pizza fritta (essentially a savoury doughnut slathered with tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan) was a revelation; while al dente spaghetti slid gloriously in amongst its sweet lobster and tomato coating. Sweet grilled onions were cut with rosemary vinegar and the lush lactic acid of creamy sheep’s ricotta. A whole glorious John Dory was cooked to perfection – its potent aïoli a spoon-able joy.

The wine list is Europe-focused, an homage to the boutique, natural producer – with a hefty swathe of organic and biodynamic names. Terribly à la mode, yes, but also delicious, with plenty of bottles from around the £25/30 mark, right up to the top end. Mark-ups seem almost outrageously reasonable – so much so that we started with a bottle of Jérôme Prevost’s Champagne Les Béguines. This low-dosage, utterly rich, powerful yet elegant wine evolved with time in the glass, offering citrus brightness, biscuit richness and spicy minerality, the perfect pairing for a mismatch of dishes from the compact menu.

I came away from a leisurely four-hour lunch feeling delightfully content. This is wonderfully happy food – truly tasty plates that spoke to my cravings, dishes that are just a little bit clever, without being effortfully over-complicated. It’s food that lifts the spirits – and if it doesn’t work, you’ll certainly find a bottle that will.

What we drank:

  • Champagne Jérôme Prevost, La Closerie, Les Béguines, Extra Brut
  • 2016 Folle Blanche, Luneau-Papin, Pays Nantais, Loire

Bright, 1 Westgate Street, London E8 3RL

Category: Food & Wine

Piedmont 2014: pure and precise

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

As we launch our offering of 2014 Baroli and Barbareschi, Italy Buyer Davy Żyw explains how the vintage escaped its fate and defied expectations

The 2014 vintage in Barolo is a treat for the purist. It was a year initially marked by challenging weather, but ultimately redeemed by a wonderful end to the season. The best wines have emerged with precise fruit and real energy, tempered by more traditional structure which will give longevity but, paradoxically, they will also be accessible in youth.

The summer of 2014 was difficult, with above average rainfall and only average levels of sunshine, ending with severe flooding in July. The challenges in the vineyard were extreme and even the most traditional producers had to adapt to coax their crop through the season. In many cases severe grape selection was necessary, the harvest reduced by up to 40 percent. But the vintage was finally defined by the perfect Indian summer, which ran well into the autumn. This was manna from heaven for the late-ripening Nebbiolo, although the earlier-picked Dolcetto and Barbera are not so blessed this year.

The 2014 Piedmont vintage is an individual expression of the region, and a most worthy one. There is a lucidity to the wines which will not be evident in the subsequent years, with all of 2015, 2016 and 2017 offering power and lush ripeness in varying degrees, including some of the best Barbaresco I’ve tasted, as well as wonderful examples of Dolcetto and Barbera, both disenfranchised in 2014. Moreover, where the travails of the year forced the best estates to make radical decisions, there is hardly a poor wine to be found. Many critics’ expectations of 2014 were low, but the tastings have changed all that. These are inspiring, cerebral wines and a wonderful counterpoint to the more voluble vintages in the pipeline.

Our annual spotlight on the wines of Piedmont is now live; browse the range here.

Category: Italian Wine

Advice: Sir Lunchalot

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Our in-house expert Sir Lunchalot is on hand to answer all your wine and spirits questions. This month he advises on the world of decanters – from the perfect method to which shape is best for which bottle

Dear Sir,

My wife and I have recently tied the knot and are now enjoying all the wonderful items from our gift-list being delivered to our brand-new marital home. The only thing is people seem to have gone off-piste and we’ve been sent no less than seven wine decanters in an array of shapes and sizes (we hope our reputation does not precede us!). The thing is, we’re a bit stumped at how to actually use the things. Can you advise?

How lovely! Well, first of all, many congratulations to you and your beloved. I’m sure you have many great bottles ahead. Secondly, what a wonderful problem to have. Most wines, irrespective of colour, age or price will benefit from decanting, so it’s a good habit to get into. The trick is to choose the right vessel and the decanting time ahead of drinking. If you get that nailed, it will give you the best out of every bottle, irrespective of other factors.

Young reds will open up enormously with time in a broad based “ships decanter”; while old and fragile wines often just need to blow off the cobwebs, so a taller, thinner decanter stops them disappearing too quickly. Whites, especially infants, benefit from air too: try decanting young white Burgundy and standing the decanter in ice. Rich, round wines can really open up beautifully.

With older wines and Vintage Port, the practice is for an entirely different purpose. To save a mouthful of sediment, the art of decanting is used to separate liquid from solid. In mahogany-clad boardrooms, it is often performed with much pomp and circumstance – decanting cradles, candles, fancy corkscrews… the sky really is the limit. In truth, all you need is the ability to see when the solid particles pass into the neck of the bottle (a white background is useful for this). Ideally the bottle should be stood up for a day or so before opening, to settle any deposits, then care and attention is the name of the game. Uncork the wine upright, and then slowly pour the wine off its sediment. When you see the particles coming through, stop decanting – it’s better to lose a little bit of wine than let sediment infiltrate your glass.

Enjoy your new collection and enjoy experimenting with decanting times… but most of all enjoy the good times they give you!

Have you got a question for Sir Lunchalot? Please email editor@bbr.com or leave it in the comments selection below.

Category: Miscellaneous

How to make wine: sparkling

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Juice trickles out the press at Ridgeview, Sussex. Photograph: Simon Peel

In the final part of our series exploring how wine is made, Barbara Drew explains the different methods that produce sparkling wine, including Prosecco, Cava or Champagne

What makes a wine go fizz, or a cork go pop? Tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide dissolved in the liquid. The question of how the carbon dioxide gets into the wine, though, is a very important one, as its answer determines the style of wine and the flavours that result.

The first step in making a sparkling wine is to make a base wine – a still wine which can then develop bubbles. A few wines avoid this step – such as the sweet, frothy and delicate Moscato d’Asti – but for most fizzies, a base wine is required. This is invariably white. Bubbles in a wine accentuate tannins – making a red wine seem even more grippy and astringent than it would normally. As a result, those rare red sparkling wines that do exist tend to have a hefty dose of sugar in them to balance out this effect; think syrupy sparkling Shiraz, or refreshingly sweet and sour Lambrusco.

The simplest way of adding bubbles is to take your base wine, add it to a large tank with yeast and sugar, to encourage a second fermentation, and pop the lid on. The carbon dioxide produced during the second fermentation is trapped in the tank. The wine is filtered under pressure and put into heavy sparkling wine bottles. (In theory, a sparkling wine bottle should be able to withstand pressure of 15 atmospheres; most sparkling wine is around five or six atmospheres. Nonetheless, a sharp shock to the bottle can result in them exploding.)

This method of producing sparkling wine is known as the tank or Charmat method and is a great way to produce large volumes of fizz. It is often used for Prosecco as it doesn’t add any additional flavours to the wine, and can preserve the fruity, floral characters of the Prosecco grape (Glera).

In Champagne, a different method is used. Here, after sugar and yeast are added to the base wine, the wine is bottled, before being sealed. The wine then undergoes its second fermentation – leading to an increase in alcohol of 1.5 percent and the production of those carbon dioxide bubbles – in the bottle. Crucially, once the fermentation is complete, the wine then stays in-bottle. The yeasts settle to the bottom of the bottle and remain there, adding flavour and texture to the wine.

Most wines made like this remain resting on their lees – these yeast cells – for at least a year, and in the case of some prestige cuvée Champagnes (the very top wine a Champagne House releases), for up to eight years. During this time, the yeast cells start to break down and add a biscuity, brioche flavour to the wine, as well as a slightly creamy texture. The result is a marvellously complex wine, but one that tastes more of pâtisserie than peaches and pears; this process therefore works very well for slightly less aromatic grape varieties, such as Chardonnay, a popular grape for this style of wine.

Bottles resting on their lees at Ridgeview, Sussex. Photograph: Simon Peel

Though arguably invented in the UK, and perfected in Champagne, this method of making sparkling wine is used around the world, and excellent fizz is produced in this way in California, South Africa, Australia and Spain; all Cava must be made in this way, lending a toasty complexity to this Spanish speciality.

The downside of this méthode traditionelle (as it is known), however, is that, after the wine has aged, the yeast cells still need to be removed from the bottle. In previous centuries, consumers were more forgiving of murky wines, with yeast deposits in the bottle, and while the natural wine movement is trying to reinvigorate this style of wine to a certain extent, most wines need to be sold clear and bright. Therefore the next step in this process is to remove the yeast from the bottle, while keeping the fizz, which is not an easy task. The yeast must first be nudged down to the neck of the bottle, something that can be achieved manually by turning the bottle this way and that over the course of many weeks. Machines called gyropalettes do a similar job, gently shaking the bottles over the course of a couple of days. Once in the neck of the bottle, the yeast is frozen – the neck being dipped into a cold brine solution – before the cap is removed. At this point the pressure inside forces the yeast out of the bottle.

The final step is to adjust the flavour of the wine, and standardise the level in the bottle, with dosage; this is a mixture of sugar and wine, which adds the final gloss to the fizz. For Champagne, which is often extremely acidic, this tiny addition of sugar is just sufficient to add a richness to the wine and balance the tart freshness of the grapes. For making a rosé sparkling wine, the colour can also be tweaked by adding a drop of red wine at this point.

The wine is then closed with a cork and left for a few months, quietly resting in the producer’s cellar, for the flavours to blend and harmonise. Due to the acidity and complexity of wines made in this way, they can often age for many years, developing even more toasty, nutty and finally mushroom flavours. Whether they are drunk young or old, these are some of the most complex and carefully made wines to be found anywhere in the world.

This article was originally sent to members of our Wine Club. You can find out more about the benefits of Wine Club hereYou’ll find the first two parts of this series, looking at still white and red wine, here; or browse our range of sparkling wine here.

Category: Champagne and Sparkling Wine