Someone said to me recently that Friday night was all the excuse they needed to celebrate with a fine wine. I decided to put this excellent philosophy into practice last night and recruited a few friends to repair to Green and Blue, an exceptional wine bar in East Dulwich. For those not familiar, Green and Blue is a brilliantly conceived combination of wine merchant and bar, somewhat in the style of an Italian enoteca. The wine list is all about small production wines, of the sort almost never found on high-street or supermarket shelves. There’s a strong bias towards “natural” wine-making, with organic and biodynamic production encouraged but not insisted upon. The bar is lively, unpretentious and welcoming, the staff both helpful and knowledgeable. Even better, it’s possible to browse the shelves in the shop, find an interesting wine, and then have it served to your table in the bar for a mere £7 corkage – or for no extra charge, between Monday and Wednesday.
So, what did we drink in this Aladdin’s cave? Well, I’d done some research beforehand and was keen to try the 2004 Bressan Schioppettino. We were recommended to let this decant and breathe for a bit, so tucked into a light and beautifully fragrant Marcillac to start. We then moved on to the Schioppettino which was a stunner. This is a relatively obscure indigenous grape variety from Italy’s most North Easterly wine region, Fruili. The Bressan example had masses and masses of sweet raspberry fruit, both on the nose and the palate. Some very subtle oak plus the wine’s naturally powerful tannins gave it serious structure – I can well understand that this may have been a bit tough straight out of the bottle. Trademark Italian freshness and very good length rounded off a highly enjoyable experience.
By this point in the night we felt like pushing the boat out a little more, having spied some tempting bottles of Vega Sicilia Pintia 2006 in the shop. Pintia is a premium wine estate in Toro, a hot inland region some way west from Vega Sicilia’s original home in Ribera del Duero. Made from 100% Tempranillo and aged in a combination of new French and American oak, this is a seriously epic yet exquisitely balanced expression of the grape.
The nose seemed quite compacted and reticent, but in the mouth this was massive, with a gorgeous velvet cushion of tannins underpinning roasted plum and berry fruit, smoke and a herbaceous finish. What really strikes me about this wine, just like its Unico labelmate, is its purity and focus. There isn’t a single nuance or a splinter of wood that is not beautifully integrated and crafted into the whole. That’s some feat when you have such a big wine with 15% alcohol. However, this seems almost too monolithic at the moment – I can’t help feeling that another 5 years might be needed before the ’06 is really delivering its full potential. Still, there’s no reason not to keep checking progress along the way!
On another occasion, I hope to meet the as yet elusive owner and creator of Green and Blue, Kate Thal. My friends include a number of her former students, who have high praise for her passion, knowledge and approach. This is reason enough to consider attending one of the upcoming tastings.