Wednesday Wines – Episode 15

Episode 15 – 1st July 2020

There is a new merchant in town (if, on the off chance, you live in the Battersea/Wandsworth environs) and I have a cracker of a Montepulciano for budget drinking.

2019 Ikigall, Gallina de Piel, Penedès, Cataluña, Spain (£14.50, reduced to £13.78 each for 6 or more bottles, Nysa Wine and Spirits tel. 020 7351 4800 & www.nysawine.co.uk). 

I have watched, with interest, an empty shop front, at the top of my road, which hinted that it was under renovation and was going to be reborn as a wine shop.  This transformation, understandably, faltered over the last few months but, as if by magic, I walked past last week and it was fully stocked and looking very smart indeed.  A sibling shop to the original Nysa branch in Fulham, it is cheering to have a new wine specialist in our neighbourhood and so I was curious to check it out.  I walked in and chatted to William (one of the buyers) and it turns out that these two stores are the UK wing of a French wine specialist empire (57 stores www.nysa.fr) and it sounds like they are ambitious.  We cannot have enough cool indie wine merchants in the UK because these guys bring the finest discoveries to our attention.  I love the minimalist design of Nysa, with broad, wooden, tasting tables and strongly-built wine shelves groaning with bottles.  There are a lot of my favourites on these shelves, too, as well as an encouraging number of labels I have never heard of before and so this means that this merchant has already chalked up an eager, new customer.  One of the wines I spotted is the new vintage of an old favourite and I urge you to track it down. Ikigall is a thrilling, ultra-modern, but eminently respectful Spanish white superstar.  David Seijas, the man behind this amazing creation, was the Head Sommelier at three-Michelin-starred restaurant El Bulli, in Spain – arguably the most influential and famous restaurant in the world until it closed its doors in 2011.  I reviewed El Bulli for the Guardian back in 2002 and you can read about it here if you click on this link to the Guardian’s website (https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2002/oct/26/travelfoodanddrink.foodanddrink.spain).  David looked after my table on that occasion and he was very much part of the reason why I regarded this experience as so memorable.  I went back a second time seven years later and David, having left El Bulli only to return was, again, our sommelier.  These were two of the most amazing experiences of my life and he was the conductor at both of these gastro-symphonies!  Since El Bulli closed its doors, David has broadened his vinous repertoire into winemaking.  Ikigall is made from 85% Xarel-lo, 10% Malvasia and 5% Muscat of Alexandria and it is an astonishing wine.  Brittle and challenging, fleshy and generous on the mid-palate and then, at once, chalky and lip-smacking – you are certain to be shocked by the energy and vitality in this aperitif-style wine.  It has a red brother, Mimetic (£15.20), which is another bright, crunchy number, this time made from Garnacha and hailing from Calatayud.  So, here are two good reasons to visit Nysa and when you scour the shelves you will find many more besides.  I picked up a bottle of 2018 Chablis, Premier Cru Montmains, JP & B Droin (£37.00) to drink that evening and it, too, was liquid heaven.

2018 Irresistible Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy (£7.00, Coop).

My sub-tenner wine this week is a cracker.  I am always impressed with the effort that Coop buyers go to to find great value, classically-dimensioned wines.  I am writing up their 2019 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, il Poggio dei Vigneti (£5.35) in one of my national columns soon and it is hard to believe that a wine at a mere fiver can be so generous and juicy.  Granted there is little gravitas in this wine but it is clean, bright, well-made and perfect for party glugging.  A few steps up the ladder though is the Coop own-label Irresistible Monte, and this time it is a wine with more grip, more accuracy and a full, complex palate.  It is nowhere near as serious as, say, 2017 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Masciarelli (£13.50, www.thegoodwineshop.co.uk) but this is twice the price, so while the Coop labels are rather dreary, I heartily recommend this Irresistible version, as long as you bung it in a decanter.  Interestingly, it may seem a little youthful at a mere two years of age, but I can assure you it is drinking now, so line up a few bottles next time you are cooking pasta or pizza and you will be saving money with every sip!