There are loads of things that the three of us have in common, but one of them is a strong, undying love for our local watering hole, Fuggles Beer Café. Since opening in 2013, they've been the place in Tunbridge Wells for craft beer, unique gin, delicious cheese, and Kate's favourite bourbon. Over the years, they've received numerous accolades and awards, but their wine was always a bit... shall we say "meh"? Fuggles upped their game last year and opened their second permanent location in Tonbridge, and in the spirit of continuing on the path of excellence, they recently introduced a brilliant new wine list complete with elegant stemware and a bottle shop. Hallelloo!
On a sunny afternoon, we popped open a few bottles with Fuggles' founder, Alex Greig, and sipped our way through the new wine offering. In true BB fashion, we're sharing our individual takes on the new list right here, right now, with you.
CARO - Well, well, well. Looks like there’s another Danger Zone in town. Okay, actually, Fuggles has been a danger zone to Belgian-beer-lover me since the very first time I set foot in there, 4 years ago, and its walls have seen more of Skates and mine’s classic drunk antics than I can recall. Literally. Cause I was too soaked in Triple Karmeliet to remember anything the next day.
Somehow, my growing obsession with wine gradually pushed away the 8o brews, meaning the frequency at which I was finding card payment receipt with the word “Fuggles” printed was not as scary.
Alex tells us that when setting up Fuggles, the focus was definitely on nailing it with the beer, and so he opted for wines that were straightforward and easy to sell, saying “Our wine list was a bit of an afterthought, I actually didn’t think people would come here and drink.”
Until now... FOR FUCK'S SAKE ALEX!
That’s right, the guy’s done it again!
Tunbridge Wells’ Lord of Booze is now tapping into all of us wine lovers with a collection of bottles that (get ready to tick those boxes):
- Have work-of-art labels you’ll want to frame
- Will knock your tastebuds’ off
- You’ve probably not come across before
And all that without pissing off your bank manager - SAY. WHAT.
From a cloudy, refreshing & incredibly fragrant “house white” Pinot Grigio that sets the bar pretty high, to a palette of red wines so balanced it becomes impossible to pick a favourite, I somehow have a feeling those Fuggles-printed receipts will be coming back to play...
ANGELA: If you’ve seen my Instagram stories, you’ll probably notice I’ve been committed to “sampling” the list of gins at Fuggles since their opening in Tonbridge- seriously I was there, willing and eager the day they opened their doors. But, I’m not going to lie, when I realised the wine list wasn’t getting a new site makeover I was a little disappointed. Alex, the owner of this “beer café”, admits that the original wine list was somewhat of an after-thought. However, with it’s place firmly in the hearts of Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge cliental, it was about time to offer something for those who find they might not be in the mood for a beer… and probably shouldn’t have 3 gins on a Saturday afternoon (i.e. me… FYI my favourite gin at present is the Japanese Garden Tiger, but it’s a beast for afternoon drinking.).
Now though, I can break up my weekly mission to tick off every gin on the list, because there is an exciting new list to explore. This is Fuggles, so it can’t be just any new list; Alex has shaken up the vino scene with a focus on natural wines, featuring a host of exciting producers, regions and varietals. There’s an impressive, but not too overwhelming, selection of 23 wines across, whites, reds, rosé, sparkling and fortified, which is fantastic for all the delicious cheeses on offer!
It was a privilege of taste the new range with Alex and learn about the selection of different styles and the stories of those who make them. Keep an eye out for Vinteloper from Adelaide Hills who are all about being fun on the outside and serious on the inside, and source grapes from small vineyard holders with a focus towards helping community projects. Also give the ‘La Amistad’ by Bernabe Navarro a go, which is a red served chilled and will really switch up your summer wine drinking. I’ve picked out a selection of my favourites but overall I was very impressed with the selection and can’t wait to get back in the bar and order a glass or two. Don’t forget if you love what you try, you can always take a bottle home with you, too.
A few favourites:
White: Gran Cerdo - Viura (Spain - Natural/Unfiltered)
You may not be familiar with the Viura grape varietal but it’s one of the most planted in Northern Spain and also goes by the name Macabeo. This is a classic expression of the varietal – aromatic with a punch of peach and orange blossom. For an unfiltered wine this is deliciously fresh and vibrant, and has summer-sipping written all over it.
Rosé: Eschenhof Holzer - Zweigelt Rosé (Austria)
I love it when I try new expressions of some of my favourite grapes, and Zweigelt from Austria is one of my favoured light styles of red that often has cherry and violet aromas and flavours. Here it’s been made into a rosé. I’m always on the lookout for something new and interesting in the rosé category and it makes a great change for it not to be just Provence (which – no fear, is represented excellently on the list). If there was a wine to be labelled "FRUITY!” this would be it. The red fruit aromas are akin to eating strawberry laces and sucking on cherry drops, but it’s dry and that’s what makes it work without being sickly sweet. This would be great with some toasted sourdough and paté or a cheese and ham toasty.
Red: Vinteloper ‘Park Wine’ – Dolcetto (Australia)
“Dolcetto” means the ‘little sweet one’ and is native to the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. This wine isn’t sweet but it does have a fruity and floral edge, soft tannin and crisp acidy that would be perfect served slightly chilled. Fun fact - did you know the grapes for this were partially stomped by foot? Why not kick off your shoes and relax in the garden with this? Maybe leave your shoes on in the bar…
KATE: Whoa, those BBs really covered all the bases with their reviews. I'm usually the long-winded one, but this week I'm gonna sit back and shine a spotlight on their A++ review work, which I agree with wholeheartedly. Let's just say that I love Fuggles, I love this new wine list, and I love the new glassware. Also hi, I live in Fuggles now. Come by and say hi!
A big THANK YOU to Alex for so generously sharing his wine with us, and another big THANK YOU to the entire Fuggles Beer Café team, who put up with our wine/gin/beer/bourbon-fuelled antics on the regular and have yet to kick us out, even when we totally deserve it. You are all stars and we love you dearly.