Jason Allen 22/07/22
Do you spit or swallow?
It depends very much on the wine tasting.
But luckily, London’s wine tasting events tend to fall on the more informal side – the ones that tend to involve you drinking rather a lot of vino in very small helpings across a delightfully boozy evening, rather than esoteric events involving spitoons.
To help you figure out which is the best for you, we’ve compiled a list of the very best sommelier-led events taking place in the capital… in a way making this article a wine tasting tasting.
Here, have a sip:
It’s about as far from your idea of the classically stuffy, intimidating wine tasting as it’s possible to get. If anything, it’s intimidating in the other direction, being a spartan East London bottle-shop basement with a disco ball and a host of natural wines to get through. Attend one of their Wednesday night wine tastings and you’ll be waxing lyrical about low-intervention pet nat with the rest of Hackney in no time.
Where? 250a Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AA | When? Wednesday evenings | Price? £45 | More info
This isn’t just a bottle shop, or a wine bar – it’s a legit urban winery. And you can join the London Cru at one of their regular tastings, which focus on various regions, varieties or styles. Really want to take a deep dive? Combine it with a tour of the winery itself, and you’ll also get a goodie bag of their current hooch to take home.
Where? London Cru, 21-27 Seagrave Road, London SW6 1RP | When? Regular events | Price? £25-250 | More info
Planque was established as a ‘wine drinker’s clubhouse’, with an in-house cellar for resting bottles and member spaces where people can get together and talk about wine. And heck, you might be one of those people if you attend one of their super-regular events, which include wine tastings and paired dinners with the winemakers themselves.
Where? 322-324 Acton Mews, London E8 4EA | When? On the regs | Price? £60-380 | More info
The Humble Grape bars bring two special things to the table (quite literally) at their wine tastings that really set them apart. 1) The food, which is always excellent and perfectly paired to the bottles, and 2) The winemakers themselves, who frequently make the journey from whichever lush vineyard they own in order to open up their bottles for you.
Where? Islington, Battersea, Liverpool Street, Fleet Street, Canary Wharf | When? Regular, several per month | Price? £10-£85 | More info
Berry Bros & Rudd
BBR are truly old-school. They employ six Masters of Wine, more than anyone else on earth. They’re literally the oldest wine merchants in the country (founded in 1698) and their cellar was where Napoleon III held meetings and drank wine while in London. And you can follow in his footsteps, by attending one of their rather pricey, often traditional, but always superlative wine tastings.
Where? 3 St. James’s Street, London SW1A 1EG | When? 1-2 per week | Price? £125-£325
Hedonism has one of the largest cellars in Europe, with over 10,000 wines & spirits in stock – they range from a 1774 bottle of Vin Jaune, to a vast, 40 litre ‘primat’ of 2015 Beaujolais, to everything in between. Credentials aside, they do run a tight ship when it comes to their wine tastings, too. They’re not too pricey, they cover a variety of fine wines & spirits, and they frequently involve the winemakers themselves.
Where? 3/7 Davies Street, W1K 3LD | When? 4-5 per month | Price? £75
The Winemakers Club
This wine bar specialises in organic & biodynamic wines, and they frequently like to hold wine tastings to show off exactly why. If you’ve got a group of ten together, they’ll run a private tasting for you; otherwise sign up to their newsletter to find out about their upcoming public tastings. The space is moody, atmospheric, candlelit, and gorgeous, which is something of a bonus too.
Where? 41a Farringdon St, EC4A 4AN | When? It varies, best check their social media | Price? £35
Bedales Self-Guided Wine Tastings
If the thought of an expert talking you through each drink sounds a little, well, dry, book into one of Bedales’ self-guided wine tastings. You’ll still get all the sommelier’s bountiful knowledge, but it’ll be presented to you in the form of take-home notes – so you’ll know exactly what flavours you should be looking out for in your three glasses, but can also catch up with your friends on topics beyond the pinot noir’s delicate floral bouquet.
Where? Borough Market | When? Sunday – Thursday | Price? £25pp
Local Wine School
The thing about the Local School is that it really is just a school. They don’t sell any wines themselves. So the tastings are genuinely all about educating your palate. They’re frequent, reasonably priced, and extremely informative, and they have branches across the city & the country. They’re the ones who train the people leading all these other wine tastings.
Where? Fulham, Camden, Tower Bridge, Greenwich | When? Almost daily | Price? £25-£40 (for introductory classes, considerably more for the qualifications)
Half Cut Market
It’s easy to get half cut at this Kentish Town bottle-shop-turned-bar — especially when they lavish you with one of their laid-back and eminently affordable wine tastings, which tend to focus on more left-field options like skin contact and chilled reds.
Where? 396 York Way, London N7 9LW | When? Regular events | Price? From £15 | More info
Yield N1 and N16 offers wine tastings to all, but they run one particularly useful session: one for new parents. Held in the mid-afternoon, you’re encouraged to BYOB (baby) and hang out with other parents doing what you actually enjoy – sipping a few cool glasses of vino alongside charcuterie, cheese and bruschetta.
Where? Stoke Newington & Islington | When? Weekly | Price? £25 | More info
Diogenes the Dog
This south London wine bar/bottle shop offers relaxed private wine tastings, each covering a whole new topic of wine, for you and up to 30 friends. Their most epic option will walk you through a punchy 10 wines, and it comes in at a reasonable £75pp.
Where? 96 Rodney Road, SE17 1BG | When? Whenever you want | Price? £35-75 | More info
London Wine Academy
Like the Local Wine School, the LWA teach the tasters themselves. The courses are, therefore, on the higher end. They’re absolutely not a casual excuse to line up shots of wine. But they do bring a lot to the table – you can learn about cheese pairings, sensory tasting, red, whites, and everything in-between.
Where? Various London locations | When? Basically daily | Price? £85-£279
Seeing as you’re so into the vine-hooch… you should check out London’s best wine bars.
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