5 William IV Street
I’ve had a thing about natural wines ever since I went to see a wizard on a wine-tasting trip to Bordeaux last year. The wizard (given name: Jacques Broustet, owner of Chateau Lamery) makes wine according to the arcane principles of biodynamics.
There was a lot I couldn’t fully understand from this first encounter with biodynamics (particularly the bit about filling a cow’s horn with manure and burying it for six months), but the wizard’s wine was definitively good. A bid to find it when returned to the UK took me to the natural wine retailer Les Caves de Pyrene. And from there I heard about Terroirs. Ninety percent of the wines on its 54-page list come from Les Caves. All of them are organic, natural or biodynamic.*
Terroirs is hidden away at the end of an anonymous row of buildings on William IV Street in central London (just a short walk from the national Portrait Gallery). But that shouldn’t put you off. Inside it’s a gourmet oasis, a place where bonhomie and garlicky aromas blend to recreate the atmosphere of a classic Parisian bistro.
Terroirs styles itself as a wine bar, but complementary food is just as important. For post-work or pre-theatre people, the zinc-topped bar is an excellent place to get on friendly terms with that long, lyrical list of wines; there are also tables that usually have a swift turnaround. In the basement there is a dedicated restaurant (there’s a no-booking policy for the former; better to book for the latter).
My friend and I stuck to the ground floor. The food menu here is, near enough, a Francophile’s ideal: French cheeses and charcuterie (plus some Italian); classic bistro small plates of rillettes, Roscoff onions, snails, Bayonne ham, steak tartare, smoked eel; or you can upgrade to the plats du jour. On the day we visited these included mannishly thick Welsh lamb chops with artichokes (as taken to with gusto by my table neighbours), sausage, choucroute and horseradish, and the fondue-style classic of baked Mont D’Or with charcuterie and new potatoes.
Pricewise, Terroirs is reasonable given the management’s commitment to quality and provenance, and the place’s prime location. Wines cost £20-£30 for a good bottle. There are eight reds and eight whites by the glass or 500ml ‘pot’, but the clued-up wine staff are often happy to offer you something that’s not on the list. Just ask.
It’s easy to let loose, as my friend and I did, and top £100 on not very many small plates and quite a lot of wines**, but if it’s the wine that brings you to Terroirs in the first place the temptation shouldn’t be resisted. As a certain wizard once told me: when you find an oasis, the thing to do is drink.
*** Natural wines **
Natural wines are those produced with a minimum of intervention – no chemicals used in the vineyard or winery, and a bare minimum of additives (usually just sulphur, without which the wine would turn to vinegar). Biodynamic wines are natural, but are made following their own prescriptive process. This involves working according to lunar cycles and using organic ‘treatments’ on the vine and in the soil, including compost made from the cow’s horn manure mentioned in the introduction to this reviews. For an explanation of the biodynamics in wine, take a peek at our articles all about it.
**** Wines our reviewer tried**
2010 Gran Cerdo, Usabiaga – Rioja
2008 Valpolicella Classico Superiore ‘Camporenzo’, Monte dall’Ora – Veneto
2008 Cannonau Urulu Cantine di Orgosolo – Sardinia
2005 Syre by Cos – Sicily
2009 Etienne Cortois Les Cailloux Du Paradis Romorantin
Terroirs: 5 William IV Street, London, WC2N 4DW, Tel: 020 7036 0660. (Terroirs has two partner restaurants: Brawn on Columbia Road, east London (“Serving cloudy reds, murky whites and loads of pig”), and the newly opened Soif, in Battersea Rise, south London).
For more information, please visit: http://www.terroirswinebar.com/
Reviewed by: Darren Smith.