As we move from sipping wine in the living room to uniting in bars over labels we love, this week Fabio Alder, our expert wine writer steps back in to share his short guide to independent wine shops in London.
Words: Fabio Alder
If you’re serious about reshuffling your wine rack and want to try some of the most interesting wines produced today, you need to steer away from the big retail chains and supermarkets. It’s in the small, independent and single-site wines shops in London where you’ll find proper artisan wines and experience the most personal customer service. I’ve rounded-up eight indy wine shops that are worth checking out this Spring.
Hootch Wine Cellar: Dalston
Conveniently located on Kingsland High Street and a stone’s throw from Dalston Kingsland overground station, Hootch is a real gem of a wine shop. Managed by wine expert and blogger Denise Medrano (aka @thewinesleuth), the store is specialized in organic/biodynamic, minimal intervention and low-sulphur wines – although you can also find more conventional wines in the mix. Easy to navigate, the wines are grouped up by country and the fridge is always fully stocked for those last-minute wine emergencies. Tasting events are currently on hold but expected to resume later in May, so look out for future announcements via their Instagram feed.
Bermondsey Corner: Bermondsey
The stylish Bermondsey Corner opened its doors in October 2020, just before our second lockdown. It is the latest retail addition to one of London’s coolest high streets, filled with trendy restaurants, hotels and art galleries. The small but perfectly formed selection represents some of the best organic and biodynamic winemakers in Europe, with a main focus on France. Sales & Marketing Manager Laura is from Alsace herself, which is a bonus. She will guide you through all the producers that they stock until you find that perfect bottle. As if there wasn’t enough reason to revisit Bermondsey Street already.
A North London destination since 2015, Provisions is also specialized in organic/biodynamic and natural wines. Their philosophy is simply to make great wine more affordable and accessible, prioritising quality over quantity. Curiosities from the shop include a pét-nat rosé from Portugal, a French single varietal Sangiovese and an orange wine from Sicily. Provisions also offers a wine subscription service if you’re ready for a relationship commitment.
Salon Wine Store: Brixton
One of the smallest wine shops that I have been, Salon is tucked inside Brixton Market, and next to the eponymous restaurant. The space might be tiny, but the wine selection is ambitious, selling over 200 lines of low intervention, organic and biodynamic wines from across the world. Highlights include a Spätburgunder from Baden in Germany, a red pét-nat from Cadiz in Spain and an orange wine from the Czech Republic. Worth the trip even if you don’t live in South London.
Handford Wines: South Kensington
Old Brompton Road might have lost a bit of its gloss when the auction house Christie’s moved out a couple of years ago, but Handford Wines is an institution that has survived the test of time. The shop has been trading since 1989 and it has that lovely old-school feel to it. Up on the shelves, you will find a truly eclectic collection of vino, ranging from classic Burgundy to biodynamic Welsh fizz. Prices are in line with the high-heeled residents of South Kensington but there are always pocket-friendly half bottles to take away for a picnic down the road in Hyde Park.
Diogenes The Dog: Elephant & Castle
This award-winning boutique wine bar & shop was founded by Sunny Hodge (ex Margot assistant restaurant manager) and named after the ancient Greek philosopher, also known as ‘Diogenes the Cynic’. At Diogenes, customers are invited to explore wines from lesser-known winemaking countries such as China, Poland, Japan and Bulgaria. Or wines from unexpected regions, like a Malbec from Texas. Top tip: ask for their house natural wine, made in Puglia, which cost only £10 if you bring your own bottle to fill.
Albion Wine Shippers: Bloomsbury
Located on fashionable Lamb’s Conduit Street and opposite Noble Rot (another wine lovers’ hot spot), Albion operates as both retailer and supplier for bars & restaurants. Established in 1991 by Phillip Amery, it is focused on the ‘Old World’, and in particular wines from France, Italy and Spain. It is also the only place in London where you can buy Mexican wines, from producer L.A. Cetto, which Nebbiolo is a killer of a red wine. On your visit, make sure to buy any of the wines from Italian biodynamic producer Pietramore, which offers the best value for money that you can get here.
Didi & Franc: Kennington
Launched earlier this year in January 2021, Didi & Franc is a breath of fresh air for Kennington Road, which has not seen any new openings for quite a while. This modern wine shop and deli took over the site of a former Oddbins branch and completely transformed the rectangular-shaped space into a bright and inviting gourmet heaven. The wine selection is compact but first-class, with 80% of them being organic/biodynamic. There is an emphasis on Spanish, Italian and French wines, but look out for some top-end Portuguese and Greek wines too. Didi & Franc also stocks cheeses, breads, fresh pastas and seasonal produce, and as of June, it will double as a fully-fledged restaurant, so watch this space.