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Natural, small-producer wines in London

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  • PamG Feb 8, 2009 09:52 AM
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NYC-hound here. Looking for good natural wine bars/restaurants in London. Something along the lines of the good Paris wine bars or Ten Bells in New York City or Terroir in San Francisco.

I hear Terroirs off the Strand is good. Any other suggestions? I have a particular leaning towards obscure varieties from the Loire. Though any place that serves interesting, low-interventionist wines from France and Italy is welcome.

Also, any tips on good retails stores to buy such wines? I'll be staying in South London but will spend most of my time in Central, East and North London. Any tips are appreciated.

Thanks!

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  1. I think you'll be lucky to find anywhere in London which can afford to be that specialist I'm afraid. Having said that, the chains tend to have longer lists which might help. Balls Brothers is one to look out for, dotted around The City and the West End.

    Otherwise the Ebury Wine Bar in Ebury St. and Fino's in Mount St. are both worth a visit I think.

    This may help:

    http://www.london-eating.co.uk/

    Edit: As for shops the Waitrose supermarket chain carries some off piste lines, as does the Oddbins chain of wine shops (plenty of branches). Both have good websites.

    Edit2: This is the organic bit of that website, which might be a good place to start:

    http://www.london-eating.co.uk/occasi...

    1. One of the largest producers of British wine is a 40 minute train ride south of London. Denbies is the largest vineyard in England. They do tours and have a nice salesroom - and they win awards. I'm not sure you'd be interested in that but thought I'd mention it. It's quite a beautiful place and surprises a lot of visitors.

      www.denbiesvineyard.co.uk/

      1. '.. obscure varieties from the Loire'

        when did the wines from one of the greatest regions become obscure? anyway, you're in luck: rsj (coin st, waterloo) specialises in wines from the loire and their list is one of the most comprehensive i have seen.

        1 Reply
        1. re: howler

          Thanks for all comments. I am interested in exploring English wines too.

          Varieties such as Romarantin, Pineau d'Aunis (my favorite) and Grolleau are still little known grapes to most consumers and even wine trade unless you're a total Loire hound. Of course I wasn't referring to Sauvingnon Blanc, Cab Franc, Pinot Noir or other better known grapes grown in the Loire. I know RSJ and love it there but wanted to try something
          different.

        2. The Sampler in Islington (North London - closest tube is Highbury & Islington - you can also walk from Angel tube) - it's a shop but you can sample most wines by the glass - they have climate/temperature controlled machines that dispense their wines by the glass with a pre-paid card that you top up at the till. It's how I've tasted wines from which I could never afford to buy a bottle. Sounds gimmicky - I know - but it's not - they have 1st class wines and the experience is quite enjoyable. On a Friday night it starts to almost feel like a dinner party! Maybe just drop them an e-mail to see if their Loire selection is what floats your boat? http://www.thesampler.co.uk/about.asp

          1. Vinoteca on St Johns street in Farringdon is a lovely wine bar and the food there is excellent if you want to stay for dinner. Not sure what their range of natural wines is like as I have not looked into this. The downside is that you can't book so get there early (ie 6ish) if you want a table.

            Zurigal thanks for the tip about Denbies - sounds really interesting.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gourmet Chick

              You're welcome. We only live about 5 minutes from there - pass it all the time. One of these days I'll do their tour! It's very close to Box Hill - a great place for a wander.

            2. What about Bedales? I've never been there, but have walked by the shops at Borough Market and Leadenhall and it was busy. Website looks promising.

              http://www.bedaleswines.com/index.html

              1. St John sells wine by the bottle and case and (correct me if I'm wrong) it's exclusively French wines. The Spitalfields Bread & Wine restaurant is a particularly nice place to go inbetween the lunch and dinner crowds - they are still serving food but as the menu is not really "starter" and "mains" based you can just pick and mix and drink some nice wine, then buy some to take home.

                1. A review of Terroirs in today's Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-sty...

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: PhilD

                    Yes, I read that too - got a good review. Didn't realise they were connected to Le Cave, which is where I buy my wine.

                    1. re: mr_gimlet

                      It seems that Terroirs is a must. My Gimlet, is Les Cave a retail outlet? If so, I'll be checking them out too because I want to stock up for the few nights I'll be staying in and cooking. Do you recommend them?

                      1. re: PamG

                        Yes, very much so. It's actually called Les Caves de Pyrenes (www.lescaves.co.uk) but it is in Guildford - though with plenty of parking. It is one of my favourite wine shops, very friendly and I think is very sensibly priced. I also buy my armagnac there as they stock Darroze. Be aware they do not open at weekends - the shop is more of a warehouse shopfront.

                        1. re: mr_gimlet

                          Another find in my part of the world! We often find ourselves in the Guildford/
                          Godalming area and I'll keep this place in mind. I'm glad you mentioned Les Caves.

                          1. re: zuriga1

                            couple of things, most of the wine bars mentioned above are not specialists in natural wines i.e. balls bros, smapler, bedales etc. not sure why they were quoted.

                            Les Caves as you have been pointed to are the largest and most prominent sources of natural wines, and supply nearly every major restaurant in london.

                            they part own Terroirs, and also supply two wine bars near you.
                            Green & Blue - clapham north
                            Artisan & Vine - Clapham Junction

                            both very good, and exactly what you are looking for.

                        2. re: PamG

                          les caves are a wholesaler first and foremost. you can buy their stuff from Green & Blue and Artisan and Vine. the guildford shop is interesting, but an unnecessary trip.

                          G&B also has a larger outlet in dulwich.

                          if you go to paris, check out Racines in Passage des Panoramas - www.morethanorganic.com

                          1. re: batfink23

                            Thanks Batfink23 - I am familiar with Racine and just met the owner at a natural wine party in NYC. Glad to hear you suggest Green & Blue b/c I am off there on Tuesday night for dinner. Might hit Artisan and Vine in addition to Terroirs.

                            1. re: PamG

                              Hi Pam,

                              G&B isn't really a dinner place, but I'm sure they will have nibbles and snacks to keep you going. think more charcuterie, cheese and olives. i'm sure you'll find what you're looking for there. G&B stock almost, but not exclusively, all Les Caves wines. which means that many of them will be natural, but G&B is not actually a natural wine bar. they just sell many wines that happen to be.

                              whereas Artisan & Vine is an obsessive natural wine bar, much like Racines. Natural wines are their raison d'etre - again like Terriors. make sure you try some of the orange wines, they're fun.

                              also hope you found some interesting pubs to go to for some good ale, and didn't get too sidetracked by some curious suggestions.

                    2. Pam, Les Caves are holding a tasting tonight. let me know if you're interested and I'll post the details.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: batfink23

                        Apologies Batfink - I didn't see this new post until now. Thanks for all your tips. I ended up going to Terroirs (which was fantastic), La Trouvaille (also amazing natural wines but mostly from the South of France) and Green & Blue. I did feel that G&B wasn't really a natural wine bar but more of an organic bar that had some natural wines. I didn't see your post from March 02 either but you're right it wasn't much of a dinner place though I would like to go there during the day next time.

                        I sure sparked some heated opinions in my post for good pubs. Never made it out in the end for a good pint but hopefully when I'm back in London next week. Will also try and hit Artisan & Vine then.