Own-labelings and bespoke bottlings are becoming increasingly popular for wine-focused London restaurants, who work with wine makers from around the world to make the perfect blend for their venue and food. Some of them are pretty delicious as well.
The exact nature of these bottlings is a little misleading, however. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your bartender has been picking grapes in Provence and the chef has been pruning vines in Austria. And if they have, you’ve stumbled upon a rare exception.
Most restaurants, and even celebrity chefs, who produce an own-label wine simply collaborate with wineries they love to put their own label on a select amount of bottles. And there’s nothing wrong with aligning yourself to a product you genuinely believe in – it’s positive stuff. Yet more commonly restaurant groups buy up excess wine (I’d hate to use the phrase left over tank juice…but if the shoe fits) and turn it into their own wine that way. These wines then serve as an excellent marketing tool for both the restaurant and the winery, which is suddenly featured in a top London restaurant.
That said, and with a very large BUT, there are some restaurants out there helping to make good wine. Here is our pick of them:
St John have several bag-in-box wines made by different producers in Languedoc, from a sauvignon blanc by Chateau de Lascaux which is bright, fresh and clean and a wonderful palate opener, to their rosé based on grenache and made by Vincent & Francois Pugibet of Domaine La Colombette and their cabernet syrah blend, made by Jean-Benoit high in the Languedoc, full of soft tannins and dark red fruit. These are the house wines and they’re all pretty tasty. So too is their sparkling wine. Yet the real gem of St John’s offering is their wine from their own vineyard situated on stony terraces in the high hills of La Livinière, in the Minervois region. The wines are labelled under Boulevard Napoléon and are made with the help of Benjamin Darnault.
26 St John St, London EC1M 4AY / 94-96 Commercial St, London E1 6LZ
Roast in Borough Market has approached their own-label wines from a food perspective, giving them a red, a white and two sparklings. Keeping things British and seasonal, just like their kitchen, the white and sparkling wines comes from Chapel Down, in Kent. After a trip down to the vineyard and a long lunch, the restaurant team and winemakers came up with wines that pair perfectly with Roast’s signature dish.
“You need lots of acidity and ripe fruits to pair with our pork belly. The wine acts like a backbone and matches perfectly with the acidic apple sauce – combined they cut through the fatty meat and pull the dish together,” General Manager Sergie tells us.
In the unique partnerships Roast has forged with both Chapel Down and their Argentinian malbec producer, the wines have been tailored to the food and restaurant – fitting in with their ethos as a company.
The Floral Hall, Stoney St, London SE1 1TL
Polpo’s white, red and prosecco are the house wines, so not fancy own-bottlings you’ll be paying through the roof for. Rather they’re simple flavours which neatly the match the gourmet Venetian tapas. Without expecting to be blown away, these wines serve a great purpose and are very quaffable.
3 Cowcross St, London EC1M 6DR / 6 Maiden Ln, London WC2E 7NA / 41 Beak St, London W1F 9SB / 126-128 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3QG
St Bart’s Brewery
St Bart’s is a great pub in Farringdon whose owners also run a Kent winery called Hush Heath. Based just an hour’s train ride away from Charing Cross, Hush Heath is a picturesque winery with vineyards that produce some of England’s most outstanding wines. At St Bart’s you can try their chardonnay, pinot noir, rose and sparkling wines as well as the cider from Hush Heath’s orchard.
66 W Smithfield, London EC1A 9DY
Like St John, London’s Bleeding Heart own a vineyard – this one is in Hawkes Bay on the east coast of New Zealand’s north island. There they work with winemaker John Hancock to produce Trinity Hill wines, grown in the stony soil of the Gimblett Gravels region. These wines are pretty great, with the Homage Syrah becoming the first New Zealand red to win a stunning 95 points. At the restaurant and tavern you can try their easier drinking range Hawkes Bay but you’d be missing out on the finer stuff labelled under Trinity Hill.
3 Bleeding Heart Yard, London EC1N 8SJ
Sager + Wilde
Sager + Wilde have four different wines they’ve collaborated with, always working with wineries and winemakers that the team are truly passionate about. In either their Hackney Road wine bar or the Paradise Row restaurant you can try the original bottling pinot noir which was made with Domaine De La Cote in 2012 in the Santa Rita Hills or the subsequent own-labels which include a vibrant sparkling St Laurent pet nat (a naural wine) from Carneros by Cruse Wine and a rich 2015 syrah made on the Austrian Hungarian border by Christian Tschida.
250 Paradise Row, London E2 9LE / 193 Hackney Rd, London E2 8JL