Kiki reaches into the fridge and cracks open a curious bottle of Pinot Grigio. Except far from “grigio” this one is a gorgeous shade of pale, blush, apricot – a result of skin contact – and a taste of it reveals juicy, fruity notes and even a whiff of white peach. It is 10pm and although the Wine Wednesday pop-up tasting finished half an hour ago, the good folk of Tooting attending this casual foray into grapes and wine are in no hurry. In fact a solid hour of chin-wagging has begun as more bottles are opened and more stories told of grape journeys, grape discoveries and even the best wines to pair with Gogglebox or Eurovision. We are at Unwined in Tooting. Not your average wine bar.
Founded and run by wine-geek duette Kiki and Laura (whom I hope don’t mind the expression!), who met working at Jamie’s Fifteen and bonded over a shared love of wine, Unwined in Tooting is now a permanent base after several years developing what was a friends-and-family-only wine-tasting events pop-up into a cosy, well-stocked wine shop and kitchen in Tooting Market with weekly tasting events, guest Chef residencies and Sunday brunch thrown in for good measure.
The shop cram packs a pretty impressive selection of exciting and unusual wines – promising something a bit more bang for your buck, despite grapes you may recognise. Selections champion small, independent producers and a fair amount of biodynamic, organic and natural wines in there to boot. The girls can tell you the story behind each bottle and there’s a sense of a real thrill behind the process of meeting each producer, choosing, tasting and stocking each wine and feeding these tidbits to customers and diners as they pop in – like a collection of small adventures behind every bottle.
Wine Wednesdays start at 7.30 and last a couple of hours (or more, if you’re having fun!). The events are ticketed and offer up 12-15 spaces. £15 gets you six wines, a thorough breakdown of taste and stories, cheat sheets to scribble on and an in-depth look at grape personalities – with each week themed around a different selection. Wines are accompanied by a little snack and the atmosphere is somewhere between supper club, friend’s living room, cleverly balancing between professional tasting and after-work gossip over a vino.
The session I join explores Chenin Blanc and Sangiovese. We start by sharing first impressions around the table, doodle some notes and swap comedy remarks – “Chenin – It’s the number 2 on any pub wine list!” – only to go three rounds with each grape, trying different styles – whether via regions or production styles and have all our initial impressions blown open and enhanced. You can take it as seriously or as casually as you like, there is no hoity toity here, but enough solid information and facts to learn quite a few things in a short space of time.
I haven’t had the pleasure of eating here yet, but the ladies of Unwined open their kitchen to monthly residencies, most recently with The Bream Team and coming up some excellent Barcelona grub from Tiberi – but also run a Sunday Bottomless Brunch.
Go check them out and splash some cash – every drop will delight you!