Hannah Crosbie's Week In Wine: Where to find a truly unique wine list

 (Rebecca Munroe)
(Rebecca Munroe)

Do you ever read a wine list and think: “Jesus Christ, I could be anywhere?” Boundary-pushing sushi omakase? Family-owned trattoria? Steakhouse? Small plates? Here’s a bottle of Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, a Sauvy-B, a single rosé and – for a reason that remains anomalous to me – more than one varietal of Merlot.

In truth, a lot of average wine lists are a compromise between what the somm is able to buy and what the average consumer wants. But the best wine lists don’t give you what you want, they tell you what you want. They give you what you don’t yet know you want. They possess the opportunity to tell us something about the restaurant, which is why it’s such a pleasure to visit somewhere with a wine list that could only be there. One such place is July, an Alsace-inspired restaurant which stands out auspiciously as instantly identifiable and undeniably itself.

The reason I like this list so much probably has something to do with the fact it was written in collaboration with sommelier Honey Spencer, the doyenne of low intervention wine lists, who, at this point, needs little introduction. If you’re not familiar with her first restaurant, Sune, you may have ordered from the lists she has compiled for Akoko (alongside Ania Smelskaya), Evelyn’s Table and The Palomar.

Because Alsace is still seen as a ‘niche’ winemaking region, the average joint might offer a cursory nod to its via the inclusion of a single cuvée. To confine the diversity of wines and terroirs to a couple of bins does the region a huge disservice. At time of writing, there are 16 such wines on July’s brief list. “Alsace delivers terroir in spades,” says Honey on why this sheer variety exists. “It attracts a new wave of wine growers who can afford to buy land there. They can make a range of wines free from convention which speak to the modern drinker. This is the new viticultural paradise.”

This follows through to the list, where you can find expressions of all Alsace’s ‘noble’ grapes – Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Riesling – but also some exciting curveballs. A sparkling wine that’s strictly Gewürztraminer. A Pinot Gris and Pinot Auxerrois blend. Several intriguing Alsace Pinots. We opt for something a little more trad: a ‘lieu-dit’ Riesling made from 70-year-old vines planted on blue schist soils. This unique terroir brings a salinity and complexity, while the old-vine Riesling brings peachy intensity and texture – a grand meeting to the punchy, pickled flavours on the one-of-everything-please menu.

The Evening Standard’s Going Out Editor, David Ellis, previously pointed out this brief menu as a shortfall of the restaurant. But he is a critic, and I am an indecisive wine writer with a brain full of Charli XCX lyrics and an attention span shot by social media. Make my decision for me, I say, just make sure it’s with a glass of Riesling.

Schieferberg Chapelle Oberhagel Riesling Bohn 2019, £30. Available here.

Hannah Crosbie is a wine writer, television personality and author of Corker: A Deeply Unserious Wine Book, available now.