It could be seen as a sign of encroaching gentrification: as of May 2012, Brixton has its first ever independent wine shop, Market Row Wines. I don’t see it that way – sure, Brixton may be changing, but the regeneration of the covered markets (originally kicked off by the flawed but brilliantly successful spacemakers project) has stirred new life into the old dog – and has quite dramatically increased the variety of what’s on offer in the arcades. Market Row Wines is part of this ongoing development, and a very welcome one. How have I lived somewhere for 16 years which didn’t even boast a branch of Thresher – let alone an Oddbins?
Talking of which, Market Row Wine’s owner David Simpson used to work for Oddbins, so I reckon he knows a thing or to about how to make good wine approachable. Indeed, his new venture is unpretentious and down to earth – rather like him, rather like Brixton.
A small, frequently changing selection is chalked up on the blackboard. Mostly old world (France, Italy and Spain are well represented), the list is clustered around the eminently sensible price point of £8-12. (Why sensible I hear you cry? I’ll let Juel Mahoney explain it brilliantly clearly here). Dave can also furnish you with a good “house wine” for around £6 – the Albizu Tempranillo is serviceable, if unremarkable – and there are one or two choices closer to £15 a bottle.
The wines are mostly from small “artisan” producers, and the focus is on quality, without slavishly adhering to any particular fad or fashion. A good proportion of the wines happen to be organically or bio-dynamically produced, and fans of “natural” wines won’t be disappointed. Most bases are covered – there’s a decent Argentinian Malbec, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, and a splendid sherry – the En rama “I think” Manzanilla. And there are usually 3-4 wines to try before you buy.
Look out for future tastings and “bring your own food” evenings (the opposite of bring your own bottle!) – Dave’s twitter account is his sole contact with the online world so far . . .
Here are my top selections from the current list:
2010 Gran Cerdo (Rioja, Spain)
A declassified Rioja, 100% tempranillo, organically produced and bursting with strawberry and cherry fruit. Quite charming, approachable and great value for £8.99. There’s a also a good back label/story – the name translates as “big pig” and is a finger to the bankers who refused to invest in the Gonzalo Gonzalo estate.
2011 Gavi “La Fornace” Bergaglio Cinzia (Piedmont, Italy)
Ripe pear fruit, a floral nose and a lovely mineral finish – elegant and ever so slightly more full bodied than your average Gavi. £11.99
2008 Cuvée Constance (Rousillon, France)
A collaborative venture between St. Emilion garagiste legend Jean-Luc Thunevin (of Chateau Valandraud fame) and Jean-Roger Calvet, this blend of Grenache and Carignan is full of brooding dark blackberry and plum fruit, with a whiff of graphite on the nose. The 15% alcohol makes itself felt, but this still seems quite elegant, long and not overdone. No oak was used, so there’s just bags of primary fruit. An absolute steal at £12.49
I also tried a delicate Cotes du Ventoux, Domaine La Ferme Saint Martin “La Gerine”, which is now sadly sold out.