London has always held a strong reputation for fine wine availability and experiences in the global market. Nowadays, its proximity and access to classic European regions, a burgeoning local sparkling scene and a growing consumer base means the number of places to engage with wine has never been more diverse. An increasingly global perspective in London’s restaurant scene means thoughtfully curated wine lists are not hard to come by, while the growth of the wine bar scene has seen the rise of spaces where wine is the focus rather than an accompaniment.
“London has been the epicentre of international wine for as long as I can remember,” says Melbourne-born Victoria Sharples, owner of Swain wine bar and store (now closed) and ex-head of wine operations at St. John. Having spent the past 20 years working in multiple wine-related roles, including importing Australian wines to the UK, Victoria has seen a dramatic increase in wine bars across London. “Wine has gained much greater attention, a reason to drink rather than the more traditional pub culture that London does so very well.”
Sager + Wilde, East London.
Despite the abundance of wine spaces on offer, Australian wines can be a challenge to track down. “The Australian wines that are now available in the UK have changed considerably...while the ever-popular larger producers are often available, few of the smaller producers are being imported.” Consequently, making the most of the abundance of Old World producers, particularly the generous allocations of Burgundy, Jura and grower Champagne cuvées, is highly encouraged.
For the classic London fine wine experience, established merchants Berry Bros & Rudd and Hedonism Wines still provide those searching for historic vintages or a case of good English claret the thrill of a broad selection. While those looking for less established names are spoiled with an array of new-wave independent and dual-purpose spaces who lean into lesser-known producers or regions. In a post-lockdown world, several new wine bars have built on existing retail offerings and delivery services. Often associated with direct import businesses, these on and off premise business models provide slightly more specific or trend-focused offerings, along with exclusive labels to provide that unique experience.
Drapers Arms, Islington.
For those hoping to bring wine to the forefront of the British pub experience, this East London stalwart provides ample opportunity to drink an array of European drops alongside your craft ale. The famed Drapers Arms Sunday roast can require advanced planning to secure, but it’s well worth a few stops on the tube to dive into the broad array of French varieties – at affordable pricepoints – alongside your aged sirloin or braised lamb shoulder.
The third venue from Dan Keeling MW and Mark Andrew, Noble Rot Mayfair delivers on the winning formula that has seen the Noble Rot venues and magazine of the same name – now 10 years in publication – become cornerstones of the London wine scene. An extensive and ever-changing by-the-glass selection is accompanied by an expansive cellar showcasing benchmark producers and older vintages, as well as lesser-known regions and varieties from Greece and South Africa. With their outdoor terrace and custom pop-art prints, an elaborate afternoon of wine geekery has never seemed more inviting.
Noble Rot, Mayfair.
The WineryMaida Vale
It’s easy to walk straight past the darkened windows of The Winery, but this neighbourhood bottle shop in a pocket of north-west London offers plenty to discover. Established in 1996, a second site opened in Fulham in 2020, The Winery offers an exclusive range of traditional wine styles from France, Italy, Germany, Spain and California, all direct imports. Over 700 wines are on offer – the extensive riesling selection alone is worth a visit, with an eager mailing list crowd attending monthly tastings of new releases.
The 10 CasesCovent Garden
Under their signature blue awning tucked amongst the pubs and eateries of Covent Garden lies this industry favourite cave à vin and bistro. In case the name didn’t give it away, the concept here is to purchase no more than 10 cases of any wine, leading to an ever-changing bottle list. While the service and food are French inspired – think gougères, steak frites and chocolate mousse – the glass section showcases lesser-known varieties and underrepresented regions alongside a bottle list filled with excellent value back vintages from show-stopping names.
The George, Fitzrovia.
Sager + WildeEast London
With its exposed brick walls and fold-out chairs lining the exterior, the original Sager + Wilde wine bar (they have a restaurant in Paradise Row of the same name) is a charming and inviting corner spot where friendly service and even friendlier list prices invite a full-afternoon affair. Owner Michael Sager and venue manager Orsi Ajvasov work with lo-fi and terroir-driven producers (biodynamic and regenerative farming are preferred) on their 200+ bottle list, with about 15–20 available by the glass.
In 2021, established restaurant group JKS relaunched The George Public House in a multi-storey 18th-century building on the corner of Portland Street, just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Circus and Soho. Retaining the charm of the original wood panelling and plush red carpets, the smooth operation, led by publican Dom Jacobs, offers a remarkably extensive selection of still and sparkling English wines from multiple regions.
The Remedy's menu has a distinctly Mediterranean menu.
For quintessential wine bar vibes – hanging pendant lights, a bustling corner bar, empty bottles of Barolo and Madeira lining the walls – look no further than this cosy, warmly lit space in central London. Complete with a distinctly Mediterranean menu of small plates and snacks, the wine list leans natural with a broad range of Italian and New World regions. A few familiar Aussie producers make it even easier to put your feet up and settle in for the night.
40 Maltby StreetBermondsey
40 Maltby Street is perhaps one of London’s most beloved natural wine haunts. And for good reason. This warehouse-chic nook is a compact little hideaway for those looking to explore lo-fi and minimal intervention producers in abundance. Perch on bar stools next to lesser-known labels from Slovenia, Alsace and the Adelaide Hills and indulge in pea croquettes and fried polenta, creamed chard, girolles and ricotta. Want that wine to go? Their wine shop is open during the day for those looking for natural off-license options with their mid-week lunch stop. 40maltbystreet.com
At time of publication, Christina Kaigg-Hoxley was working as a sommelier at Noble Rot Wine Bar Lambs Conduit, sibling venue to Noble Rot Mayfair.