Colebrooke's Wine Bar
69 Colebrooke Row, Angel
I expressed great trepidation in embarking upon the world of wine, knowing full well that wine people were crazy. But once deciding to tackle the subject head-on, guided by Colebrooke's gracious manager, Felix Cemmell, the secrets of good wine were slowly revealed to me.
A small and comfortable wine bar off Angel high street, Colebrooke's featured a live band, warm wood-panels and an impressive selection of traditional and more adventurous wines. Wine Bartender Katy, also the assistant manager, offered me a glass of wine, straight away. Confronted with the vast array, I started to get a little confused. Taking pity, Katy served me the Sauvignon Blanc from Curico Valley, Chile, which I found crisp and lightly pungent. She brightly enthused that this was her favourite wine. Bartender Fabiano, first day on the job, seconded Katy's opinion.
Felix pulled out her wine lists, pages of scribbled notes. She was just prepared to introduce her new wine menu - in time for Christmas, fifteen whites, and fifteen reds. Particular to the Christmas season was the Franco/German dessert white wine Gerwurtzraminer from Alsace, good with spicy food; and made from cabernet grapes and traditionally eaten with a carpaccio of beef, the Spanish Hacienda Nonestro. Also extremely good this time of year is the brilliant French Brouilly Beaujoulais (2004), with warm cinnamon notes, and from Riaca, Northwestern Spain, an organic white, Restalos del Bierzo. Felix's personal favourite is the smoky Loire Pouilly Fume.
According to Felix, the best bottle in the bar was the vintage Perrier-Jouet Cuvee Belle Epoque (1996), French champagne, at UKP 84.45 per bottle. But with an apple crisp taste and novelty bottle, you'll always savour the memory of it.
A couple of "wild card" wines, thrown in for those with a sense of adventure: the South African Estate Nelson Chardonnay, Italian red Brunello di Montalcino ("It's rich and leathery," Felix mused. "I love using that word to describe wine, leathery.") and the Forestville Merlot from California.
Sipping back the information, I noticed that the live-band was lively, but most people who came in settled with a jug of Stella, which was a pity. Katy offered the band the house wine, drunk gratefully and used in a renewed sense of musical fervour. Whether it was the good wine, the charming music, affable atmosphere or friendly people, I retained the warmth of a good time long after I left the bar and in towards the rainy night.
Riesling from New Zealand; Pinot Noir (red) from New Zealand, Ch.Musar from Bekaa Valley, Lebanon; Cabernet Sauvignon from Cinsault & Carignan; Sauvignon Blanc from Curico Valley, Chile; Sauvignon Blanc Marsanne (the house wine) from France.
The further I journeyed into remarkably detailed and obsessive world of wines, spirits and cocktails, the more I realized that there was still so much more to learn. But what have I learned actually? I retained an introductory knowledge for Beers, Cocktails and Wines 101 - useful for my continuing education. The memory of the cherry kriek remains much cherished; sweet cocktails give me more pleasure than the sour ones; and wine, though as complicated as previously expected, now strikes me with intrigue rather than a fearful disinterest. London, notorious for its bad customer service, nevertheless has some of the nicest, most engaging people working behind the counter, some possessing uncanny encyclopaedic knowledge about the drinks they serve. Lastly, I love the bars and pubs. They're the best landmarks that London has to offer and a trip to London isn't complete without encountering some of the best.
The best, that is, outside the Big Ben.