Market Row Wines - Dave Simpson
A small, ever changing selection is chalked up on the board

It could be seen as a sign of encroaching gentrification: as of May 2012, Brixton has its first ever independent wine shop, Market Row Wines. I don’t see it that way – sure, Brixton may be changing, but the regeneration of the covered markets (originally kicked off by the flawed but brilliantly successful spacemakers project) has stirred new life into the old dog – and has quite dramatically increased the variety of what’s on offer in the arcades. Market Row Wines is part of this ongoing development, and a very welcome one. How have I lived somewhere for 16 years which didn’t even boast a branch of Thresher – let alone an Oddbins?

Talking of which, Market Row Wine’s owner David Simpson used to work for Oddbins, so I reckon he knows a thing or to about how to make good wine approachable. Indeed, his new venture is unpretentious and down to earth – rather like him, rather like Brixton.

A small, frequently changing selection is chalked up on the blackboard. Mostly old world (France, Italy and Spain are well represented), the list is clustered around the eminently sensible price point of £8-12. (Why sensible I hear you cry? I’ll let Juel Mahoney explain it brilliantly clearly here). Dave can also furnish you with a good “house wine” for around £6 – the Albizu Tempranillo is serviceable, if unremarkable – and there are one or two choices closer to £15 a bottle.

The wines are mostly from small “artisan” producers, and the focus is on quality, without slavishly adhering to any particular fad or fashion. A good proportion of the wines happen to be organically or bio-dynamically produced, and fans of “natural” wines won’t be disappointed. Most bases are covered – there’s a decent Argentinian Malbec, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, and a splendid sherry – the En rama “I think” Manzanilla. And there are usually 3-4 wines to try before you buy.

Look out for future tastings and “bring your own food” evenings (the opposite of bring your own bottle!) – Dave’s twitter account is his sole contact with the online world so far . . .

Here are my top selections from the current list:

2010 Gran Cerdo (Rioja, Spain)

A declassified Rioja, 100% tempranillo, organically produced and bursting with strawberry and cherry fruit. Quite charming, approachable and great value for £8.99. There’s a also a good back label/story – the name translates as “big pig” and is a finger to the bankers who refused to invest in the Gonzalo Gonzalo estate.

2011 Gavi “La Fornace” Bergaglio Cinzia (Piedmont, Italy)

Market Row Wines interior
Looking out onto Market Row

Ripe pear fruit, a floral nose and a lovely mineral finish – elegant and ever so slightly more full bodied than your average Gavi. £11.99

2008 Cuvée Constance (Rousillon, France)

A collaborative venture between St. Emilion garagiste legend Jean-Luc Thunevin (of Chateau Valandraud fame) and Jean-Roger Calvet, this blend of Grenache and Carignan is full of brooding dark blackberry and plum fruit, with a whiff of graphite on the nose. The 15% alcohol makes itself felt, but this still seems quite elegant, long and not overdone. No oak was used, so there’s just bags of primary fruit. An absolute steal at £12.49

I also tried a delicate Cotes du Ventoux, Domaine La Ferme Saint Martin “La Gerine”, which is now sadly sold out.