The Real Wine Drinking Guide: Terroirs
We start with Terroirs, central London. Nepotism aside - for Les Caves and Terroirs are stablemates in the Terroirs Group - this restaurant/wine bar has become an institution. It was, after all, the first authentic natural wine bar in London, and today still sets the standard for others in terms of value, sheer variety of wine on its treasure trove of a list, the consistent quality of food, and friendly service.
Having opened in late 2008, Terroirs may claim to be London’s original natural wine bar. The airy ground floor restaurant has a L-shaped zinc bar as its centrepiece and seating on two levels. Décor is fun with abundant colourfully-labelled iconic natural wine bottles (empty, natch!) on window sills and ledges, and wine paraphernalia in every nook and cranny of the restaurant with a rogues' gallery of specially-commissioned photographs of the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly of the natural wine world staring down from the walls. The cosy cellar hosts tastings, events, private parties, and even has a movie screen. The food on both floors is simple, seasonal and avowedly in the bistro spirit. For the confirmed carnivore the charcuterie is a must - the Terroirs homemade pork-and-pistachio terrine has become a classic (the recipe is chalked on a cupboard by the entrance) and the duck rillettes is properly buttery and rustic. Otherwise, there is ample choice amongst the range of small plates with decent vegetarian options, and no-frills main courses.
The 400+ bin wine list is stunning, of course, and visits all parts of the world without fear or favour, although France and Italy are allowed epic sections. There is a big focus on orange wines with a special page devoted to them, a great selection of pet nats, and plenty of magnum action. The by-the-glass offering constantly changes, bottles are opened in the spirit of copinage, and a front page entitled “What we are drinking now” highlights the exciting, the seasonal or the downright unusual, and is intended for those who don’t have time to mull over the 40-page leather-bound document!
There is also a “reserve list” on request, featuring rare gems and highly allocated wines.
Producers we love: La Stoppa; Matassa; Partida Creus; Patrick Sullivan; Sepp Muster; Vino di Anna; Kelley Fox; Evan Lewandowski; Burja Estate; Jean Foillard; Jean-Francois Ganevat; Clos des Vignes du Maynes and the eaux-de-vies of Laurent Cazottes.
Look out for the lesser-spotted: Emmanuel Houillon; Renaud Bruyère; Alice & Olivier De Moor; Domaine de la Grande Colline; La Garagista Winery.
We really like: They invariably have Château-Chalon or similar oxidative aged wine by the glass.
Do: Check out the Terroirs website for cellar tastings and events.
Key wine person: Jesse Ober.
Terroirs | Trafalgar Square | 5 William IV Street | WC2 4DW