As the months fly by since our initial arrival to London, I feel more and more passionate about our neighbourhood selection. We have five supermarkets, a farmers market, London’s best fishmonger and butcher, the Tube, a myriad of bus stops, about five solid pubs and ten good restaurants, a theatre, indoor tennis centre and some Banksy street art all within a ten minute walk. We are still exploring the area as well, discovering more interesting shops and restaurants.
I stopped by a wine shop on Upper Street our first weekend here, called the Sampler, and picked up a few bottles for dinner. I noticed that they had Coravin machines, essentially a tap system for wine that eliminates the presence of oxygen and can make opened wines last weeks, if not months. I was intrigued, but failed to return to explore further. We were new and there was much to see and discover. I have come to regret that oversight.
I wandered back into the Sampler last week and it is now one of my favourite places in London. They have about eighty wines opened at any time, arranged around the small store according to varietal or region. Riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet, syrah, Spain, Italy. Each wine has a digital display with the price for three different sized pours. The smallest pour is a little over an ounce. Enough for two solid gulps basically. Insert the Sampler credit card (£10 minimum) in the machine, press which size and sample away.
The clever thing about the Sampler is the selection. No generic bullshit wine here. The people who run the store have an unbelievable selection and know what they are doing. At any time, they will have wines from £10 bottle to £250 available to sample, which results in a range of £.50 to £10 for the smallest tasting size. For someone like me who enjoys wine , it’s a blessing. Obviously, the price of the samples varies with the bottle price, but having the ability to taste a £150 bottle, which I would never buy, for £4 is amazing. I have sampled a 1973 Rioja, 1996 Chateauneuf du Pape, 1994 Mosel Riesling and a load of others.
This week they were featuring Burgundy, with almost all red wine machines filled with the 2012 Burgundies. They selected a handful of producers and opened the entry level Village and high end Premier Cru from each area they produce, so you can taste the difference in the terroir within Burgundy. I was able to sample Domaine Daniel Rion’s Morey St. Denis and Vosne-Romanee Village and Premier Cru Burgundies for between £.50 to £1 per taste (hint: Rion’s Premier Crus are not much better than their Villages and cost four times as much). I know this sounds a little technical and wine snobby. Fear not, because you can always find the cheapest option and get drunk if that is more your style. No judgement.
The Sampler should be everyone’s best friend. You can hang out with friends on a Friday night and taste enough to result in mild hangover the next morning or taste during the day in solitude and geek out over a varietal. It has a little for everyone and is totally inclusive, which is not always the case with nice wine stores. Everyone should sample the Sampler (see what I did there?) and taste great wine with good people.
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