Home Estate Planning Why there’s nothing quite like a local wine bar

Why there’s nothing quite like a local wine bar

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In a city blessed with thousands of pubs and bars, don’t forget about the singular joy of the independent wine bar and bottle shop. It cannot just be those raised on Friday night episodes of “Cheers” that want to go to a place where “everybody knows your name”. Find a good one and you have got local London life sorted. Firstly, anyone who opens or works in an independent wine shop must have both passion and knowledge. 

These wine bars are the low-key, uber-cool specialists who can see you are usually an Italian red drinker but introduce you to a fascinating small grower they just discovered in Chile that you will end up liking even more. While you wait for your friends, they beguile you with their wine adventures as they pour little tastings of new things they are excited about. These places have time for you and the more you show up, the more they will get to know you and your preferences.

Finding this bar feels like a win in itself, down an unassuming corridor off the street which suddenly opens up to a secret sheltered garden. I can understand why, because once revealed it is hard to resist going back. 

In fact, every wine lover I know seems to have that little local spot they keep returning to. One that feels like both a trusty sidekick and a satisfying secret. 

I have had a slow burn relationship with my own, Balham’s The Wine Tasting Shop, but this now pays enormous dividends. Originally it was a place I would scurry into for wine advice, grab a bottle and leave. Then, lulled by their easy manner, I started tasting a few wines before buying, the tastings led inevitably to a glass and over the limbo of the pandemic and craving a little conversation, I worked from one of their outside tables. Now they most definitely go beyond the call of duty. Once, having forgotten a snack for my son at collection time, they handed me a slice of homemade cake. Every parent will know what a lifesaving moment this was, and I just cannot imagine a Wetherspoons offering quite the same customer service. If I bring a date they will give me their honest feedback, be it a quick shake of the head, a whispered “he’s handsome” as I head to the loo or once, when a man asked, “is this cheese sexy?” an outright “no, he’s not for you”. 

Which brings me onto the cheese. Independent wine bars tend to have limited kitchen space but what they lack in four course menus they make up for in gorgeous produce often either specialist or locally sourced. They take such pride in their wines being excellent and unique, they are generally not going to sully it with a disappointing bowl of pub-peanuts. 

Dry January always hits hospitality hard, especially with bleak weather encouraging us to keep cosy indoors. It is sad to see the closures since the beginning of the year and these will always hit the lone shop, without its large corporate safety net, the most. For those that have survived, spring weather means customers will be leaving their sofas to explore more convivial places to socialise – and another win is that, should the weather turn, you are only a short walk from home.

So, find your neighbourhood Aladdin’s Cave of wine delights and sit there, delicious glass in hand, nibbling at your slices of venison salami, as you enjoy the simple satisfaction of having found your own version of “Cheers”, the place where everyone is “always glad you came” – and it’s so much better with wine.

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