Yuppie (do they still exist) couples on a first date
Anyone wanting to impress a guest
Or anyone who really appreciates fine wine!
In A Word
The Back Story
In the nineties, I used to sometime catch a bus ‘up Plymouth’ for a shopping trip. There was nothing there but a Doc Martin’s shop and a wicked ice skating rink, but Plymouth is pretty much going overseas from Cornwall. I mean you actually have to pay to leave.
Crossing over IKB’s bridge and heading for the bright lights of the city still fills me with joy, even after living in Tokyo!
So when the opportunity to review Le Vignoble presented itself, it was exciting to say the least. Coupled with a tight schedule and storm force winds; hammering up the A30, the boy recoiled in terror at my caterwauling to Skunk Anansie. Something had taken me right back to teenhood!
Oh my actual days. Right by the water in a Grade I listed building in the Royal William Yard, Le Vignoble sits along with boutique eateries such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen and cosmopolitan bars. As usual, I feel Plymouth has grown up, but wonder if it’s taken me with it.
The building is beautiful and Yannick has kept it ‘clean’ inside.
As we arrived, there was some confusion over where to sit. As a bar, it comfortably sits around 35. Of course, I didn’t realise for a beat or two that one wall was entirely mirrors, so it at first appeared much bigger.
We weren’t the earliest of tables, and ended up seated with a couple who introduced themselves as Karen and Fitz.
True to purpose, Yannick has themed the interior around wine. Primarily, this means aisles are created with intentionally low key furniture; decorated using stacked up barrels, oak boxes and all things wine.
The tables boast glass tops, which contain used corks and bottles, so as not to lose the wine theme. A clock on the wall is even made from a melted wine bottle. It wouldn’t be the kind of place you’d take a recovering alcoholic.
The bar itself is large and oak, with space behind it for staff to prepare the cheese boards and tapas trays; although because we’d arrived on a wine tasting evening, we were seated.
I know. Odd thing to comment on. But I think you can tell a lot about a place by the state of the john! And these were not only immaculate, but decorated with used wine bottles of various sizes, which are then explained pictorially on the wall. Massive thumbs up!
We’d chosen the Jaboulet evening because I travelled around the Rhone area in my late teens and recalled even cheap wine being good. I also had recollections of drinking loads of it and pissing around on a Segway in Lyon, but that seemed irrelevant at such a grown up evening.
Of course when you spend a euro on wine, it probably isn’t very good at all. Thankfully Jaboulet isn’t cheap wine. Neither, when I’d heard all Marie had to say about the biodiversity of the area, is it expensive.
The Jaboulet family owned the vineyard for six generations since 1834, until it was very recently sold to the Fray family. Fitz, who we sat with, had grown up on the vineyard and picked the grapes as a younger man; hence being interested in the evening at Le Vignoble.
He and Karen also talked about having drunk a ’64 vintage of the Hermitage red one evening whilst watching Poirot on the sofa. It was worth £1000 a bottle now!
As the UK export director, Marie was very knowledgeable about the wines and the tasting included various notes on the character of the grapes, methods used to produce the wine and how appellation soils and ownership affects wine.
OK, so the main point of being there was to taste a variety of wines. On an empty stomach, the Parallele 45 Blanc was a clean and crisp white Rhone wine, which was fairly priced at £11.95 for a bottle and was quite drinkable.
Parallel 45 is so named because the appellation sits on the latitude of 45. Marie explained that this is an almost visible line separating the North and South Rhone, and the grapes used to make this fresh and fruity wine are taken from both sides.
Despite being the cheapest, this was my personal favourite of the three whites we drank; perhaps because I’m not a fan of the rich and oaky white. That said, the third white, Crozes Hermitage Blanc Domaine Mule Blanche was deep and full-bodied; tasting more like a red.
Moving on to the reds, the Saint Joseph Grand Pompee is named after the 350m Saint Joseph hill; opposite the hill of l’hermitage. With a complex soil taste and rich in berry notes, Marie described this as a masculine wine, and it had a beautiful garnet colour, but the best was yet to come.
The following wine we tried was the one we took home; The Crozes Hermitage Rouge Domaine de Thalabert 2007. Deep, complex and chocolatey notes gave this wine the most character of all those we tried on the evening and it paired well with the rich and tasty platter of food.
Back vintages of this wine, it transpired, were the ones that cost up to £1000. Which was fucking typical because I always like expensive wines!
The last wine on the list was a spicy and almost piquant red Cornas Grandes Terasses, which was tasty and complex, but didn’t waken my palate in the same way as the Hermitage. Lucky for us, Marie and Yannick decided to open a bottle of the 2005 Hermitage, which we really savoured, since its age gave even more depth to the flavour.
There were bottles of Hermitage dating back as far as the 1990, which were apparently ‘opening up’ around now.
As a wine bar, Le Vignoble offers only simple food. We ordered a tapas platter: comprised of mixed charcuterie, truffle brie, homemade breads and a variety of sauces and pickles. The truffle brie was divine, and I will be sourcing some of it for my Christmas cheese selection.
Everything on the plates tasted good, and was reasonable at £7.50 for a sharing platter.
Once Marie finished explaining about the Jaboulet range, punters were able to sample different wines using a ‘wine card’. Karen gave us a heads up that this was quite an expensive way of spending the evening, and we still had a journey back through gale force winds to contend with.
If you’re looking for a cosmopolitan wine bar, with friendly staff and incredible tapas, Le Vignoble is a perfect destination.
Monday – Thursday: 12:00 – 23:30
Friday & Saturday: 12:00 – 00:00
Sunday: 12:00 – 23:00
Royal William Yard,