Whether you're a local or a visitor, you're never far from a great glass of wine in London. Matt Walls lists his top 10 wine bar destinations...
Matt Walls’ top 10 London wine bars:
Originally a single site in Holborn, 28°-50° is now a chain of three chic bars managed by Master Sommelier Xavier Rousset, co-owner of Michelin-starred Texture. The Maddox Street site is convenient for Central London, and features a bar on the ground floor and a restaurant offering French cuisine in the basement. Each site has a selection of 30 wines available by the glass, carafe or bottle, supplemented by a ‘Collectors List’ of reasonably priced fine and rare bottles – such as Bodegas Roda’s Roda 1, Rioja Reserva 2005 for £69.
Have ever a wine’s fortunes turned around so rapidly as Sherry’s? There are now a dozen Sherry bars in London (Capote y Toros, pepito, Drakes Tabanco, Morito, Trangallán…), but José is the pick of the bunch. ‘My customers tell me they come away from an evening at José feeling as though they have been in Spain,’ says owner José Pizarro, and you can see why. It’s a lively, bustling corner bar serving an excellent range of Sherries by the glass alongside terrific tapas. Don’t miss Lustau’s González Obregón Amontillado del Puerto at £7 a glass.
New Street Wine Shop
The first to fully dissolve the boundaries between shop, bar and restaurant, this is a fairly small space but it’s smartly designed. Choose a bottle from the New Street Wine Shop shelves to take away, drink in for £8 corkage, buy by the glass, or sample top-end wines from the Enomatics. The range concentrates on European classics, with a good range of grower Champagnes. A playground for wine lovers.
Sager + Wilde
Sager + Wilde is a small, urban bar that attracts a younger crowd. It may be in trendy East London but you’d be wrong to assume it’s all about natural wines; expect big names instead. There’s little under £40 a bottle, but great value to be had as you go down the list. How about a glass of Clos des Papes 1998 for £12.50? A bottle of Eben Sadie’s Palladius 2009 for £55? Or Clape’s Cornas 1983 for £115? Two years old in September, Sager + Wilde has established itself as the one to beat. Small plates, cheeses and charcuterie available. A second branch, Mission, opened in Bethnal Green this September. missione2.com/
The Quality Chop House
As the son of Jancis Robinson MW, Will Lander must have felt a certain weight of expectation upon opening a wine bar. And he hasn’t let the side down with his list at The Quality Chop House: 125 wines, 16 by the glass, most between £25 and £60, with a couple of dozen more top-end bottles if you deserve it. No specific focus, but a well-chosen selection just on the right side of esoteric, such as Robert Weilâs Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling Spätlese 2005 for £57. The food is very good, consisting of traditional and modern British dishes and small plates.
The opening of Terroirs in 2008 was a milestone in London’s wine scene. It was the first to embrace the wilder fringes of natural wine, and to offer excellent food alongside it. More than 200 wines range from £17 to £180, 20 of which are by the glass, with a strong leaning towards France and Italy. Terroirs has spawned a number of offshoots around the city (Green Man & French Horn, Soif, Brawn, Toasted), all of which are well worth a visit.
Just over a year old, The Remedy is an understated bar just 15 minutes walk from Oxford Circus. The wine list is a thing of dreams, packed with the interesting, the characterful and the curious; both natural and conventional, Old World and New World. There’s a solid selection of fine and rare treats from £50 to £100, but lots to choose from between £30 and £40, and several by the glass. Try Suertes del Marqués stunning Trenzado 2012 from Tenerife for £43. They also offer simply prepared food focusing on quality British produce.
Another wine hangout that’s somewhere between a bar and a shop, Vagabond has walls lined with tasting machines so you can buy or try an exciting and ever-evolving selection of 100 wines. The original Fulham site has now been joined by a more central one near Tottenham Court Road. Plates of cheese and cured meats will stave off any hunger.
The newest on our list, Verden opened in June 2014 in deepest Hackney. Firmly in the contemporary vein, the bar is somewhere between Japanese and Scandinavian in design – open and airy upstairs, warm and sleek downstairs. There are 150 wines on the list: they start at £18 and rise to £190 but most are priced between £30 and £45, with 30 available by the glass. The pricing is keen: Emidio Pepe’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2009 is £55; Dauvissat’s Les Clos Grand Cru, Chablis 2007 is £90. They take their cheese and charcuterie almost as seriously as their wines, and offer full meals as well.
The new generation of modern London wine bars can be traced back to September 2005 with this branch of Vinoteca in Farringdon. It was the first to offer wines to take away as well as to drink in, just like an Italian enoteca. It’s a small, simply decorated square room, always busy thanks to the inclusive atmosphere and quality of the wine list – not to mention the bistro-style food. There are nearly 300 wines, ranging from £16 to £189 to drink in, with 20 available by the glass. Try the Berres’ Urzinger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese 1994 for £47.25, or £27.50 to take away. There are now five branches across London.
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