Monday, 21 May 2012

Great wines, fine times at the Finborough Wine Cafe

Like most Fulham residents, I drink a fair bit of wine. Some of it fine, some of it... not so much. Yet only recently, having attended a few different tastings in the borough, have I really begun to learn the subtler differences between all those wines that lie between the 'epic' and the 'undrinkable' ends of the scale. As someone from Blur might have once said, it's only recently I've begun to know my Claret from my Beaujolais.

Having started on this boozy adventure, I'd been keen for a while now to check out the offering at the Finborough Wine Cafe. Promising a range of tastings from group sessions to a pretty appealing '10 wines for £9' deal (tasters rather than bottles, sorry folks!) and with a square emphasis on bringing you great wines that won't break the bank, I was looking forward to trying out some wines I could actually afford to take home with me (and show off to my friends about with my newly acquired knowledge!).

The Finborough Wine Cafe sits across two floors underneath the legendary Finborough Theatre. The ground floor cafe is bright and light, with a large central bar area and lots of welcoming leather sofas, all well spaced out to give a relaxed atmosphere, where we enjoyed a glass of sparkling whilst waiting for the tasting to begin. As you might expect, they offer a plentiful wine menu, helpfully organised by style and taste of wine, as opposed to by grape or region (which can be a little bamboozling, particularly when they are grapes you haven't heard of before), and range of snacks including delicious Firezza pizzas from an outlet next door... pretty handy after a whopping 10 glass tasting.

The tasting area is in an contemporary cellar space in the basement. The groups are intimate (our table was just 10) and you are completely surrounded by racks of wine, accentuated by appealing modern backlighting. The sessions are strictly informal, no charts or power-points, just a list of wines with space to make notes, plenty of banter and light hearted (yet still informative) commentary from our friendly, enthusiastic, yet totally unpretentious host. We learnt about how differences in temperature, grape, soil, gradient and even rot affect the taste of wines, the differences between Old and New world wines, and plenty more besides: and most cleverly of all, we never once felt we were in a lesson or lecture. Tastings at the Finborough make wine accessible, really accessible. Case in point, here's an anecdote I will always remember: "New World wines are like strippers, they reveal themselves quickly, where as the old world wines are more akin to a burlesque dancer - taking their time and with a more complex way of undressing."

With the emphasis on the best of affordable wines, the Finborough may not be the place you come to have a crack at the couture of the wine world (although there definitely are some bottles I wouldn't class as 'affordable'), but the range of grapes and provenances we tried was perfect for figuring out what suits your tastes, and it's definitely a plus to discover a bottle you wouldn't find in Sainsbury's that can become an affordable favourite. Sessions are fun, educational and won't break the bank. I'd definitely visit again.

Finborough Wine Cafe
118 Finborough Road
SW10 9ED
Bookings via or 0207 373 0745

Finborough Wine Cafe on Urbanspoon

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