London may feel like the capital of cocktails these days — barely a week passes without the opening of a hip new joint where the mixed drink is king. But those with a taste for grape rather than grain need not despair — the city has undergone something of a wine renaissance in recent years and there are more varieties of vino available than ever before. Whether you prefer your wine bars old and atmospheric or trendy and modern, we’ve got the place for you. Bottoms up!
As the name suggests, this tiny bar on the border of Covent Garden and Soho is all about Les Vins de France. It opened in 1977 (though the restaurant opened in 1972) and hasn’t changed much since, with vintage paraphernalia lining the walls and ceiling, and a dependably grumpy bar staff at your service. Choose from more than 50 varieties of vin, including a special selection that changes monthly, and a dedicated Beaujolais list (Fleurie, Morgon and others) that’s just perfect for a light afternoon sip.
Sager + Wilde
Far enough off the beaten track to maintain a welcoming neighborhood feel, this East London bar is a hit with wine drinkers in the know. There are plenty of surprises here, from the extensive selection of German and Austrian bottles to the “rares,” daily changing wines by the glass such as the Solar Samaniego Gran Reserva 1970 from Rioja. Husband-and-wife team Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde also serve small plates — think anchovy butter toast or goose rillettes — to help drinkers keep their strength up.
You’ll find this classy little bar and bistro tucked away in a backstreet a couple of minutes (should you choose to walk) from Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. The focus at Terroirs is on natural wines, those produced sustainably, organically or biodynamically, and with minimal intervention after harvest. Not only do these tipples taste delicious; many people find they give you less of a hangover, too, thanks to the absence of nasty headache-inducing chemicals. Almost everything on the wine list comes from France and Italy and there’s a concise French-inspired food menu (think Christian Parra boudin noir, or snails and garlic on toast) to match.
Step into this jewel of a room at the heart of Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Connaught for London’s most special champagne experience. With a capacity of just 25, an intimate atmosphere is guaranteed, perfect for a romantic moment or private celebration. The specialty here is rare vintage champagnes, including vintage Pol Roger’s Sir Winston Churchill from 2000, 1988 and 1986. Pol Roger was the late British Prime Minister’s favorite champagne and this bubbly has been made in his honor since 1984. In addition to the 30 or so choices available by the bottle, another six are served by the glass.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
Dating back to 1890, Gordon’s is London’s oldest wine bar and also probably its most beloved. Its atmospheric brick vaults are nearly bursting every night of the year, with patrons lining the adjacent alleyway the moment the weather turns warm. Almost everything on its enormous wine list is available by the glass, and the menu is split into helpful sections — from “light and medium refreshing white wines” all the way through to “full bodied red wines” — to make your choice less bewildering. There’s a very large range of excellent cheeses on offer, too, for those in the mood for pairing.