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A Postcard from Bristol

One of the first pieces we ever posted on Sniff last September was on the pleasure of drinking delicious Bulgarian wine, particularly those made from Melnik in the Struma Valley. Whilst back in Bristol we spent an enjoyable evening at Bell’s Diner, a restaurant that has been consistently at the forefront of Bristol’s culinary arts even after the departure of the former proprietor and talented chef Chris Wickes. Now the food is less experimental but equally satisfying and if the wine list has shrunk somewhat, the quirkiness quotient more than compensates.

To accompany the powerful and earthy flavours of smoked paprika and harissa that added vim to our skewers of monkfish and chicken required a wine of some confidence. As more dishes arrived; grilled sardines, silky aubergine salad, aged parmesan, pickles etc, it was clear that a simple Sauvignon would not suffice and I searched the wine-list for something with weight. Rkatsitelli is not a variety that features heavily on the wine-list of the average English restaurant but perhaps it should. This Georgian native is the mostly widely planted white variety in Bulgaria and although its ubiquity is due primarily to its productive and hardy nature (like Riesling for example) this does not preclude it from making some interestingly individual wines. I settled on Borovitza’s Cuvee Bella Rada, an oaked and ‘natural’ example from old vines and with no added sulphites. Whilst a little muted on the nose, the wine sported a vinosity, a layer of palate enveloping fatness, that was surely a result of the extended oak ageing and the oxidative nature of this method of maturation. Such honeyed heft proved remarkably adaptable to the raft of dishes we had chosen and we left, satisfied that this was a fitting finale to our time in Europe. Taiwan with all its beef-noodle loveliness was calling us home.