London Wine Tasting

There are just so many places to go and drink wine in London.  There’s always a new bar or the new latest restaurant.  But what if you just want a reasonably priced drink, decent wine and people that know what they’re talking about?  Where do you go then?​

London Wine Week

A few weeks ago, my friend Sally and I headed to the London Wine Week festivities.  This was the fourth year of LWW and more than 125 bars across London were involved.  In order to be involved in LWW, you must first buy a ‘festival pass’ – this is essentially a wristband, such as the ones you get at festivals – it goes on your wrist and you don’t take it off all week.   This wrist band entitles you to one of two special deals when you enter a participating bar.  The deals are either
a) you get a wine flight (3 different wines for tasting) for £5 or
b) you get a ‘sip and snack’ deal which is a glass of wine and a food pairing snack item, also for £5. 
There is a great app which allows you to find participating bars closest to you and the app also outlines what the deal is so you know what to expect before you get there. 

This year, I only managed one night out within the week but I managed to get to a few bars:

​1.   To kick off, we headed to the Frexinet bar.  I’m not a fan of their Cava but we went to try their new Prosecco DOC offering (£5 for us rather than £7 for non-LWW wristband holders).  To be honest, I didn’t think I’d like it – brand preconceptions, the over blingy bottle not appealing to me as a consumer, I thought it would just be all style, no substance with Frexinet trying to get onto the Prosecco bandwagon just a little too late.  But I was wrong.  It was a lovely summer drink.  Not too dry, lots of peachy and apple notes and very refreshing.  It sells at Ocado for around £12 and that bottle will certainly make a statement at your next BBQ!

2.   The Devonshire Terrace – here we had a lovely wine flight – made up of really good IGT/IGP wines – basically really good regional wines from grape varieties that you may not have heard of.  All of the wines were light, refreshing and very, very good.  They all had lovely labels too – I try not to judge a book by its cover but, having come from a marketing background, I do appreciate good design!

3.  We headed off to the 1901 Wine Lounge at the 5-star Andaz Hotel at Liverpool Street and here we had a German Riesling flight – wonderful flavours and a great range from bone dry to medium sweet.  For those frightened by the sweetness German Rieslings, this would be a great flight to showcase the excellent range of styles coming out of Germany and to banish the memories of Hock, Liebfraumilch and Black Tower! 

​4.  We managed to stay on our wonderfully plush velvet seats and continue our impassioned chat about the election the next day (wine and politics – great together, if you agree on the politics!!)  The barman went to the Catch Bar next door (also a part of the hotel) and got us our final tasting of the evening – a New Zealand offering with a very typical NZ range of Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner and a Pinot Noir.  I’ve never ventured into this hotel bar before but it was a wonderful drinking experience and, for £5 a tasting, a wonderfully cheap way to enjoy an expensive hotel bar!

Enomatic Machines

Another good deal I’ve found recently is ‘M’ in Victoria – they also have another one in Threadneedle Street.  Julia (owner of South London Wine School) and I headed down to the Victoria branch to check out their offering.

A wine shop as you walk in with a very well-reviewed restaurant downstairs and a nice little tasting room upstairs, this really is a wine shop like no other!  As is becoming popular among wine bars nowadays, you get a card, load up with cash and then spend as you like on the enomatic machines – taking away the need for bar staff and encouraging trial of different wines without the hefty price tag (you can get a taster measure for about £1 in most cases).  A lovely selection of wines, nothing too off the beaten track and a good range of price points, Julia and I whiled away a few hours trying the vast majority of what was on offer and ordering some food to be sent up from the restaurant below.  We were the only people in the tasting room and thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  To make things even better, we got 50% off with this TimeOut voucher which unfortunately is no longer valid but do look out for further offers in the future!

Other great enomatic wine bars include Vagabond on Charlotte Street, Kensington Wine Rooms and The Sampler in Islington

Way Out West

One place I do spend quite a bit of time is anywhere in the Charlotte’s Group.  The Bistro in Chiswick or W5 in Ealing are wonderful places to drink – the wine lists are extensive and very well thought out and the bar staff are extremely knowledgeable and well-trained.  The atmosphere in both establishments is laid back, non-stuffy and relaxing and the food served in both is to a very high standard – well worth a visit.

Vindinista in Acton is also becoming one of my go to places for wine – tiny little place which feels like someone’s living room and where you have to go out of the bar and round into the car park to use the toilet, Vindinista is a lovely place to drink.  Enthusiastic and friendly bar staff with an eclectic mix of wines – I was enjoying a Bulgarian sparkling rosé last time I was there – this is a fun wine experience unlike any other! 

So, there you go, a few tips for drinking in London.  If you wanted to learn as you drink then you are always welcome at North London Wine School:  we hold fun and informal wine tastings every week from September onwards – check out our list of events!


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