Here at House of Coco, we love our wine and hardly ever pass up an opportunity to explore new and interesting wine varieties. We especially love innovative and creative takes on the ever classic ‘wine tasting’ experience. Eulanda and Omo, our food & travel writing duo, joined in on an evening of wine tasting hosted by Honest Grapes at Brixton based Three Eight Four.
We have spent many a joyful evening exploring the eccentric array of cuisines on offer in Brixton, a town that proudly wears its cap as the de facto capital of South London’s social scene.
We were therefore very excited to be invited to ‘The Battle of the Bottles’, a wine tasting event which took place at Three Eight Four; a Mediterranean themed tapas and cocktail bar in Brixton. This battle had nothing to do with turf wars between rival postcodes. Instead, it involved tasting bottles of wine sourced from independent wine growers, carefully chosen based on their quality, value and customer appeal by our hosts for the evening, Honest Grapes.
Seated in the main lounge area, the evening began with a Spanish Charcuterie board featuring an eclectic mix of Jamon de Teruel, bastonets de Vic, Iberico salcichon, Iberico chorizo, cabra del Tietar, and guindilla peppers. An aptly titled experimental cocktail called ‘Take it Sloe’ set the tone for the evening and eased the flow of conversation around the table.
We engaged with a smiling gentleman next to us and soon we were exploring the growing popularity of English wines, the lost art of long lunches and opinions about generational preferences for certain wines. The self-effacing gentleman turned out to be Sean Poole (aka ‘Sean of London’), the Chief Operating Officer of Honest Grapes and co-host for the wine tasting event that followed.
Speaking to Sean, we learned that Honest Grapes are a group of wine enthusiasts and professionals who have pooled their interests into an online marketplace offering a curated selection of wines from locations including: France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Promoting artisanal wine producers, they have adopted a refreshingly social approach to wine, crowdsourcing independent reviews from both their Premier Crew members and wine tasting events like the one we were attending.
Sean was joined by Honest Grapes Premier Crew Membership Manager, Christian McLarnon and Events Manager, Marie Wilton. Our party soon moved to the Three Eight Four basement where the ‘battle’ commenced. The battle pitted four wines from Three Eight Four’s wine list against four challengers from Honest Grapes’ top suppliers. Each round was paired with food specifically designed to enhance the tasting experience.
The first white wine tasting featured a light and fruity Vette di San Leonardo (2015). This one left some rich but comforting notes on the back of the tongue, which lingered when paired with Arancini (buffalo mozzarella in balls of risotto rice). The second white wine tasting featured a full-bodied Quinta de Solheiro Alvarinho (2014) which when paired with chilli and garlic squid, opened up the senses and took on a different personality.
The red wine tasting featured a smoky and earthy Paolo Leo Salice Salentino Riserva (2010) which paired with Nduja (a fiery Calabrian sausage with ricotta topped with a quail’s egg). Our final tasting featured a 15 year old Maestro Sierra Oloroso Sherry with a distinct chocolate flavour which paired well with Gordal olives stuffed with orange and rolled in oregano.
After some intense discussion, the Paolo Leo Salice Salentino Riserva was crowned winner of the night’s battle; its herbal, forest fruit character proving to be big hit with the audience. At £14 a bottle, we felt that this wine offered great value for money and was one which we would definitely be trying again.
The biggest benefit of the evening was the opportunity to be introduced to an interesting array of boutique wines which we would probably never have found in a supermarket and some impressive food pairing suggestions. We walked off into the Brixton night feeling enriched with new wine knowledge and holding onto the high notes of what had been a truly enjoyable evening.
For the latest Honest Grapes wine selections, details of their Premier Crew membership and news of future wine tasting events go to Honest Grapes.
You can also drop into Three Eight Four on 384 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8LF to sample their cocktails and small plates.