Tippling in the UK: Sampling London’s Wine Scene

Yep again.

Posted by

London has one of the best wine scenes of any city in the world, particularly for those who love European wine, though these days some very serious bottles from the so-called ‘new world’ can also be found in the city’s best shops. One thing wine in London is not, however, is cheap. This is true not just for those shopping on the Canadian dollar but even for locals. The 20% VAT on wine doesn’t help, but I attribute the rest to London’s outrageous cost of living.

Putting cost aside, there are places in the city where you can walk in and not only purchase but also sample some of the world’s rarest wines. The only real competition in my mind is New York.

London’s Wine Bars

Wine bars abound in London. There are cool neighbourhood places, slick central London spots, geeky natural wine bars, and temples to Champagne. I could obviously not try every wine bar in the city, but with research found a number I highly recommend.

Wine bars generally sell glasses for 7 to 12 pounds, which translates to $13-$25 before tax. Some special classes can cost 15-20 pounds ($28-$38), but these are generally quite special. Of course, you get far more interesting wines for these prices in London than in BC.

The Remedy

This place is a blast and it’s all the real deal. Run by a couple French ex-pats, this small ‘natural wine’ focused bar in Marylebone offers not only some of the top names in Natural wine right now, but also a ream of small, fascinating producers (for example I tasted wine made from vines grown on a Sicilian beach). The owners like clean wines, too, which is not always true in the natural wine world.

photo 1 (3)

Top Friulian producer I Clivi - poured by the glass at The Remedy thanks to Coravin.

Top Friulian producer I Clivi – poured by the glass at The Remedy thanks to Coravin.

1999 Terrano from Slovenia's Cotar. One of my top discoveries in London. This is serious wine from a difficult grape that, with this much age, is everything you want from a glass of red wine.

1999 Terrano from Slovenia’s Cotar. One of my top discoveries in London. This is serious wine from a difficult grape that, with this much age, is everything you want from a glass of red wine.

Exceptional Jura Chardonnay.

Exceptional Jura Chardonnay.

From vines growing on a beach in Sicily. Tastes like sea-water. Literally nothing like this. Oyster-wine without oysters.

From vines growing on a beach in Sicily. Tastes like sea-water. Literally nothing like this. Oyster-wine without oysters.

A lovely, aromatic Jura red. A joy to drink.

A lovely, aromatic Jura red. A joy to drink.

Terroirs

One of the most important wine bars in the city, especially for fomenting the demand for natural wines. Terroirs is centrally located very close to Trafalgar Square and Oxford Circus. Despite this, it is not overrun by tourism and stays true to its ethos. This bar has inspired outlets in New York and San Francisco. The food is also outstanding and you will usually find at least a couple very interesting producers you have not tasted.

The Bar at Terroirs

The Bar at Terroirs

Very, very good Anjou.

Very, very good Anjou.

Kensington Wine Rooms

This gem of a local wine bar in Notting Hill is also a restaurant and retail shop. In my opinion, it is one of the best in London in terms of selection and price. While I was there they had a focus on ‘the new California’ with producers that are quite hard to find even in the US. This is exactly what makes London great.

A delicious, true glass of Cornas. 7 pounds.

A delicious, true glass of Cornas. 7 pounds.

Wines by the glass at Kensington Wine Rooms, page 1

Wines by the glass at Kensington Wine Rooms, page 1

Wines by the glass, page 2.

Wines by the glass, page 2.

New California Pinot Noir from Domaine de la Cote. Actually quite a powerful, rich wine.

New California Pinot Noir from Domaine de la Cote. Actually quite a powerful, rich wine.

New California Chardonnay from Lioco. Delicious.

New California Chardonnay from Lioco. Delicious.

Lively, chuggable carbonically macerated Pinot Noir from Australia's Jamsheed.

Lively, chuggable carbonically macerated Pinot Noir from Australia’s Jamsheed.

28-50

Slick space for charcuterie and wine at 28-50

Slick space for charcuterie and wine at 28-50

Tired of Natural wine? 28-50 is run by a Master Sommelier and has a well edited selection of wines, though there can occasionally be some misses in my opinion. Grower Champagne by the glass and oysters is a good reason to visit this location after a busy day in central London.

Wines by the Glass at 28-50

Wines by the Glass at 28-50

Retail Wine in London

London retail ain’t cheap, but you can basically get anything you want, including very rare back vintages. There are numerous excellent shops in the city, despite most UK wine being sold through grocery stores. The reason is simple: sheer population.

My favourites are:

Handford Wines
Roberson Wines
Hedonism Wines
The Sampler
Vini Italiani

Hedonism Wines

This place deserves focus. Owned by a Russian oligarch, the cheapest wine here is about 30 pounds, and prices go way up from there. The store is focused on only the rarest, most prestigious wines in the world and you will find rooms dedicated to Sauternes and Penfolds. You can also find verticals of producers such as JL Chave, Dauvissat, Raveneau, countless Bordeaux and Burgundy and, downstairs, the most mind-blowing collection of large format bottles I’ve ever seen.

Easter at Hedonism

Easter at Hedonism

Yep.

Yep.

Yep again.

Yep again.

The Sampler

The Sampler’s greatness is all in the name. Over 40 wines can be tasted in the enomatic, but this is no ordinary wine shop. At least 10-15 of those 40 are old. All of the wines are top quality and often hard to find. The two times I’ve been to this shop I tasted 1982 Jaboulet La Chapelle, 1999 Hill of Grace and, astonishingly, 1949 Domaine Huet, all in 2 ounce tasting pours for a price I could afford to taste wines I would never otherwise have the means to drink.

The oldest Chenin Blanc vines in South Africa. This is astonishingly powerful, complex wine from Eben Sadie. Expensive and very rare.

Made from the oldest Chenin Blanc vines in South Africa at over 100 years. This is astonishingly powerful, complex wine from Eben Sadie. Expensive and very rare.

Yes I drank this. I can't really explain it except to say it was still alive and well. Definitely oxidative, but still bright and still has some fruit.

Yes I drank this. I can’t really explain it except to say it was still alive and well. Definitely oxidative, but still bright and still has some fruit.

My glass of the '49

My glass of the ’49

My first time trying Hill of Grace. It is truly great wine. Still can't stomach the price tag.

My first time trying Hill of Grace. It is truly great wine. Still can’t stomach the price tag.

I've been impressed with every wine I've tasted from Lagier-Meredith. Cool to see this in London.

I’ve been impressed with every wine I’ve tasted from Lagier-Meredith. Cool to see this in London.

Posted in: London 2015, Travel

Comments

  1. Edward
    April 18, 2015

    Shea,
    How excellent is the Sampler!

  2. Shea
    April 19, 2015

    It’s a lesson that you don’t need a huge selection to make an amazing wine store. So well edited and great concept!

  3. Sean
    April 21, 2015

    This is a great write-up, Shea. Your timing is impeccable. We’ll be visiting a few of these spots next month.

  4. Shea
    April 26, 2015

    Sean, let me know your thoughts when you get back!

  5. Sean
    April 27, 2015

    Will do. We’ll have to get together for some wine when we’re back.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>