Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
8-10 Neal\'s Yard, WC2H 9DP
WLC Rank : 29
Glass from : £ 6 (125 ml)
BEST FORBig names, big bottles and artisan discoveries
The Mystery Wine challenge
Interior design by Dorothée Meilichzon
Cheeses by Beillevaire, cooked ham with truffle and top beef tartare
Part of the Experimental Group, CVS is a remarkably vinously well-equipped colourful haven off a courtyard, overseen by the dedicated gardener and baker, Roman Jaën.
Inquisitive group wine director of Jaën authors a deep and sometimes mischievous list at the softly lit, two-floor wine bar and counter that is Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, Neal’s Yard. The location is named after the 17th-century MP, Master of the Mint, Groom of the Bedchamber and, no doubt, wine lover Thomas Neale.
Harking from Burgundy which, under normal circumstances, he returns to monthly, Jaën previously worked for Pierre Gagnaire at Sketch and helped open the European debut of The Peninsula, Paris.
Recently, Jaën concentrated on developing his impressive range of grower Champagnes, respectfully listing the terroirs of the growers. He also increased the detailed Burgundy selection, seeking out young-gun producers. Of the sometimes vertigo-inducing prices such wines can attract, Jaën notes: “People always talk about price but less so about quality, and the last vintages from 2014 on have been so good, coupled with better winemaking and technological precision. You can feel the improvement when you’re there.”
From elsewhere in France, Jaën builds impressive flights of wines from Grange de Pères, “which was one of the first fine wines I tried”, and, showing value, features Alsace picks from Boxler, Ostertag and Weinbach, perhaps best savoured alongside head chef Julien Guesdon’s foie gras, miso and kasha.
From Spain, he looks beyond Rioja and Ribera del Duero to bottles such as amphora-aged Priorat, Terroir al Limit, which could accompany beef tartare with herring and colatura, or a pitch-perfect pigeon pithivier. With crème caramel and vanilla cream, try ancient Madeira or Quinta do Noval’s 2000 Colheita, “bottled in imperial just for me”. Finish with filter coffee from the nearby Monmouth Coffee Company.
Appealing to brave customers and visiting sommeliers alike, Jaën promises a free bottle of the day’s ‘Mystery Wine’ if a glass of it is deduced correctly.
Jaën also looks after the lists at the Experimental Group’s “bed and beverage” hotel at London’s Henrietta Street, replete with Basque-influenced sharing plates, Venice’s 40-bedroom Il Palazzo Experimental in the former HQ of La Adriatica shippers, and Verbier’s Experimental Chalet. He takes pleasure in exploring the vinous territory of Switzerland, where he discovered fragrant Domaine de Beudon Gamay from biodynamically-grown grapes gripping the granite mountain overlooking the chalet. Back in England, he applies “the smallest margin I can” to Swiss wines, including bottles reaped from the one-hectare site tended by Olivier Pittet. “When I do something I like to do it in depth,” says Jaën.
Jaën describes the atmosphere of the 60-cover venue, including counter, as “chilled by day, with loud 1990s French hip-hop and American jazz by night”.
During lockdown in Dorset, Jaën learnt to bake proper sourdough and, compared with hospitality, had an “enjoyably restful” time gardening.”
When not on business for the Experimental Group, you might see Jaën at Quality Wines, “which has a wine for every wallet”, or rekindling his love of judo
By Douglas Blyde.