Last week I finally found a spare moment to pay a visit to my friend Geoffray Benat’s new(ish) restaurant… Cepages Wine Bistro at 69 Westbourne Park Road in Notting Hill. London has recently seen a mass proliferation of wine restaurants and dedicated wine bars, so I was keen to visit Cepages and savour its mood.
Geoffray, in a previous life, used to import and sell exclusive wines from small, high quality boutique and artisanal French properties. It was great to see that he is still importing and selling many interesting wines with real character and interest. We got to enjoy a few of these last week over lunch as Cepages is now open for lunch as well as dinner bookings.
Cepages is literally a few metres around the corner from the famous Cow Pub on Westbourne Park Road, where celebrities and Notting Hill-billies go to get their regular fix of Guinness and oysters. But if it’s interesting wine you’re after in a rustic but friendly Bistro setting, Cepages is just for you.
We kicked off proceedings with a very fine Gael Martin Saint Veran 2014 white Burgundy at 13 Abv, with its rich, honied, leesy mouthfeel, buttery breadth, and a long, concentrated fresh zesty lemon citrus finish (92/100). Then on to a beautiful pair of wines from the Palette appellation in the South of France.
Chateau Cremade is one of a handful of properties in Palette (along with others like Chateau Simon and Henri Bonneau) that produce estate bottled wines. The Cremade Blanc 2010 made primarily from Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc showed a sweet lemon butter entry, rich unctuous texture and a fine, harmonious finish with sufficient acid freshness to tie it all together (93/100).
The Chateau Cremade Rose 2014 made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre was crisp and crunchy, perfumed with a dusty granitic minerality, but possessed a tender freshness and attractive pithy red cherry fruit and a long elegant finish (93+/100). A good alternative for Bandol lovers?
Next up a La Chaume Prima Donna 2014 Val de Loire IGP white made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This was rich and savoury, unctuous and broad for a French white, with spiced apple, wet straw, honied concentration and an exotic pear purée finish (91+/100).
What Geoffray doesn’t always mention is that his father owns an excellent Cru Beaujolais estate called Domaine de Cotoyon. Their Julienas was one of the first wines we bought from Geoffray, so it was great to taste new vintages. The 2014 Cru was pure and perfumed, delicate, and light with crushed cherries, wild forest strawberries, fresh acids and a classical frame. Lovely wine (91/100).
Then a wine I’d only previously heard about, their Julienas Cuvee Les Mouilles 2011 made from the best parcels from two of their best vineyards. There is no oak and only semi-maceration carbonique in concrete, then 2 further years aging in concrete. Such an intense wine with salty licorice, black plum, salty cassis and rich powerful depth and concentration. Acids are soft but fresh and the wine finishes with an attractive black pastille length. A real wow wine (93/100).
Finally a lovely pair of whites. One from next to Burgundy and one a homage to Burgundy. The Domaine Jean Claude Credoz Cotes du Jura 2013 Chardonnay at 13 Abv was fresh, taught, tense and saline, with briney lemon and white grapefruit zip, dusty limestone minerality and a classical sea breeze finish.
The Jura paired well with a Minimus #18 Gouges Zivo Vineyard 2015 from Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Tiny production, this is a really profound unicorn white that pays tribute to Henri Gouges’ Nuits St Georges whites. Aged for 300 days on its skins in Chesnut puncheons, this 13.9 Abv white was bottled unfiltered and unfined. Such lemony complexity, salty chalky mineral freshness and ethereal intensity that’s hard to put into words (94+/100).
Of course, the wines were matched with some excellent tapas style food dishes from Cepages’ kitchen. The scallops were succulent and the langoustines outstanding. I really look forward to returning to hosting a future wine lunch at this great new London destination.