AFTER ten years selling wine to the trade and even more working in restaurants here, few people know Edinburgh’s food and drink business better than Ghislain Aubertel.
So, when opportunity came knocking with the potential availability of the old Polish church in the city’s Randolph Place, a dormant plan for a wine bar was quickly activated. Serendipity played a part too because Le Di-Vin – as it became – is right next door to the restaurant his partner, Virginie, runs.
Now five years on it is one of Edinburgh’s favourite watering holes but with a tightly focused – and very Latin European – food menu too. Planchettes of cheese and charcuterie are supported by tapas-style food and by desserts such as crème brûlée. What drew me there though was the impressive wine list and, thanks to the increased availability of machines to keep them fresh longer, the number of wines available by the glass.
The beauty of an eclectic “wine by the glass” list extends well beyond the day of your visit. Having found an unusual wine you enjoy, you can then “go retail” to find similar styles to drink at home.
Encouragingly, Le Di-Vin’s glasses come in three sizes – 250ml, 175ml and the 125ml version that is becoming increasingly popular especially at lunchtime. Naturally, there is an even wider selection by the bottle but of the 20 or so wines by the glass, I was taken with 2012 Cortese Amonte (£4.40 for a 175ml glass – the size that applies to all prices shown here). This cortese comes from just outside the designated Gavi area but has all the texture, green apple and lemon edges and touches of minerality of classic Gavi but without the price tag it sometimes commands.
A little higher up the price list you can find one of the quirky whites made from a range of local grapes in south-western France. The 2011 Gaillac Blanc Sec Chateau Clement Termes (£5.75) provides that delightful soft pear background this region does so well but wraps it around with lemon-based acidity and attractive but contrasting herbal influences.
Much more mainstream – yet equally pleasurable – is chablis. Predictably, a man brought up in Northern France like Aubertel will ensure that the version he lists is a good one. Enjoy then his 2011 Chablis, Domaine Fevre (£7.65) with its soft, floral and very smooth lemon flavours given an extra touch of sophistication by the gentle orange touches on the finish.
Among the inexpensive reds – and switching to the new world – I was impressed by 2011 Atacama Carmenere (£4.90). It delivers all the delightful soft chocolate finish you expect from what is now Chile’s signature grape but precedes it with pleasingly smooth plum flavours that are given additional liveliness by nice balancing acidity.
Given the disappointing level of some chianti – especially with entry point versions – it was good to encounter 2011 Chianti Colli Senesi Tenuta Bichi Borghesi (£5.60). Here you get the full, slightly bitter cherry touches with a hint or two of the graphite that typifies well made chianti but there are also leafy plum stone influences and a silky smooth texture.
So, for a small lunch-time glass of wine or something larger to signal the end of the week, drop in to one church building where the congregation is definitely not dwindling!
2012 Domaine de Pellehaut Blanc, Côtes de Gascogne, France, 11 per cent
What a delightful, surprisingly complex white this is. The blend ensures that you are treated to a textured pear opening which develops into aromatic touches of peach and then, quite late on, gives the whole thing life and energy with a burst of grapefruit centred acidity.
£7.25 at www.thesecretcellar.co.uk
2011 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages, Combe aux Jacques, France, 12.5 per cent
One of life’s mysteries is why good Beaujolais does not get the support it deserves. This version, from an excellent producer, has beautifully juicy, clear cut, raspberry, black cherry and beetroot flavours with depth but delightfully balanced acidity. Try some – you will be amazed!
£8.99 – instead of £10.99 until Tuesday but online if necessary – at Tesco