How the London wine scene has changed for the better


How the London wine scene has changed for the better

Meet the rock'n'roll sommeliers

There’s a good article in today’s Independent on the ‘Rock’n’roll’ sommeliers who are replacing ‘wine list dinosaurs’ in London’s restaurant scene. I’m not sure about the ‘rock’n’roll’ descriptor, but it’s great to see younger somms curating interesting wine lists and then selling these wines to punters. It’s just one symptom of the way that the London wine scene has changed for the better.

I was interviewed by Radio 4 earlier this week about the same topic, for a program that’s going to appear on the food show. Now I am not young – I’m definitely in old fart territory, but I try to get behind those who are pimping interesting wines, and I’m chums with some of the trendy young folk who are making all the waves, so I think that’s how I got included.

When I started writing about wine professionally, just over a decade ago, London wasn’t all that interesting for wine. There were some good wine shops, for sure, but there weren’t many interesting places that you could go and drink wine.

This has changed, and fast. And not only do many top restaurants have good wine lists now, but there are also some great wine bars. The list is growing. And two additions to the scene have been the enomatic dispenser and the Coravin (making it possible to sample smaller quantities of high end wines served in perfect condition).

Some of my favourite places? Sager & Wilde, Mission E2, Remedy, the wine bar at Wholefoods (Kensington), The Sampler, Brawn, Terroirs, Grain Store, Glasshouse, Chez Bruce, La Trompette… the list is a long one. Anyone else have favourites?

5 Comments on How the London wine scene has changed for the better
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

5 thoughts on “How the London wine scene has changed for the better

  1. Toast.e.d and some wine shops that don’t have Enomatic but do great tastings: Roberson, Theatre of Wine, Philglas and Swiggot.

  2. Jamie, I’m curious why you found this article interesting, rather than the lazy, metrocentric, PR-driven nonsense it clearly is.

    Leaving aside the clickbait title of sommeliers-as-rock-gods (if so, surely more Gilbert O’Sullivan than The Rolling Stones), the tired old narrative trope the author deploys – namely, that we are throwing off the shackles of a fusty and/or unsophisticated culinary past and living through some kind of gastronomic golden age – is wearily familiar to anyone who’s read about food and drink in the UK over the past decade or two, and been subjected to the endless mythologising of London as the gastro-capital of the world. We’ve never had it as good, so it goes – usually with recourse to a few familiar examples of gustatory excellence and a cliché or two, in this instance the caricature of the snooty French (always French) sommelier of yore, thumbing his nose at anyone who can’t tell a Petrus from a Romanee-Conti.

    Michael Sager-Wilde and half a dozen of his competitors might have you believe that they are offering a more inclusive, democratic and rewarding wine experience, but in reality many of the “traditional” restaurants the article derides have long featured interesting wine lists serviced by perfectly friendly, approachable sommeliers. The difference is that such wine lists are not, in general, wilfully obscurantist, privileging arcana and novelty over the familiar and reassuring. Nor do they aspire to bogus notions of authenticity by contriving a detailed back-story that sees every grape hand-picked in Trentino by artisan cousins of the GM.

    I fail to see that being offered a Georgian Saperavi that only 12 people have ever heard of by a tall man with a beard is any more “open-minded” than being offered 12 pages of Bordeaux by a tall man with a tie. I also fail to grasp that essentially replacing one orthodoxy (selling claret, Barolo and port) with another (selling anything BUT claret, Barolo and port) represents much in the way of progress in the London wine scene.

    Look, I like a glass of natural wine/Ribeira Sacra/amphora-aged frappato as much as the next person, but when I read priceless nuggets of tosh like “this generation is… interested in wine made by people who care about the world” it makes me want to go out and guzzle six litres of Screaming Eagle with Robert Parker, which at least sounds rather more fun than having a long conversation with a sommelier about “how I feel”.

    One more thing. While I’m loath to criticise a free wine resource that has given me much pleasure over the years, I have to object to your use of “curating” (as opposed to simply “creating” or “putting together”) a wine list – a term which is both inaccurate and unnecessary. Writing for the consumer, surely it is your job to resist, or at least scrutinise, such self-promoting industry jargon as this?

  3. Wow, Simon isn’t pulling any punches! But a lot of what he said is really spot on.

    I wouldn’t get too upset about it though. I mean, it is just an article on after all, so it’s almost always going to be incoherent, worthless drivel.

  4. Go Simon, go!
    Enough of self-aggrandizing wine writing that is oh-so-cozy with producers/purveyors and their need to move volume. I’ve been drinking wine since before Jamie was born, likely, and have seen all the trends come… and go. ‘Tosh’, as you so eloquently say.

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