I had been planning to visit The Sampler for a while and finally got round to it. I think I have found my new favourite place
in London to browse for wine. There are two locations, South Kensington and Islington, with the South Kensington offering a fusion of wine shop and bar. Both locations offer up to 80 wines from the range to sample using Enomatic wine dispensers and include both good value wines and vintage rarities.
Now I have been to a few places with these machines in the past (Le Vignoble, Plymouth, and a couple of enotecas in Greve, Tuscany), but nowhere with such reasonable prices or such a diverse selection. Over the course of an afternoon with a friend we worked our way through 30 tasters of wines, a few bread baskets and oil (£2) and a cheeseboard (£8). For this part of London The Sampler represents brilliant value. The samples start under £1 for 25ml and went up to £13 for a 1985 Chave Hermitage. Given the market value the markup on the samples is not bad at all.
If you are more interested in drinking wine than sampling they also offer a great deal on corkage – drink any bottle of wine at the shop price +£7.50. Although I didn’t get round to browsing the entire store they had a good selection covering most price-points. It was a quiet Tuesday afternoon so we sat upstairs in the shop area but I understand there is a bar area downstairs and they also open into the evening. If I had to find a negative I am a bit of a stickler for glassware and we ended up with a slightly eclectic collection of tasting glasses (although the small Port glasses were superb). I am sure
The trip to The Sampler was a post-exam celebration and verging on boozy so my approach to tasting was far from academic. I have made rough notes on the wines tasted and will post some links below once the articles are up. Given how much fun we had I will be making a trip to check out the Islington store when I am next on that side of the city.
Conclusions: A pretty great wine shop and a bloody brilliant wine bar. Making a trip here to buy wine would undoubtedly beat looking at sealed bottles with glazed eyes elsewhere. You will enjoy this place whether you want to spend £10 or £200.