Casual offline at Crouch End Cellars, N8

Last Tuesday I attended a casual Wine Society gathering at Crouch End Cellars, N8, a smart North London wine shop with an attractive patio, pergola arrangement out the back. Nick was attending and a couple of vacancies came up, so I stepped in. What an enjoyable evening it turned out to be with great company and an interesting selection of wines. With selections of charcuterie and cheese we drank:

Krasna Hora 2019, sparkling pinot noir, Czech Republic, **

Pleasant fizz, but neither complex nor distinguished. At £39 off the list not compelling VFM, but passes the ‘would you drink this all afternoon at a wedding?’ test.


Chapoutier, Chante-Alouette Hermitage Blanc, 2005, ***1/2

This is 100% Marsanne. It had a bright amber hue and an oxidative attack, almost Sherry-like, but quite typical of mature white Rhone. It has a nice nutty complexity on the palate, and luscious texture. Views on the table were quite mixed: some thought it was a bit past it, but I would say fully mature. I enjoyed it not least because it is not everyday you get to experience wines like this.


Domaine Arnoux, Savigny-les-Beaune Les Pimentiers, 2016, ***1 /2

Just excellent, and drinking beautifully already. While it may not have the complexity of more expensive red burgundies it has a pure red fruited attack and palate, with good balance and freshness.


Domaine Lafarge, Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées, 2009, ****

A resplendent translucent, this is also open for business with good red fruit but tertiary notes of sous bois emerging, allied to a delightful savoury note and that edgy nervosity one associates with Lafarge…but not in any way ‘strict’ - perhaps because 2009 is such a giving vintage.


Ghislaine Barthod, Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru Aux Beaux Bruns, 2012, ****

Having struggled with the first couple of bottles of my case of 1999 Veroilles, this was such a pleasant surprise: 13 years younger and so open for business, though clearly just at the beginning of its drinking window. The Beaux Bruns is such a complete wine with a heady perfume, notable density in the mid palate and pleasing finish. I would glad do a par swap with my 1999 Veroilles.


Gilles Barge, Cote-Rotie Cuvee du Plessy, 2001, ****

The best so far of a mixed batch acquired a couple of years ago, this proved to be the most popular red wine on the table by dint of is intoxicating nose - feral, carnal, blood, rocky minerals … you name it. Lively on the palate too and drinking very well, but lacking the oomph and persistent of the Barthod. But highly pleasurable nonetheless: five stars for the attack, three stars for the palate.


Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon, 1994, ***

This was also popular on the table but the nose was much more nondescript that the Barges and while it had much more richness and density on the palate it was also a bit of an amorphous blob, and not particularly focused. It did, however, open up well, and become more recognisably Northern Rhone. Modern-styled for the era you can do better in Hermitage. But what do I know? This was voted in the top three (red) wines of the night.


Domaine du Cayron, Gigondas, 2013, **1/2

The majority of the blend is Grenache, but with decent dollops of Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre thrown into the mix. A pleasant sweetish and enjoyable wine but not particularly complex. I suspect I would struggle with a whole bottle. Those around the table rated it more highly than I did.


Chateau Rieussec, Sauternes, 1972, ****

A rare treat and a fabulous bottle, still fresh as a daisy with an excellent vibrant orange colour and not too sweet.

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The group’s red wine of the night was the Cote-Rotie, with the Barthod and Ermitage runners-up. My top three were the Lafarge first, the Bathod second and the Cote Rotie third.


Crouch End Cellars is worth seeking out for off lines. We had four platters of cheese and charcuterie and the spacious back deck to ourselves, for £34 a head, which presumably included corkage and the Czech fizz off the list..
Great notes Ian. Thanks. I've had Chapoutier Hermitage from that era and I thought it both grand at one level and yet pretty nondescript. You could feel the money (so what?!) but little sense of place or energy meant it was actually dull.