Fortnum & Mason's 1707 wine bar offers inventive sips from an extensive list.
By Nick Passmore
Tim French is nothing if not passionate about the wine he buys for Fortnum & Mason, London's venerable food emporium, especially F & M's own label wines.
"I knock on some very grand doors, and do some interesting things that pretty much no one else in the [private label] environment does." he explains. And he's right—the F & M Pauillac is from Lynch-Bages, and the St-Julien is the second label of Château Branaire Ducru.
While French is responsible for all Fortnum's wines, his special focus at the moment is the emporium's new wine bar—1707—named for the year Fortnum first opened. Serving light seasonal gourmet fare perfect for fortifying customers after a hard morning's shopping in Piccadilly, the bar offers a rotating, eclectic selection of 35 wines by the glass, in addition to which any of the 800 wines in the adjacent wine shop can be bought for their retail price and drunk in 1707 for a reasonable corkage charge. In addition to a unique roster of worldwide wines, the bar offers wines like the German Silvaner, which French calls "a wonderful, wonderful grape variety that is not well known and somewhat misunderstood," he says. "It's a great alternative to the more familiar white Burgundy."
Especially when drunk with the platter of smoked salmon, poached salmon, and quail eggs covered with salmon eggs, a delectable combination offered on the bar menu. Also not to be missed is the charcuterie selection—the best San Daniele ham I have ever tasted—with a flight of three Piemonte reds, and the game pie with a classic pairing of Pinots, a Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru and Pegasus Bay.
French's special vision for the wine bar is to offer Londoners and tourists alike the chance to taste something they might not normally find in a local wine shop or restaurant. "It's all about getting beyond entry-level and showing
people really interesting wines." he says. The impressive wine list speaks for itself—and a mission accomplished. For information, go to www.fortnumandmason.com.
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