With craft beer no longer a novelty, the alcohol connoisseur has a new beaux – fine wine. Wine bars are popping up all over London to quench the city’s thirst for the good stuff (even Tesco opened one briefly in Soho last month), and some venues are just as surprising and outrageous as the craft beer pop-ups of yore. Here are the four unlikeliest places in town you can order wine so fine you’ll have to do a classic Hollywood spit-take, though you can always say you just wanted to really get the full flavour.
No, this is not a bar in a bag in Boxpark, though that may be around the corner. Instead, Dalston’s Bag-in-Box wine pop-up, known as BIB (for the protective neckpiece you must wear to avoid staining your clothes while slurping a good red), is back for a sixth-month stint. The pop-up sells wine from bags in boxes, throwing the bottle aside like the late Gil Scott-Heron discarding his old material.
BIB stocks ten reds, ten whites and three rosés, all from France, Italy and Spain, continuing the trend of fine wine experts ignoring the Great British grape. If you like to keep your wine and your patriotism, and indeed your wine and your bottles, separate, BIB is the unusual London wine bar for you.
2. Battersea Power Station
Those who do want to drink local should keep their corks in until the revamped Battersea Power Station is completed, because weird wine lovers Vagabond will be opening an urban winery inside. One of the first businesses announced in the redesigned London landmark’s initial phase, the winery will use nothing but English grapes to make white wines and rosés, available for patriotic wine-lovers to try and buy straight from the source.
The chain has not only committed to an unusual venue and the until-now much maligned English grape, but to serving 'weird wine' – a move that must have oenophiles aghast (and craft beer nerds reeling even harder). Yes, the grapes of Bordeaux’s left bank may go on to create flavoursome wines that have a greater amount of tannins, alcohol and acidity, but what’s that compared to an 'outsider' white wine made like a red wine so that it glows a deep amber-orange hue?
As with all of their branches, Vagabond’s founder says he wants the urban winery to be 'like a US-style brewpub, but for wine,' further encroaching on craft-beer territory.
3. A Toilet
One way or another, wine normally ends up in the toilet after a night of heavy drinking but WC in Clapham has flipped this paradigm on its head. Based in a former public loo, which hopefully has been cleaned since it was repurposed, WC (which, fortunately for all concerned, stands for Wine & Charcuterie) offers a surprisingly classy experience.
The basic list of plonk revolves around 20 whites and reds, as well as a pricier reserve list. The food is remarkably well-priced, with well-balanced sharing slates starting at £15.50, as well as their own unique take on a ploughman’s sandwich.
4. Under a bridge
Follow in the footsteps of rivers, fairytale trolls and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and spend some time hanging out under a bridge. The Winemakers Club under Holborn Viaduct is an independent cellar, and indeed seller, of wine, mostly by the bottle, and mostly to take away. There is a small area for tasting, though, which bills itself more as a 'wine pub', for an informal quaffing experience. If you really want to take after the Chili Peppers, though, you should just head outside and sit on the floor, swigging from the bottle and ad-libbing nonsensical rap lyrics over actually-pretty-great guitar playing. What rhymes with 'viaduct'?