It’s spring 2017 and I’m back on the wine trail as a student once more having recently enrolled on the WSET diploma course in the hope of furthering my education in all things vinous.
The diploma is no mere caper. Those eager to secure a passing grade will need to taste hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of wines from every corner of the wine world.
I, like my fellow students of the vine, will spend countless hours committing to memory every word to ever emanate from the hallowed pen (MacBook Air) of Jancis and Hugh and commit to memory the entire wine lexicon for tasting notes that has grown exponentially since those simple days of the WSET advanced course.
Where better then, to get a jump start on tasting hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of wines, than one of the many enomatic-lined wine bars that now proliferate the Capital? For those WSET diploma students not gainfully employed in the wine trade, me, these wine bars, where a pour can cost less than a £1, are the perfect place to score a wine education!
I’m no newcomer to Vagabond Wines, indeed, I wrote about their Fulham store way back in 2011 when it was the sole and only Vagabond Wines in London. Fast forward to 2017 and there are now five Vagabond Wines to enjoy. The Fulham outlet is the flagship store and still has, arguably, the best selection, most knowledgeable staff and most interesting wine events. There are now four new stores under the Vagabond Wines brand including, a location on Northcote Road, one on Charlotte Street in Soho, one in Spitalfields and, touted as the world’s largest enomatic wine restaurant, a new Vagabond Wines opening in a few days time in Victoria. How exciting and delightful!
With my tasting card loaded up with £25 credit, I went to work tasting 12 wines from their range of over 100 international wines. Needless to say, I’ll have to return several times over the coming weeks to get through the other 88+. Let the tasting notes commence!
There were 3 standout wines from the 12 I tasted, all of which are represented in photographic form solely for your ease, dear reader.
Jules Taylor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016
A clear, pale lemon green in the glass, the colour being of little interest as while you’re swirling away you’re knocked out immediately on the nose by the clean, pronounced tropical fruit, a touch of herbaceousness, waves of mango but most noticeably layers and layers of passion fruit. This nose is a knock out. Impressively, the fresh, crisp, high acid palate carries the tropical flavours onto the palate, the alcohol is balanced, the mouth feel is rounded and the finish is medium+. 89 Points/£15/13% abv – Buy
Louis Claude Desvignes, Javernieres, Morgon “Les Impenitents” Beajoulais 2014
Sitting a clear, medium ruby red in the glass with bold notes of black cherry, licorice and a touch of smoke on the nose, the wine is constantly surprising in just how well integrated it is. The finish is long, with consistent dark fruit and spices. One of the best Morgon wines from the ancient Javernieres parcels I’ve ever tasted and I was already big on Morgon, my favourite cru! Great vintage year for Beaujolais too and even at this tender young age, this wine is showing well. 93 Points/£30/13% abv – Case buy
Porseleinberg, Syrah, Swartland 2014
What understated packaging for a knock out wine! If you’ve yet to try a Syrah from the explosion of excellent South African reds being conjured over the last few years, try this and join the revolution! A deep, brooding black purple, you knew already you were in for trouble as the wine even looks like quality. The nose possesses masses of sweet licorice and spice, a few notes of tar, leather and dried meat add yet more complexity. On the palate you’re battered by heavy tannin (remember this wine is very young and should be cellered – for half your life!), fantastic length and great integrity of flavour and aromas combine to make the Porseleinberg a serious and impressive wine. 95+ Points/£60/13.5% abv – Buy
All in all, a worthwhile bimble to Vagabond Wines, recommend you swing by whether you’re an incredibly mature student like myself or just your everyday, garden variety, workaday wino. Great fun!