I always read the ‘staff picks’ selections in book shops, the pros being far more equipped to pick out a good pageturner than I am (because we all know what they say about books and covers). I happily came across a similar helping hand when visiting one of the latest bars to open at Finzels Reach.
Within the achingly cool food and drink development opposite Castle Park – which includes Left Handed Giant’s brewpub and Bocabar – sits Le Vignoble‘s newest venue. The atmosphere in this contemporary wine bar is boisterous – even when we arrive, pre-6pm, the place hums with conversation as people shuffle around the fringes, eyeing up the wines in the dispensing machines.
If you’ve not yet visited a venue with Enomatic wine machines (pretty much the eponym for self serve wine dispensers), let me fill you in. You’re given a magic card that you must offer up to each machine in exchange for glasses of wine. You can purchase either a taster, medium or large glass, with pricing calculated by the millilitre (this means you don’t pay a premium just to try a small drop).
Measures start at around £1 and go all the way up to £30, for if you fancy pushing the boat out. Mostly though, you can get a glass of wine for around £6-£8 which, considering the quality and range on offer (64 varieties, no less), is not bad at all.
What’s more, these machines keep each wine at its optimum temperatures to serve, so you’re guaranteed to drink it exactly as the winemaker intended.
That wine credit card then keeps a tally of your spending until the bill is settled at the end of the evening. Alternatively, you can pre-load a card (a good option if your self-control is as limited as mine).
Before you even think of settling up, though, you’ll be wanting something to nibble on, yes? There’s a one-page menu of tapas-sized dishes on offer as well as marinated olives, bread, cheese and meat boards. Great for grazing.
We dive straight in with wines’ best buddy, cheese. An apricot grilled Brie de Meaux with honey and pistachios (£8.50) to be precise. Don’t let the standard-issue blue-rimmed enamel dishes fool you: this is no dude-food. We mound the warm gooey brie onto bread and wash it down with a 2017 Château Puech-Haut Le Loup du Pic Pic-Saint-Loup, which offers as much complexity in taste – with hints of cocoa and ripe red fruits – as it does to in pronunciation.
The chef shows mercy to the roofs of our mouths with the grilled tomatoes (£8.50), which burst with sweetness rather than a molten lava interior and come covered in melted blue cheese and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
I scrape up the cooled cheesy crust from both dishes, the delicious salty and sweet mixture requiring a glass of something refreshing to reset the palate. After trying a handful, I settle on a full glass of Italian Piedmont – a crisp, fruity wine with hints of white peach. All bottles here are available to take away at retail prices and this, not being a grape variety I’d usually choose, might be one to go home with.
If not for the wine machines themselves, you may not tell that Le Vignoble Finzels Reach is part of the same company as the Bath branch. It feels accessible, fun, and has a more casual vibe that’s perfect for Bristol. It’s worth a visit to explore the range at your own pace. But failing that, the staff picks cabinet is a great place to start.
Le Vignoble, The Fermentation Building, Hawkins Lane, Finzels Reach, Bristol, BS1 6JQ; 07525 690439