London life : Independents Day
London is often talked about as being the best place in the world to buy wine. With Europe on our doorstep and a network of old colonies and trading partners, it is true that customers have access to most ofthe world’s finest and most interesting wines. London’s thriving independent merchants are offering a vibrant alternative to the drudgery of buying at supermarkets, where discounted mass-market bottles dominate the shelves. Of course, fine wine merchants are nothing new in London (Berry Bros has been plying its trade since 1698), but a generation of vintners has emerged in the past twenty years, matching innovation and passionate service to their truly exciting ranges of artisanal wines. Here is a look at my favourites in each corner of the capital.
Try before you buy in the north
266 Upper Street
London N1 2UQ
Tel. +44 (0)207 226 9500
When The Sampler opened its doors on Upper Street, it made an immediate impression. This was the first UK merchant to offer wine via Enomatic machines, to be tasted on the premises. Before long, the Sampler's ‘Wine Icons’ machine was the talk of the trade, with sommeliers, journalists and competitors (not to mention hoards of customers) popping in to enjoy a sample of Latour or La Tâche while they browsed the extensive selection of wines. Today they have a second site in South Kensington, but the bustling store on Upper Street is my favourite, with an extensive selection of Grower Champagne that is the best in London.
Best in the west
348 Kensington High Street
London W14 8NS
Tel. +44 (0)207 371 2121
Now I may be biased here – after all, Roberson Wine is my employer – but it is no secret that this is one of the best places to buy fine and rare fine wines in the UK. There is also an extensive list of difficult-to-find artisanal producers from around the world, with natural wines a particular specialism. The knowledgeable and passionate team really love their wine and if you happen to be in west London on a Thursday night then be sure to check out the wine tasting events, something for which Roberson has become rightly famous in recent years.
Rising in the east
95 Lauriston Road
London E9 7HJ
Tel. +44 (0)208 985 1549
Until recently, east London was a tricky place to find an interesting wine merchant. The last few years has seen the food and wine landscape completely transformed however, with some of the most innovative restaurants and a number of great wine shops opening. Bottle Apostle is perhaps the best of these, with Enomatic sampling machines, a programme of in-store tasting events and an expertly-chosen selection of wines from around the world.
Philglas & Swiggot
21 Northcote Road
London SW11 1NG
Tel. +44 (0)207 924 4494
With stores in Richmond and Battersea (not to mention Marylebone), Philglas has long been known for their comprehensive selection of new world wines (Australia is a particular focus), but there are plenty of fabulous wines from France, Italy and especially Germany. There is a really relaxed feel to shopping at Philglas, with helpful, friendly service and not a hint of snobbery – exactly the sort of independent that is persuading regular Londoners to drink better wine.
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