El Vino is the celebrated, even revered, wine bar in Fleet Street. Lawyers and the crustier type of journalist drink there, usually selecting wines from the old reliables: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne. Château Thames Embankment is Rumpole’s soubriquet for their house claret, and very good it is too. But El Vino now has several other branches, and they attract a younger crowd, more likely to go for lively, fruity New World wines. The company now combines tradition and innovation with considerable success.
So we can start with the two house wines, the red Velvin (6) and the white Choisi de Boyier (1). They’re not allowed to say so, but I can — the postcode on the label reveals that both wines are made in the Côte d’Or, and both are overproduction of Burgundy. Strict French laws mean that only a certain amount can be sold as vin de Bourgogne, but in an overflowing year they have to do something with the rest, so they sell it to us. Obviously we’re not looking at La Tâche or Le Montrachet here, especially not at these low prices, but if you’re wanting a pair of really nice wines — Pinot Noir and Chardonnay — for summer glugging, you would go a long way to find better.
The next pair come from South Australia and they are terrific bargains. Woodstock is a company that makes some truly excellent wines, but they’ve decided to stop selling in the UK in order to concentrate on the Chinese market. So Anthony Mitchell of El Vino is clearing his stock through very generous discounts. For example, the delicious Woodstock Five Feet White 2005 (2) is now £7.75 a bottle, or £30 a case off. It’s a blend of Viognier and Riesling, and is a fine drop at a very modest price.