Bringing the finest wines to Kent… Grand Cru, Beckenham
Wine is a mysterious thing… For those in the know, there are so many different nuances, different elements, different grapes and different terroirs (the soil, climate and conditions that go into growing the vines) that for those who simply want a nice glass of something it can seem like an entirely other world. One that they may not want to enter.
But a new fine wine merchant that has recently opened in Beckenham is going to change that misconception. Grand Cru Co aims to make fine wines accessible (and affordable) to everyone. Owner Andy Rose, along with his exceptionally knowledgeable staff, wants people to realise that buying a bottle of wine can be done somewhere other than a supermarket, and that by choosing to visit a specialist wine merchant it is possible to discover new and surprising wines that will bring an entire evening together.
The shop itself is a modern, cool, impressively decorated place done out in dark woods and calming tones that, tucked neatly as it is just off the high street in Beckenham, is also a relaxing place to be. A warm welcome as you walk through the door makes what could be a somewhat daunting experience (assuming you know nothing about wine as I do – or rather, didn’t) into something fun and exciting. The walls are covered in bottles of wine – all for sale – and although there are some pretty pricey choices in the shop (one bottle, albeit the largest I’ve ever seen, had a price tag of £910), the ‘every day’ yet still great quality wines start from around £8.50, and yet, despite being on a par pricewise with the supermarkets, with a bottle from Grand Cru Co you have the added benefit of choosing something that little bit more special. You also get the expertise of someone who really understands wine.
For us, that was Gaetano, our guide for the evening. After a chat about the bottles in the shop, and about how the evening was going to work, we sat down at a large wooden table in the middle of the shop floor and our lesson (which felt nothing like a lesson) began. Next to us was placed a small plate of nibbles including salmon, bread and butter, walnuts and cheese. These were to go with the white wines that we were about to try. Those wines were Meursault Village, Nicolas Potel (2008), Woodcutters Rousanne Viognier Marsanne, Torbreck (2011) and Gewurtztraminer, Hugel Family (2013). All were something of a revelation, and each one had a distinctive flavour all of its own. The Meursault was my particular favourite. It wasn’t too strong, but there was a certain richness to it, and it was fresh and vibrant – the flavours of fruits and flowers, with the added surprise of a hit of cinnamon, sparked across my tongue and, combined with the food to my side it really was something new. This was no cheap supermarket Pinot, but at £18.95 a bottle neither was it out of anyone’s budget – and the fact that it is so versatile with regards to pairing with foods (or drinking by itself) makes this an ideal wine to enjoy wherever you are.
The reds came next. Not normally a red wine drinker unless there is a roaring open fire involved, I was curious as to how these wines would match up. A new plate of food arrived, this time full of charcuterie and a rather moreish bruschetta covered in mackerel paté and pear, and the wines, which had been opened earlier to allow them to breathe, were poured. They were a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, De Loach (2012), Il Passo Nerello Mascalese and Nero d’Avola, Vigneti Zabu (2014) and Chateau La Fleur Pourret, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (2009). Again, all exquisite wines, but there was something about the Il Passo that caught my attention. It was fruity and spicy, but the colour really set it apart – ruby red. As the light shone through it, it looked absolutely stunning, and it tasted just as good with a wonderful silky texture and, unlike some reds, it was an easy drink.
An evening of wine tasting at Grand Cru Co opened my eyes (and taste buds) to the possibilities within the wine world, and I finally understood that good wine wasn’t just for those in the know – everyone can join in.
If you would like to get involved, Grand Cru Co organise monthly public tasting evenings, offering everyone the chance to try something new. There are also private evenings which can be arranged and would make a perfect celebration night for a more sophisticated hen do, or perhaps a birthday or anniversary.