Published in N16 Magazine – Spring 2003
When I told my wife I was going to taste some of the wines at Yum Yum and Mesclun for this issue, she said ‘On mescaline? That’s nice, dear.’ I’m not sure which is more alarming, her insouciance or the bewildering prospects that flashed before my bleary eyes – a tasting at The Tup on crack cocaine, or a tryout at the Rose & Crown on benzedrine and LSD. Mind you, the permutations could keep me in column inches for years to come. Settling for my usual two-valium-and-a-barley-wine, as peyote seems unavailable in the local area, I pulled on my Afghan and tottered out into the world.
The liquids that swirled into view at Atique Choudhury’s stand-out Thai eatery, YumYum included a Côtes de Provence rosé 2001 from Chateau l’Aumerade. It’s a little timid, but in a doe-eyed, winsome, Turkish Delightful sort of way – it has a nice body and would go with anyone, sorry, I mean anything, for £14.90. Equally come-hitherish is Michel Torino Torrontes 2000 from Argentina’s Cafayate Valley (£14.95) – ripe guavas on the nose transform themselves into a steely, mineral finish. ‘Peppermint’, said His Rabness, who, once again, was in thirsty attendance. ‘Make that a high-pitched, super-green mintiness’, I flounced in reply as synaesthesia set in.
Atique is long established in Stokie, having started out at the much-lamented Spices with none other than Das Sreedharan of the Rasa conglomerate in attendance. He knows his market, and prices are generally modest – this may in part account for the surprising absence from the list of any Alsace wines, or Gewurztraminers, as the good ones don’t come cheap.
A good alternative might be Brown Brothers Late-Picked Muscat 2000 (£4.50 glass / £17.50 bottle) – unctuously sweet with smoky, ripe mangoes and caramel, this has enough body and clout to deal with a face full of chillies. In general I’m not a big fan of red wine with Asian food, but I’ll make an exception for Groot Konstantia Landgoed Pinotage 2000 (£21.50) from South Africa’s oldest estate – founded in 1685, by God. It has a lovely truffly nose and expensively toasty oak to complement the black fruit and cigar-box flavours. If someone else is paying, you could suggest a bottle of Champagne Moutard Cuvée Réserve (£27) which seems to go surprisingly well with the starters – it’s 100% Chardonnay, with that nicely rounded fruit and biscuityness we like so much.
Everything was getting seriously swirly by now, so we staggered through a door into another doorway within a doorway and…into Mesclun. The excellent wines here are largely provided by the knowledgeable Thibault Lavergne, whose Vinothentic operation is, in every sense, locally based. He lives in Stokey but, more to the point, his speciality is in finding small, old-established, family-run domaines making wines by traditional methods. One such is Les Anisses Blanc 2001, a Vin de Pays de Cassan made from Carignan Blanc and Terret (£2.90 glass / £10.50 bottle).
Versatile with food and excellent value for money, this has good length and body and bright, fresh fruit with hints of elderflowers – M. Lavergne suggests greengages in his tasting notes, and, not having tasted one since I was about six, I will defer to his judgement in this important matter. Vinothentic supply a number of Michelin-starred restaurants up West so we’re rubbing shoulders with the quality here, and you can see it in Henri Delagrange’s Bourgogne Aligoté 1999 (£18.00). I didn’t know Aligoté could be this good – fat, toasty and rich with excellent fruit and length – it kicks the majority of upper-end Maconnais and Challonais Burgundies into touch and would be fab with a grilled fish.
The owner Salih also buys wine from a big trade supplier, Enotria, including their classy Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, made by Veritiere, (£14.50) which is bone-dry up front but mellows out with a touch of honey and nougat – or should that be Torrone?
Les Anisses Rouge 2000 (£same as the white) is a smooth and well-made, crowd-pleasing sort of a wine with redcurrant fruit and enough body to stand up to some nice charcuterie or a coarse paté. Domaine Gigondan (£15.50) is not a spelling mistake, but could be, as it’s a spicy, peppery Grenache with all those Garrigue flavours of black olives and thyme and eucalyptus. It’s as classy a Côtes du Rhône as you’ll find and needs big food – a game pie would be good. At £17.50, Chateau Verriere Bellevue 1999 is claret for grown-ups which (probably) won’t break the piggy-bank. It’s made from fruit from 45-year old vines (Thibault knows this sort of stuff) of Merlot and Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc. It’s another big-food wine – roasts or grills would be the thing – with a good tannic backbone, some vanilla, oak and tobacco notes to the nose and ripe bramble and prune flavours. So we called out for another drink, and the waiter brought a tray …