Beautifully designed, and tucked into the corner of London’s colourful Neal’s Yard, Compagnie Des Vins Surnaturels is one of city’s stand-out wine bars. Its exceptional French-styled chic interior is a homely mix of textured and patterned armchairs and plush cushions, rich wood furnishings and cool blue and grey walls.
However it’s not just the stunning design that attracts groups of parched Londoners, but the incredible wines list and food offering. Cheeses, charcuterie with fresh breads, small plates of seasonal produce and one of London’s best sandwiches (as voted by GQ and the Evening Standard) all compliment the incredible wines. We’re talking opulent notes of spice-and-leather, crisp minerality or loud splashes of exotic fruits – big, rare and exciting wines are all here to sip and explore.
We sat down with sommelier Julia Oudill to discuss her favourite bottles of Champagne, white and red.
“80% of our wine list is French,” says Julia. “We have quite an extensive Burgundy list as well, both red and white, and in the whites, a lot from the Loire. I think Sommeliers naturally highlight areas they love.”
CVS has an extensive Champagne list, one which reflects both Julia’s love of the category and also Xavier Padovani’s, one of the co-owners who launched the site back in 2014. Promoting small producers over big brands, Julia tries not to go crazy on prices and mark-ups, enabling guests to drink great value fizz.
“I love Egly Ouriet, it’s a maison I’ve known for a while, but recently rediscovered with their V.P,” says Julia, immediately picking out the Grand Cru Ambonnay - Extra Brut which sells for £130 a bottle. V.P here stands for vieillisement prolonge, or prolonged aging, making for a yellow-gold wine rich on the nose with smoky apple, pear, apricot and peach pits. To taste its buttery flavour is rich and chewy.
Julia also singles out producer Cedric Bouchard who bottles one grape type from individual terroirs rather than blending. The lists boasts a few of his vintages but she points to La Haute Lemblé - Blanc de Blancs V09 for £175 as an exceptional bottle.
“Because it’s extensive people do ask for advice, if there’s a £10 variation they want to know what the differences are between the wines.”
On the rare end of the list there is a further bottle from Cedric Bouchard, this time his Creux D'enfer - Rosé V10 for £350, of which CVS has one bottle left. Also with just one in stock is the Krug, Clos Du Mesnil from 2000 the list’s most expensive at £980. Julia also mention’s E. Brochet, Haut Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs, Extra Brut from 2006, at £158 as being both rare and good value for money.
Divided into the French regions of Alsace, Champagne, Bordeaux, Jura, Rhône, Provence/Corse, Sud, Sud Ouest, Bourgogne, Chablisien, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Loire, as well as Italy, Spain, Germany, Australia and South Africa, CVS’s white collection is extensive.
If you’re looking for something dry and fresh Julia points out the Orleans, Clos Saint Fiacre - L'excellence from 2013 for £42 a bottle with its fresh, crisp and zesty notes or Bourgogne Aligote, Bernard Defaix, from 2014 for £34 which is sharp and mineral.
For something richer and full of personality she recommends a bottle from the Sud Ouest; Irouleguy, Domaine Arretxea - Hegoxuri from 2014 for £56 with its notes of mango, pineapple, subtle minerality and a lot of character.
Among the whites the best seller is from Loire; Orleans, Clos Saint Fiacre from 2013 at £34 which has light notes of pear and its both fresh and dry. Money no object? Head straight to the Côte de Beaune - Batard Montrachet Gc, Anne Claude Leflaive from 2001 which sells at £395.
Again divided in French regions, this time Alsace, Jura, Loire, Beaujolais, Provence/Corse, Bordeaux, Bourgogne (within Bourgogne – Chablisien, Côte de Beaune, Côte de Nuits), Sud, Sud Ouest and Rhône and drawing international bottles from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and South Africa, the red collection is no less expansive that CVS’s whites.
Stepping away from France for a moment, Julia says the best of the international list is the Portuguese wine Douro, Alves De Sousa – Abandonado, from 2009 which sells of £95.
“I find the British palate can be quite heavy, people here like richness and spices, they’re not into light red wines in general. If you like light wine then a Pinot Noir from Bourgogne is best,” says Julia, recommending the Passetoutgrain, Robert Chevillon from 2012 for £38 which is fruity and easy to drink but with just enough interesting complexity.
If you’re delving into some stinky cheese at the bar pair it with the rich and spicy Coteaux Du Languedoc, Domaine Des Aurelles - Solen from 2010 at £48.
CVS’s best red wine seller is from Rhone, the Crozes Hermitag, Domaine Des Entrefaux from 2013 which sells for £44 a bottle. The southern wine is heavy, dense and spicy with notes of strawberries, and raspberries. It is, says Julia, the perfect friend.
If you’ve got the cash to splash however, Julia recommends a wine from Bourgogne, Côte de Nuits - the Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru, Armand Rousseau - Clos St Jacques from 2007 at a cool £780.