The Boot and Flogger, London, UK

I like the ambiance of a traditional British pub as much as the next guy but the aromas and taste of stale beer are not so convincing. If only there was a place of tradition that replaced the ageing taps and casks with a wine cellar…

Oh wait – that would be the Boot and Flogger.

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Traditional pub on the outside; a temple to wine on the inside.

The Boot and Flogger lies 5 minutes from London Bridge station and the bustling Borough Market. Opened in 1964 by wine merchant John Davy this establishment claims to be the first real wine bar in London. It has the feel of a traditional city pub (in the best sense) albeit with a more upmarket clientele. Wine by the glass, by the bottle and a pretty impressive and fairly priced fine wine list is enough that John Davy’s wine bar deserves our attention. I have been here a few times now but never with a fellow wine aficionado so am yet to sample the wine by the bottle and the prices on the fine wine list are really rather fair.

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When I finally come with a fellow wine enthusiast I will be trying at least one of these.

It appears The Boot and Flogger also serves food, although I am unable to pass comment on either food or menu. There is plenty of wine paraphernalia inside, with some great maps, menus, and classic bottles – I get the impression John Davy really enjoys his wine. There is also a covered outside terrace, presumably suited to smoking the Cuban cigars sold at the bar. A decanter of vintage port (again very fairly priced) and a summer evening is starting to sound just the ticket.

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Pouilly-Fuissé, Domaine Simonin, Cuvée des Roches, Burgundy, 2013.

Given that this is white Burgundy I am assuming this is 100% Chardonnay. This was available by the glass on the specials board for around £6 – a fair price for central London.

This wine presents as dried citrus  on the nose- think more lemon peel than zesty and fresh. On the palate the wine is fully dry with a high acidity and an earthy quality progressing into nuttiness and butter from the mid palate without becoming satisfyingly rich. The mouthfeel was waxy, rather than buttery and there was a bitter note on the late palate, which at a push I could call minerality. You can really feel the acid on this and I think it falls just a bit flat rather than being tightly wound.

Impression: For all the above this remains an enjoyable wine.  It is fairly priced, refreshing and interesting enough to whet the appetite before moving on to bigger and better things from the fine wine list.

Score: 86pts (DT)

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Conclusions: All in all a pretty unique spot in central London with reasonable prices and a bit of history. Come with a fellow wine lover to make the most out your trip and sample the fine wine list. From Davy’s website it looks like the run a host of bars across the city  – let us know in the comments section where else is worth a visit.

The Sampler, South Kensington, London

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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.