As the covid restrictions fade, it was nice to travel an hour north of Swindon to sample Cheltenham's relocated wine bar, The Grape Escape.
The bar moved to its new location on Regent Street (just down from the Everyman Theatre) and opened on 24th February. From the outside it looks like a former solicitors office, or dentist practice, with steps from the street leading into the hallway of the Georgian terrace house.
Unlike solicitors and dentists, you are welcomed with a warm feeling, and the hubbub of relaxed chatter coming from the interior. There are only a handful of tables, so booking is advisable if you want to sit and enjoy food for a while. Otherwise, there are bar stools along the long bar area, where guests can take wine flights, enjoy snacks or just have a glass (or bottle) of wine.
The snacks menu ranges from crisps, nuts and olives to charcuterie and cheese sharing platters. We enjoyed the platters, which come accompanied by sourdough bread and crackers.
The wine list is impressive with over 120 bottles available to choose from. If dabbling is more your thing, then the Grape Escape offer more than 20 wines by the glass, and change the selections weekly.
There's an option to take a flight of five wines, chosen from the starred wines on the menu, or you can order small (125ml) glasses. We tried three reds and an orange wine:
Piquentum Teran from Croatia, 2019
This was a juicy and bright red wine with earthy and peppery notes. Whilst it was tannic, it was also smooth, showing some complexity. For me, my favourite of the three reds.
Yannick Amirault Saint Nicholas de Bourgueil, 2019
Ahead of my trip to the Loire Valley this summer, I thought I would get a sample of one of the towns I will be waving to from the banks of the river. Cabernet Franc is the signature grape of Bougueil, and this was well crafted, spicy and went well with the charcuterie.
Haywire white label pinot noir, 2019 from Canada
I was excited to try this wine from Canada, and it had an interesting pale colour, but the red fruit flavour was still there, albeit a touch sour. It was gentle to start with, tickling the tongue with an effervescence, but once paired with food, it really came to life.
Eschenhof Holzer Invader, 2019, Orange wine from Austria
Orange wines are made with white grapes that are fermented with their skins. It doesn't turn the juice orange necessarily, but adds texture to the wine. This one was described as great for the beginner, and it was delicate and floral, but lacked the X Factor!