Where do Londoners go for a great bottle of wine? This city is a haven for wine lovers, with everything from Champagne bars to historic holes-in-the-wall. Here’s 12 London wine bars: an insider’s list of best wine-saturated locations in London that you shouldn’t miss, including wine bars, retail shops and more.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
Gordon’s is London’s oldest wine bar, dating back to 1890. Although they have an extensive wine list, the treat here is really the fortified wines, with proprietary selections served straight from the barrel. The atmosphere in the cellars is beyond compare, where you can sit and sip your mazanilla by candlelight in one of the many nooks and crannies. Food is simple – best for cheese boards, cold plates and homemade pies; don’t miss their famous Pork Pie and Scotch Eggs. PS – it’s history galore here, with faded newspaper clippings adorning the walls upstairs. This building has had its fair share of famous inhabitants including Samuel Pepys (lived here in 1680s) and Rudyard Kipling (boarded here in 1890s). Enjoy the outdoor terrace when London weather permits.
gordonswinebar.com | 47 Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NE (Embankment Tube)
Planet of the Grapes
Many wine bars in London double as retail shops. This is the first of several spots on this list that let you pick wine off the shelf and drink it in the adjacent wine bar. Planet of the Grapes has hundreds of selections on display that you can peruse (or better yet, taste). There is a set £10 corkage fee, so anything that you choose to open is cost plus about $20 CAD. They also serve tasty tapas and nibbles to nosh on while you’re deciding on your next bottle.
planetofthegrapes.co.uk | Bow Lane: 74-82 Queen Victoria St., Bow Lane, London EC4N 4SJ (Mansion House Tube) | Leadenhall: 9/10 Bulls Head Passage, Leadenhall Market, London EC3V 1LU (Bank Tube)
Fox Fine Wine & Spirits Wine Bar & Restaurant: 118 London Wall, London EC2Y 5JA (Moorgate Tube)
The Cork & Bottle
The sex shop that was located above this place closed a while back (and the big sign above Cork & Bottle’s entrance saying ‘Sex Shop’ has since been removed), so it feels less seedy if you’re entering off of Leicester Square. Founded in 1972, owner Don Hewitson wanted to establish a wine bar in the heart of the Theatre district, with a fun and unstuffy atmosphere. He certainly succeeded. The Cork & Bottle is the antithesis of pretentious, with a laid-back atmosphere and down to earth food. To say the wine list is extensive would be downplaying it; this is a place that will keep wine lovers occupied.
thecorkandbottle.co.uk | 44-46 Cranbourn Alley, London WC2H 7AN (Leicester Square Tube)
Love natural wine? Or maybe you’re a skeptic and need to suss it out for yourself. Either way you should go to Duck Soup. Located in Soho, this is a small place specializing in natural and biodynamic wines. The menu showcases seasonal, eclectic dishes that are best for sharing. Also of note, they have their own record player and collect vinyl, which patrons are allowed to play with.
ducksoupsoho.co.uk | 41 Dean Street, London W1D 4PY (Tottenham Court Road Tube)
Terroirs Wine Bar & Restaurant
Located amid the hustle and bustle of London’s west end, this place has been rocking since it opened in 2008. As the name suggests, the folks at Terroirs aim to find wines that best represent the their place of origin; sourced from small growers that work sustainably, organically or biodynamically. The list also features a handful of orange and natural wines. France and Italy lead the list, with supporting selections from Lebanon, Georgia, Spain and the New World. The menu changes seasonally; don’t miss their homemade charcuterie.
terroirswinebar.com | 5 William IV Street, London WC2N 4DW (Leicester Square or Charing Cross Tube)
Spread over two floors, the wine bar downstairs has a relaxed atmosphere where you can enjoy a cheeseboard and some charcuterie while pondering the interesting selection of organic and biodynamic wines. Upstairs they offer scrumptious tasting menus with optional wine pairings. With a focus on French producers, they seek out small growers that work organically or biodynamically in the vineyard, and use only indigenous yeasts and no artificial additives in the winery. If you come across a wine you really love, you can also purchase a bottle at retail price to take home.
antidotewinebar.com | 12A Newburgh Street, London W1F 7RR (Oxford Circus Tube)
Notes Wine & Coffee Bar
This is a great place to agree to meet a friend who wants to “go for coffee”. While coffee aficionados can enjoy their serious bean program, wine lovers have a terrific selection of juice at their fingertips, with a flat corkage charge of a bargain £8 (just under $16 CAD) if you want to chose a bottle off the wall.
notes-uk.co.uk | Several locations around London: Canary Wharf Crossrail: Unit 5 Canary Wharf Station, London E14 5AB (Canary Wharf Tube/DLR station) | Canary Wharf Crossrail: Unit CR24 Crossrail Place, London E14 5AR (Canary Wharf Tube/DLR station) | Trafalgar Square: 31 St Martin’s Lane, London WC2N 4ER (Trafalgar Square or Charing Cross Tube) | Kings Cross: One Pancras Square, London N1C 4AG (Kings Cross St Pancras Tube) | Moorgate: CityPoint, 1 Ropemaker St, London EC2Y 9AW (Moorgate Tube)
1707 Wine Bar, Fortnum & Mason
If you’re feeling weary after a shopping marathon, why not find your way into this wine bar to unwind, located in the famous Fortnum & Mason Food Hall. Named after the birth year of this renowned department store, this is the perfect spot for a glass of Champagne and some freshly shucked oysters. You can also browse their wine shop, and if a bottle tickles your fancy you can drink it at the bar for cost plus £15 corkage fee ($30 CAD).
fortnumandmason.com | Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER (Piccadilly Circus or Green Park Tube)
Berry Bros. & Rudd
The 3 St. James Street store is an institution. Located opposite St. James’s Palace, Berry Bros. & Rudd have been supplying the British Royal Family with wine since 1760. Still visible hanging outside of the shop is the sign of the coffee mill, harkening back to the turn of the 17th century when the company, founded as a grocer’s, was supplying coffee to the local coffee houses. As you walk through the door, you’ll see the old grocer’s scale, that for fun has been used to weigh notable customers. Meandering through the shop it’s hard not to drool over bottles that mere mortals can only dream of drinking. If you’re lucky enough, you might have the opportunity to take the grand tour into the cellars, where Napolean III used to hang out and hold secret meetings while in exile.
bbr.com | 3 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1EG (Green Park Tube)
Wine Bar at John Lewis Food Hall, Waitrose – Canary Wharf
How great is this? If you get thirsty while browsing the wine selections in the wine shop, you can choose any bottle off the shelf and drink it at the wine bar for the cost of the wine plus a corkage fee. Alternatively, you can’t go wrong with the selections offered by the glass that are specially selected by their in-house Masters of Wine, paired with platters of salmon, seafood, charcuterie or local British cheeses.
waitrose.com | Canada Place, Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5EW (Canary Wharf Tube/DLR station)
A favourite haunt for Master of Wine students studying for blind tasting exams, the Sampler lets you do exactly what the name suggests. 80+ wines are available to taste anytime, starting at 30p per sample (55¢ Canadian). Wines available for sampling range from entry level all the way up to some of the world’s most sought after bottles. At the time of writing, just some of the ‘icon’ wines on for tasting included Ausone 1985, Palmer 1998, Beaucastel 1998, Vega Sicilia Valbuena 1991… need I say more? The most expensive wine ever on for tasting was Lafite 1982 for £79 a sample. An independent wine merchant, there are two locations in downtown London.
thesampler.co.uk | Islington Shop: 266 Upper Street, London N1 2UQ (Highbury & Islington or Angel Tube) | South Kensington Shop: 35 Thurloe Place, London SW7 2HP (South Kensington Tube)
If you haven’t been to Vinopolis, you’d better hurry up. This wine institution will be shutting its doors at the end of 2015 after 16 years of operation. Even if you’re not normally into museums, this is a different story: Vinopolis allows you to taste your way through the world of wine and spirits. With eight different tasting and education zones, you can explore wine history, winemaking and the wine producing regions of the world. There are various packages to choose from and you receive a wine debit card pre-loaded with tokens allowing you to sample the wines of your choice from self-serve enomatic machines (over 100 wines, spirits and sparkling wines to choose from). It’s also worth heading to nearby Borough market after your visit to pick up some gourmet goodies.
vinopolis.co.uk | No.1 Bank End, London SE1 9BU (London Bridge Tube)
Lindsay Groves is a sommelier and professional wine educator based in Toronto, who spends a good deal of time in London, not least as a student aiming for a Masters of Wine. Follow her adventures at lindsaygroveswine.com/.