Special Wines For Journey-Men and Journey-Women

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If sheer contentment is a measure of quality, recent meals in Brawn stand head and shoulders above every other restaurant visit this year. Faye Maschler once suggested that if she could, she would eat and drink there every day – I suggest she joins the queue.  

Highlights from a recent dinner included a veneration of Tamworth in the form of two succulent pieces of belly and a flavoursome dish of raw scallops, peas and broad beans that made you question why they ever see a pan at all. Sunday lunch was laid-back perfection, a salade Niçoise just one of a trio of very good starters and a Hereford beef lasagne of which nonnas the length and breadth of Italy would’ve been justifiably proud.

But we all know you’re really here to read about the wine.

Although probably not intended to be taken literally, it seemed a shame for a weary traveller not to explore the section of the wine list titled ‘Special Wines for Journey-Men and Journey-Women’. This wasn’t merely a section of oddities – the entire wine list at Brawn is littered with bottles that might be considered curiosities elsewhere – but it did have some back vintages and relative rarities including the two Lombardian reds that we enjoyed. Value seemed reasonable for London, even if wine prices in the capital still remain somewhat a shock for this visitor.

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Although Ar.Pe.Pe.’s Riservas seem to drink well upon release – four years of bottle ageing will probably do that – the structure of Sassella Rocce Rosse demands more time to reveal its best. The 2001, although still a little off its peak, seems to be entering a good place right now; it was attractively perfumed with delicate, floral Nebbiolo aromas and a bright seam of acidity.

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A wine that is most certainly at its peak is the 1994 Barbacarlo. Comparing vintages of Barbarcarlo is a fools errand. A blend of Croatina, Uva Rara, and Uvetta from a four hectare plot in Oltrepo Pavese, the wine is always bottled unfiltered in the spring following the harvest, giving a pure expression of both time and place.

Vintage variation is celebrated by Lino Maga – some of his wines are sparkling, others with high levels of residual sugar. This bottle had a slight spritz when it was first opened but that tamed over time in the glass (in marked contrast to a recent 96 which still seems impossibly fresh and energetic) – the nose was slightly reticent at first but then became quite floral before turning more mellow and earthy. There was still an appealing red fruit core throughout, suggesting that this one might just exceed Commendatore Maga’s guidance of a 30 year drinking window for this wines.

Brawn, 49 Columbia Rd, Bethnal Green E2 7RG

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