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What to drink at Goodbye Horses

Opening at the end of this month, Goodbye Horses in Hackney promises “proper wine”. Louis Thomas gets the lowdown from founders Alex Young and George de Vos.

De Vos (left) and Young (right)

Explaining the reasoning behind the equine name, the pair said: “Goodbye Horses is a song by Q Lazzarus that almost every team member and collaborator has a story or strong personal connection to. It’s a song about transcendence.”

Indeed, music will play an important role at the bar, with four vintage refurbished Tannoy Lancasters installed to fill the space with sound.

“We have a huge collection of vinyl at Goodbye Horses, so much so that we had to reinforce the floor,” they shared.

Of course, Hackney does not have a shortage of wine bars – but Young and De Vos think its particular natural slant sets it apart: “The Goodbye Horses wine list has a tendency towards wines that would be considered in the natural wine world to be ‘zero-zero’ – that implies nothing added, nothing removed; as a team we all prefer breathing wines that are un-manipulated expressions of the terroir, the winemaker’s touch, and vintage.”

“This being said,” they continued, “we are not dogmatic about this and also support several excellent winemakers who may add a touch of sulphur to reliably produce wine in difficult vintages. It’s undeniable though that the wines that bring us the most joy are those produced with no additions at all.”

“The list largely focuses on French wines,” they shared. “Our wine director, Nathalie Nelles, spent a large part of her career in wine travelling through France, visiting winemakers and falling in love with the community and spirit of the French natural wine world. Outside of France, the list features many excellent Italian and Catalonian producers, while other regions are, for now, limited to sought-after producers we cherish.”

Unexpected picks

“Easily the most unusual bottle of wine on the list is Sur Le Fil 2016 from Domaine Guirardel,” they suggested. “What makes this wine special, is the extent to which it underlines how paradoxical and oftentimes idiosyncratic the idea of ‘low-intervention’ can be within the natural wine world.”

“Of course, we’re looking for wines that are expressions of their terroir, the grape varietals, and the vintage. But many producers go to painstaking lengths to create the perfect conditions to have a result that feels clean, simple, and pure. Domaine Guirardel is now defunct, to start with; the husband and wife team came from a tech background and took up vines in wife Françoise’s hometown of Jurançon,” Young and De Vos explained. “Here, they wanted to keep with the tradition of making wine with late-harvested grapes but retain the lower alcohol content and freshness of the regional wines of decades past. To do so, they programmed software to inject oxygen into the fermenting grape juice with a fish tank pump, increasing the oxygenation and hastening the fermentation, encouraging the wine to quickly consume its sugars and keep its alcohol level low.”

“The result, in turn, is a wine of immense concentration and density, a pure conveyance of its origin as late-harvest wine, with all the energy, lift, and drinkability of a still, dry white.”

For the by-the-glass options, the duo said that it would be a “broad and ever-rotating selection”: “We’re looking to have at least five options served via tap, an option that allows us to keep the price of a glass low and retain immense freshness as the wine is drawn from a pressurised, anaerobic keg. Because we intend to consistently rotate wines by the glass, it’s hard to pin down exactly what guests might see day by day, but without a doubt, we’ll be thrilled to feature some of our favourite winemakers like François Saint-Lô, Jean-François Garnier, Cantina Giardino, and Partida Creus.”

“Guests are guaranteed to see a Champagne by the glass every time they’re in, plus a more casual sparkling that we’re loving at the moment. And, depending on the season, there will be an ebb and flow to the number of oranges, rosés, and chilled reds on at any given time,” they added.

Regarding no- and low-alcohol options, Young and De Vos said that there would be “housemade shrubs, drinking vinegars, kombuchas and kefirs” utilising produce from the kitchen that might otherwise be wasted.

As for where the rest of the ingredients will go, the food menu will, as is very much the trend in London dining, change with the seasons, and among the dishes customers are told to expect when Goodbye Horses opens are chicken fat & sardine toast, Cornish crab blini with brown butter & sorrel, and oxtail ragout with broken rice.

Goodbye Horses is expected to open at 21 Halliford Street on 31 July.

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