I am a self-confessed wine snob, slave to the humble grape, worshipper of the vine. Yes, I can knock back a cheap party plonk like the best of them, but probably one of my favourite things to do in the Big Smoke is curl up in the corner of a cosy wine bar, slurp my way through exquisite tipples and people watch. Here are the first in a series of my preferred London spots for combining both these activities – excellent wine drinking, and the not-so-subtle observation of the human condition…
- Vinoteca Soho – 53-55 Beak St, London W1F 9SH
There are several branches of Vinoteca across London, but Soho is my old stomping ground, therefore this remains my favourite. Vinoteca always has 25 wines by the glass, the best way to explore your way round a wine list without having to commit. These are paired with a range of matching nibbles dishes, and there is also a wine shop so you can take your favourite bottle of the evening home.
- Berry Bros & Rudd
The wine shop par excellence, Berry Bros & Rudd – dating back to 1693 – sits elegantly on St James Street, in the heart of posh London, the only wine company in the world to count 8 Masters of Wine in its staff. Wine and Spirits merchants known for its fine collection of Bordeaux en primeur, Berry Bros & Rudd will store your wine in its caves for you, advise on your collection, organise a cellar plan for you and even train you up to be a Diploma carrying wine expert.
- London CRU
A winery. In London! Yes! British wine is on the rise as a trend, with Taittinger acquiring its first British vineyards for producing sparkling wine and a Norfolk white wine winning the Decanter Wine Awards Platinum Best in Show prize this year. London CRU source grapes from across Europe to produce acclaimed wines in a hyper modern urban winery in Fulham. They also offer Winemaker for a Day experiences where you can learn to blend and bottle your own wine!
- Gordon’s Wine Bar
There are few Londoners who haven’t spent an evening or two at Gordon’s Wine Bar, a bit of an institution, also a great date venue for those early tentative days. Established in 1890, Gordon’s used to be Kipling House, the home of Samuel Pepys, the diarist who recorded the Great Fire of London in 1666. Gordon’s only sells wine, in a rickety, candle-lit basement bar surrounded by casks and cellar rooms that are dark, cosy and atmospheric. It boasts a help yourself Cheese counter, or platters of French charcuterie and also specialises in Sherries and ports. In the summer months, a hog roast set up outside overlooks Embankment Gardens, and is almost always buzzing with happy drinkers.
- East London Wine School
Want to learn more about wine, how it is made, how to pair it with food, how to taste and understand quality? Want to discover the science of the perfect blend? East London Wine School offers informal evening mini tastings, for £25, with nibbles themed around different regions, or grapes or styles. For the amateur wine lover who wants to delve a bit deeper into the detail of winemaking these events are casual, fun and sociable. They also offer the official WSET Wine Tasting exam for those wanting to cover a more academic level of study and qualification.
Next week is London Wine Week across London. You can find out more here: https://drinkup.london/wineweek/