I did a poll on my Instagram a while back, what do we prefer, lunch or dinner? The majority was with lunches and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, there’s something quite mischievous about taking time out of a working day for a lunch that you know (and hope) might end up running into the rest of the day. Secondly, if things do get out of hand which you know (and hope) that they will, you have the best part of an evening to rehydrate so you’re generally absolutely fine the next day. Finally, I think the aspect of daylight adds certain joie de vivre to the occasion, especially if it is a nice day. In the winter you might be seeking out a different set up, the cosiness of darkness and an early evening meal has its own magic. But in the summer, you can’t beat a good lunch. I have had several lately and I don’t say this smugly for sometimes it feels as though myself and wine are on a cyclical journey of learning, over indulging, exercising, self-hatred and acceptance. It’s the learning and discovery that keeps me coming back for more.
One of the stand out lunches lately was with Amelia and Matthew Jukes to discover both Jukes Cordialities and Teusner wines from the Barossa Valley. We met at somewhere quite delicious, the Academy above Andrew Edmunds. I have been researching how this peculiar and charming little place came about and not for the first time have I felt I was born in the wrong era. The original Academy was born by Auberon Waugh in the December of 1989. It settled it’s debaucherous haunches in a cellar beneath a building on Beak Street in Soho. To be a member, you had to have written a book and early on, Waugh wrote to potentials to note that the annual fee would be £75 and could they send back a copy of their book to display on the premises. “The Academy soon became as well known for the excellence of its wines as for the sometimes sardonic humour of the membership, to say nothing of the shifting humours of Bron himself. Poets were banned, given that they never stood a round, and otherwise top-notch women paid them far too much attention,” says Anthony Haden-Guest in an old article for Spear’s. “In the late 1990s, Naim Atallah who owned both the Literary Review and the building which housed it, decided he needed more space. The Academy was turfed out of its cellar premises and remained homeless for two years. Then Waugh spoke to Andrew Edmunds, who has a prints-and-rare books operation on Lexington Street alongside his restaurant, and who did happily have a space,” says Haden-Guest.
The prints-and-rare books remains to this day, as does Andrew Edmunds, as does the Academy, as do the great wines, we started with a 2019 Chassagne-Montrachet from Domaine Michel Niellon and it was blissful. You still need to have written a book to be a member, it’s still inappropriate to ask for tea and if you take a call while in situ you have to buy the entire literary human contents of the Academy a bottle of champagne. It’s splendid. From the cheeky wallpaper in the loo to the ‘cigar yellow’ walls, the charm is in its chaos. I felt very at home there and it has actually given me further motivation to get a book written. Matthew Jukes is the author of many a wine book and I got the impression that for both Matthew and Amelia, this was a very special and sentimental place. Andrew Edmunds came up to meet us towards the end of the lunch and what fun those twinkling eyes must have seen over the years. Inappropriate art and inappropriate people make the world a much more entertaining place. It was a very warm day and we sat next to the window overlooking the hustle and bustle, listening to a radial drill attempt to penetrate Lexington Street. While we’re on the subject of penetration, lets dive straight into these naughty Teusner wines that Amelia generously provided.
Teusner, Joshua, 2021, Barossa Valley
Available from Great Wine Co. Handford Wine, Once upon a Vine,
Wine Republic, Carruthers & Kend for around £24
This is a GSM blend, Grenache, Syrah and Mataro, from old vine Grenache, really old, pre-phylloxera Grenache. It was their very first wine, and so named after Mick’s first son, Joshua. You don’t even know who Mick is yet! Some background… The story goes that both Kym Teusner and Mick Page were ‘down the pub’ having a few cold ones when they overheard a couple of grape growers chatting about digging up their 85 year old Grenache vines. They simply couldn’t let this happen and so, maybe after a few too many cold ones, offered the guys four times what they’d been paid by ‘the big guys’ for the crop, as long as they kept the vines in the ground. They had one mission in mind, to make the kind of wines they liked to drink, most of which was pretty unusual for the time in the Barossa Valley.
Back to Joshua, their first. This is what the guys say, “Since the first vintage (2002) was released, the recipe hasn’t changed a whole lot. Typically a blend of Grenache (68%) and a chunk of Mataro (23%) from 100 year old vines at Ebenezer blended with a splash of Shiraz (9%) from 20 year old vines at Gomersal. A mix of light and dark fresh ripe berried fruits, cured meats and lifted spice on the nose sets you up for mouthful of savoury and gamey flavour in the mouth. We keep our Josh’ away from oak and release it young to showcase the kind of juicy, spicy, flavoursome Barossa reds that we like to knock back over lunch with a plate of the good gear from the local butcher in Nuriootpa.”
What astonished me the most about this wine (and became a theme for the rest) was the precision behind them. They are so well made, absolutely fruit driven to the core. Turn the bottle to see the reverse label and you might be surprised to see ‘spunk’ in the description, I’ll leave you to decide what that means, and how much you enjoy it.
Side note: For my starter with the Chassagne-Montrachet I ate a delicious plate of very fresh whipped cod’s roe and radish. As we moved onto Barossa Valley reds, I opted for Longhorn skirt steak with rocket, pecorino sardo and balsamic and it was just that perfect combination of sweet and steak.
‘The G’ Barossa Valley Grenache, 2021
Available from Great Wine Co. Carruthers & Kent, NY Wines of Cambridge for around £21.50
This label really divides opinions. Obviously, I love it. But some people, maybe you, think a bottom and lower back on a label is unnecessary. What you shouldn’t think, is that the label has any reflection on the contents. Remember their mission? To make wines they love drinking. The G is a pleasure to drink, and insane value too, they all are. There’s a lot of tongue in cheek humour surrounding the name…100% Grenache, once discovered, can never be forgotten… It’s the whole reason they bought the vineyard, for this seriously old Grenache, and so why not make a wine that lets those grapes sing. Sing it does, beautifully, pitch perfect, again, so precise with the voluptuousness which is quite a rare thing. With this much power, usually there’s some jammy notes, or they’re a bit rough around the edge, or a little muddled, this is none of those things, it’s pure, clean, juicy, right on the mark Grenache.
Teusner, The Dog Strangler, 2021 Barossa Valley
Available from Great Wine Co. for around £24
Admittedly the name on this one is also going to divide opinions but no dogs were harmed in the making of this wine. Do you know what Mourvedre is sometimes known as in France? Estrangle chien, because of the gnarly roots potentially being a danger to doggies. This is 100% Mataro, also known as Mourvedre and Monastrell, sometimes even Balzac. I took a photo of this in the glass because I could not believe how gorgeous it was in colour. Admittedly the photo isn’t great, but that purple hue was ethereal in its glow. This wine had real weight to it, dark fruits and some spice. But still, refreshing spice, not that kind of peppery tannic grippy spice you can get from Syrah.
Albert Barossa Valley Shiraz 2018
Available from Great Wine Co. for around £37.50
While I may have mentioned the grippy spice you might expect from Syrah in my previous note. The deft winemaking at Teusner means that this 14.5% Barossa Valley Shiraz is somehow heavy but not heavy at all. I’d love to visit to see what they get up to in the winery but I imagine it has more to do with the seriously old vines and the way they take care of their fruit. Another phenomenal wine and for this sort of new style Aussie Shiraz, again, unbelievable value. I’m actually so thrilled to know about it because I have been known to spend close to £100 on this kind of Australian Syrah in the past, maybe I don’t need to anymore. And that’s not a brag by the way, it usually means delaying my water bill while I pay for wine.
Avatar, GSM, Barossa Valley, 2020
Available from Great Wine Co. Handford Wines, NY Wines of Cambridge, Wine Republic for around £25.50
Avatar is the brother to their first creation Joshua, it’s another GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah and Mataro) but this time it’s seen a little bit of oak for 12 months. As someone who loves the softening effect that oak has on a wine, I’m of course, a huge fan of this. It has all the fruit and precision of Joshua, but with that lovely hint of vanilla too, only a touch though.
Prior to tasting these fantastic Australian wines, I was lucky to sample Jukes Cordialities – Matthew’s very successful new venture into alcohol free cordials. They’re a wonderful idea, and they’ve found success in hospitality as one of the primary things that Matthew kept in mind throughout their production was food pairings. I really enjoyed them, particularly the new canned Sparkling Pinot Noir which, while the manufacturing of it sounded chaotic, was worth every bit of cortisol on Matthew’s part for our enjoyment. It’s wondrous. The base of the cordials and indeed the ready to drink Sparkling Pinot Noir is organic apple cider vinegar so there’s a real hint of health to these drinks, as well as being alcohol free, I think they might just be saving our second brain, our gut, from all the terrible things we to do it via wine. A lovely sip on when not indulging in other things.