JWL Issue #078: New Wine Bars in South-East London & What is Joven Rioja?

December 3, 2019

Christmas season is upon us, and this is the final standard Taste section before I do my end of year lists starting next week.

I’ve been to two new wine bars in south-east London over the last few weeks.

Peckham Cellars is a new addition to Queens Road. There’s a real magic to Peckham Cellars that balances dining and wine brilliantly. The wine list is serious but well priced, with most bottles are between £30 and £40, and a real selection available by the glass. (Including Oxney’s Classic by the glass which feels like a rare find indeed.)

Foodwise, we really dug into a selection of small plates, which were all stellar and change regularly. Their marmite whipped butter is something you will want to add to every dish you’ve ever had. And if you’re feeling a little more hungry, dishes like onglet and Colston Basset or hake, fava, salsa verde should sort you out. I’ve been twice now and can’t rate it enough.

Sylvester joins Levan in being the second south-east London wine destination named after disco heroes. Sylvester is part micro-club, part pizza restaurant, part natural wine bar. I had a great white ham pizza on Saturday ahead of a fundraiser a few friends put together for the 999 Club in Deptford. Their wine list is heavily natural with some really interesting selections, such as a pet nat gamay that was a bubblegum explosion. A really good steer for natural wine fans in ED.


Before I really got into wine, one of the falsehoods I learnt was that with Rioja, the older the better. If you’re at all like that, then Vina Ilusion, one of last month’s selections for Wine List, is a great way to disrupt that mould. There’s a barnyardy nose here, but beneath there is a wonderfully fresh wine. Totally unlike what you might expect from Rioja, this is young, vibrant, with an abundance of black fruits and floral characters. This is nicely balanced with strong acidity holding the wine together well. (£14 where available by the bottle).

Wine falls in and out of favour. For years all you could taste at any event was New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and as a result you get sick to death of it. Then you taste one that wakes you back up. Calvet Menetou-Salon Sauvignon Blanc (£14.99 from Waitrose) is one such example. This felt clean and fresh and floral, and not just an elderflower bomb like so much SB can be.


Joven Rioja?

Joven means ‘young’ and is part if a specific classification system with Rioja. With the above wine, the amount of ageing a bottle has both in oak and in bottle determines where it sits on the joven, crianza, reserva, and gran reserva scale.

Joven is the youngest, and may not have seen any oak ageing at all. These wines are designed to be drunk in their youth, which means there’s often incredible value to be found.

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