We’ve covered where to find wine in London if it’s an evening out you’re looking for when we told you about our favourite West End wine bars. But what about when you’re looking to discover something new or want something delicious to take home with you? Here are some of our favourite wine shops in London that offer tastings, samplings or something a little different in terms of ‘du vin’.
Want a quick lesson in wine matching with a free tasting thrown in? Fridays at Uncorked see regulars sampling four wines from a chosen area – say Puglia or Burgundy – at the long counter, overseen by expert Colin Wills. He’s been in the trade for decades and has a great way of explaining small differences between wines, terroir details and the intricacies of distribution.
For a more in-depth experience, Uncorked runs wine courses and barrel sample tastings during the week, as well as dinners with visiting winemakers themselves. These cover wines by region, grape varietal, and estate, as well as special whisky and cognac tastings. If you want to arrange a wine-tasting for a corporate event, Uncorked will make it memorable and instructive.
Their stock is focused on high quality at a range of prices, from less expensive bottles that are as good as their pricier counterparts, to rare wines only released in extremely limited quantities.
London’s first shop stocking solely English wines is tiny, generous, and very popular. Whether you’re local or tourist, come here. Wine Pantry’s owners, Julia and Dominique, have loads of knowledge, drive and enthusiasm, and want people to come away with an informed appreciation for local wines.
On Friday afternoons, they’ll be outside with a magnum, offering tastings of award-winners like the Ridgeview Estate Blanc de Blancs 2000. Otherwise, just drop in and sample a range of sparkling, white, rose and red. English sparkling wines (think Chapel Down) are more known, but Wine Pantry offers you the chance to try wines from smaller estates that you won’t find anywhere else.
Samples cost £1 or £1.50, or get 6 for £5. A full glass costs from £4, but the real value is in learning about the sheer variety of styles English wines offer – from soft petillant red to complex, fresh whites. The approach here is very relaxed, so you won’t feel subpar for not knowing what you are trying – the point is to get a feel for what’s great about the local varietals and methods.
Fill up your glass bottle with 750ml of fine wine from the cask for 5 pounds (7.50 with bottle) at Borough Wines. Whatever you walk away with, you know it will be good quality, as owner Muriel Chatel only stocks wines from vineyards she has visited and has confidence in.
For a bottle or two of something you won’t find elsewhere, Borough Wines is the place to come. They are sole stockists for Lebanon’s Domaine des Tourelles and lesser known winemaking countries and regions like Uruguay, Brazil, Spain’s Priorat, and the southwest Jurançon and Madiran in France.
The shop is small enough that you aren’t overwhelmed by masses of stock, and staff are always full of information on each winery and new wines that have just come in. You can learn a lot from one visit.
Tastings run Tuesday evenings at this branch, and Fridays and Saturdays at the Borough Market one, which gets very busy.
Between London Fields and Victoria Park, or also just recently in Crouch End, you’ll find the perfect place to sample and learn about good wines. Bottle Apostle is a press favourite, and not without reason. Its sampling system, free and seated tastings are cleverly used to showcase many interesting wines from small Old and New World producers.
Sample bottles are arranged so clients can make useful comparisons between different styles of wine. For example, if you’re having a bbq with a range of meats and veg, you can compare flavours of 8 red wines – from regions as diverse as Yarra Valley, Douro, Napa Valley and Bordeaux – to see what suits best. The use of stemless glasses for sampling, rather than cheap-looking plastic, is a nice touch.
On Fridays you’ll find several bottles open for customers to try from, mostly new stock or wines that Bottle Apostle is considering stocking.
The most popular seated tastings are their introductory sessions, while more advanced sittings discuss specific types of wine or single producers, such as Gosset. Each session lasts about three hours, with 8 wines to try, plus food, and costs from £25-£50. Owner Rob hosts most of the tastings, and he has relaxed teaching down to a fine art.
A simple tasting system on top of carefully selected wines makes Petit Canon in Fulham worth regular visits. For those who don’t want to wait for a full tasting session (every other Wednesday), you can put credit on a tasting card, then use one of the shop’s wine tasting machines to sample before you buy.
Petit Canon is beautifully set up to make finding the right wine easy, whether it’s for a spur of the moment picnic or a special event. In fact, in summer they do a special deal on some whites where you get a free wine cooler when you purchase a case of 6.
Petit Canon specializes in wines from independent vineyards and those you won’t come across elsewhere. So on the shelves you’ll find everything from a crisp Indian Chardonnay-Semillon to a well-rounded Crozes Hermitage, and from fine white Rioja to Canadian ice cider. If you are stuck, the staff are more than happy to help out with ideas and information – even about cocktails!
They also do glass hire, special discounts on 15+ cases for parties, and free delivery in SW6.
Last Drop Wines
Last Drop Wines is a purist’s wine shop in World’s End with a mission to give customers great deals. These guys stock for value rather than name, so you’ll find some excellent bottles at lower prices than you will elsewhere. However, you’ll need to be nimble because the owner buys according to which wines he can get for good value at any given time. What you find one week may not be there the next.
Last Drop focuses on old-fashioned French, Italian, Spanish and German wines, rather than fruit-laden styles. There are some big names along with the smaller houses; you’ll find Bollinger alongside Deutz champagnes – both are high quality, and buying a case will save you a lot of cash.
The shop has an easygoing, but well-informed, attitude to wines. Its walls are covered in motorsport posters, poems about drinking and paintings of Snoopy. Underneath the works of art are racks, crates and boxes of wine. Magnums of red are at the back – from a 1993 Châteauneuf-du-Pape to a 2001 Chassagne-Montrachet. Elsewhere, you’ll come across easy-drinking and interesting wines from £5. This is a great shop to come to for random, fun picks.
Friarwood Fine Wines
Whether you know your fine wines or you’re a complete novice trying to impress, Friarwood Fine Wines should be your first stop to find that top drop.
Simon Mckay is the owner, and usually found in-store. He’s a long-standing expert on the wine trade and, though Friarwood stocks wines from both the Old and New World, he specializes in Bordeaux and Burgundy; from Pomerol to Cote de Nuit, and everything in between.
For those who can’t do without their Argentinian Malbec or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you are in for a rare treat. Friarwood sources its stock of these popular wines from small vineyards with reputations for creating award-winners.
If you are planning a wedding, sports event, or party, then it’s worth getting advice on wine and champagne here, as well as checking what discounts they can offer. You can rest assured your guests will be happy with the selection.
The shop itself looks sleek and elegant, with lots of dark wood, heavy barrels and crates, and fine wines on display. The best bit is that you can come here for a heavy-hitting wine from a big-name vineyard or an unknown – they will both have been chosen with the same care.
Surprisingly the only one of its kind so far in this part of Islington, Highbury Vintners is where you’d expect Arsene Wenger to pick up a bottle. It’s cleverly located just north of a specialty cheese shop, and only stocks wines, spirits and beers from small producers. Since arriving on the scene ten years ago, the store has almost doubled in size, such is the demand locally for what they offer.
Highbury Vintners selects its French wines directly, which helps keep prices lower for customers. They also stock a large range of bottles from further afield bought via distributors. From a 2001 Ornellaia that can age another 10 years, to a subtle Cabernet Sauvignon from Lebanon and a smooth 2006 German Riesling.
Whether you’re looking for something cheap but good quality for dinner, or bottles for Christmas parties, the range at Highbury will cover it.
Those looking to support local won’t be disappointed either. You can pick up London’s Sipsmith Gin and Vodka, as well as Meantime Beers, which are delivered straight from the brewery.