[Editor's note: this is a modified version of a piece I wrote for UK wine magazine Decanter, and which appeared in the June 2003 issue. Reproduced here by permission. For the original feature please see www.decanter.com. It's also rather out of date and I'm currently working on a revision (August 2009)]
London. A city of history, culture, rain, expensive hotels and spectacular wine shopping opportunities. Whatever your motivation for travelling to London, it’s worth leaving some time in your schedule to visit its leading wine shops. I’ve chosen a selection of the best, most of which are centrally located and in easy walking distance of tube stations. A useful resource here ishttp://www.streetmap.co.uk: I’ve given the streetmap references for each shop, so you should be able to print out the relavent pages to help you in your quest. A tube map can be found at http://www.thetube.com.
In a hurry: take the tube to Knightsbridge and visit Handford, Lea & Sandeman, Harrods and Harvey Nichols or take the tube to Piccadilly Circus and visit Berry Bros & Rudd and Fortnum & Mason.
More time to spare: start at Piccadilly Circus (Berry Bros & Rudd, Fortnum & Mason), then take the Piccadilly Line to Knightsbridge (Handford, Lea & Sandeman, Harrods, Knightsbridge). Then take the District and Circle line to Notting Hill Gate (Corney & Barrow), from where you can hop on the Central Line to Bond Street (Selfridges, Philglass and Swiggot). Back on the Central Line, continue to Chancery Lane (Oddbins Fine Wine). Various permutations of this route should be easy to devise. For those interested in wine accessories, it’s worth stopping off at Around Wine (Baker Street tube).
Berry Bros & Rudd
Berry Bros’ historical St James’ Street shop is a must-visit. Until recently there were no bottles on display; you simply sat down and discussed your requirements with one of the staff. You can still do this, but there’s now also a small selection of bottles from the 2500 strong range available for browsing on the shelves. The best way to shop here, though, is through the state-of-the-art website: you can either have the wines delivered, or specify collection from the shop. As you might expect, the range is comprehensive.
Strengths: All the classic European wine regions
Handford (South Kensington)
105 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LE
Tel: 020 7589 6113 Fax: 020 7581 2983
Nearest tube: South Kensington
A short walk down the Old Brompton Road from South Kensington tube, Handford's new shop, which used to be home to iconic merchant La Vigneronne, is a worthwhile destination for any wine lover. Portugal, Italy and Burgundy are strong, while South Africa excels. Lots of interest here, and you can forgive the slightly high prices when you see the depth of the range.
Strengths: Languedoc, South Africa, Burgundy, Italy, Portugal
Fortnum & Mason
With its genteel, slightly old-world atmosphere, buying wine at Fortnum & Mason is a very civilized process. The wine department is spacious, well laid out and the broad range, numbering some 1200 wines, is superb. Prices are fairer than you might expect for a high-end department store.
Strengths: Burgundy, Germany and fortified wines
170 Fulham Road, London SW10 9PR
Telephone 020 7244 0522 Fax 020 7244 0533
Opening hours: Mon–Sat 10am–8pm
Nearest tube: South Kensington (this is to the north of the area shown in the location map)
Lea & Sandeman boast a smart range, sane prices and good service. Particularly impressive are the Burgundies and the Italian range, but coverage elsewhere is pretty good too. As well as the main branch, there are three others, including one fairly centrally located in Kensington (nearest tube Notting Hill Gate; 211 Kensington Church Sreet, London W8 7LX, Telephone 020 7221 1982, Fax 020 7221 1985).
Strengths: Italy and Burgundy
Once you’ve finished shopping in Selfridges’ wonderful food hall, spend some time browsing the wine department, rather awkwardly located in a corner of the main store. There’s plenty to catch the eye here, with a list that is strong in every department: lots of mouthwatering names to get any semi-serious wine nut salivating. Prices are higher than normal, but this is forgivable in light of the breadth and quality of the range.
Strengths: Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Rhône, Loire, Spain, South Africa, California
Tel: 020 7935 4679 Fax: 020 7935 0479
Nearest tube: Baker Street
No wine for sale here. Instead, this recent arrival on the London wine scene offers a wide range of accessories for the wine lover, ranging from dozens of different cork screws, to just about the entire range of Riedel glasses (it’s huge) and the Eurocave range of stand alone wine cellars and cellar cooling systems. Worth a detour, especially if you are looking for a present for a wine nut.
Oddbins Fine Wine Store,
41a Farringdon Street, London EC4A 4AN
Tel: 020 7236 7721 Fax: 020 7236 7726
Opening hours: Monday–Friday 9am–7pm; Saturday 10am–5pm; Sunday closed
Nearest tube: Chancery Lane, Farringdon
The concept behind Oddbins Fine Wine stores is to provide an outlet for parcels of interesting wines that are simply too small to go round all the regular Oddbins branches. There are three of these Fine Wine outlets in London, but I’ve chosen the Farringdon branch for its central location and atmospheric cellar-like setting under the railway arches. Worth visiting for a regularly changing and eclectic mix of fine wines at good prices. Despite Oddbins changing hands last year, the official PR line at the time of writing was that they are continuing with the fine wine concept. Time will tell.
Strengths: Australia, USA
266 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 2UQ
Phone: 0207 226 9500 Fax: 0207 226 6555
Just brilliant: a really good fine wine shop a short walk from Highbury and Islington tube station where you can try 80 wines at any one time, using the innovative enomatic wine sampling system.
Also worth visiting
& Swiggot (Marylebone)
22 New Quebec Street, London W1H 7SB
Tel: 0207402 0002
Harvey Nichols Ltd
Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ Tel: 020 7235 5000 (large department store with plenty of high-end wines - Knightsbridge tube)
Jeroboams A chain of shops around the capital boasting
a tidy range with some real interest. Branches include 50-52 Elizabeth St, SW1W
9PB; 6 Pont St SW1X 9EL; 96 Holland Park Avenue W11 3RB; 20 Davies Street W1K
3DT; 77-78 Chancery Lane WC2A 1AE - see www.laytons.co.uk
for details of their range
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