The best places to drink natural wine in London’s Shoreditch
Wine writer and founder of Dalston Wine Club, Hannah Crosbie, takes us on a natural wine tour of her favourite East End haunts
By Hannah Crosbie Photography by Bryony Watson
Although there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to drinking wine in the capital, I always find myself returning to the hotspots of Shoreditch – whether I’m working or playing. The east London neighbourhood has become a stronghold for the city’s natural wine movement. After all, an endearing spirit of experimentation and creativity necessitates a style of wine to match. With this in mind, I’ve rounded up my favourite bars, wineries, shops and people who are making great things happen in the world of wine – all within walking distance of Shoreditch House.
1pm: Funk, Colombia Road
The air is thick with chill as we pace down Columbia Road. It’s the tail end of November, and it’s positively Baltic. Mist curls behind us as we clamber inside Funk – the latest opening from The Cheese Bar. Cofounder, Taylor Carver, greets our cold faces, but our hats stay firmly on as we ask for something to warm us up. Luckily, the wine buyer, Fleur, has just the thing for us: a sparkling pink by Austrian producer Jurtschitsch. It’s a blend of Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and St Laurent that stands up to some of the best in Champagne. We nibble on cheese and spin a couple of their records, a collection contributed to by Fleur and Mathew, Funk’s other cofounder.
2pm: Sager + Wilde, Hackney Road
One short walk along Ravenscroft Street later, and we’re at Sager + Wilde on Hackney Road. Something of an institution to the area, S+W was among the first of the natural wine bars to pop up near Shoreditch. Not satisfied with simply selling great wines, founder Michael Sager has just launched an importing business, too. The wine we select is one of his: the Putes Féministes from Fleur Godart. Sager makes a point of importing women-made wines, and you can’t get more staunchly feminist than this bottle. This blend of Gewürztraminer and Muscat is incredibly striking on the nose – think flowers and tropical fruit – which carries through to a gently acidic palate.
4pm: The Laughing Heart, Hackney Road
Just a quick stroll up the road is the restaurant, wine cave and bottle shop, The Laughing Heart. I was greeted by its knowledgeable and friendly sommelier who took me through some of the latest additions to the wine list. He’s downstairs, surrounded by rows of bottles in the cellar. We open a Beaujolais and there’s an electricity in the air before the night gets in full swing.
5pm: Renegade Urban Winery, Arch 12 Gales Gardens
Now several glasses of wine in, a longer walk in the winter air is welcome and – mercifully – consists mostly of straight roads. We follow Hackney Road to its end and turn from Cambridge Heath Road to an unassuming alleyway. Its entrance is a wall of furniture (I’m mistaken for a seller and asked for the price of a filing cabinet), but go deeper and you’ll find Renegade Urban Winery. We’re greeted by the founder Warwick Smith, who – as always – has huge amounts of energy, despite having moved most of his production to Walthamstow. Because of this, there’s plenty of room under the arch for us to catch up over a glass of his latest release: Alf. Named after a local retired charity shop worker, this Castelão is firm but fresh – with notes of black fruit, spice, and fresh dates.
6pm: Cave Cuvée, Bethnal Green Road
It would be incredibly rude to come to Shoreditch without popping my head into Cave Cuvée, Top Cuvée’s latest opening. We sip on glasses of Partida Creus as the founder, Brodie Meah, arrives on a perfectly on-brand orange bike. Our businesses came up together with the natural wine wave, but Meah is a total inspiration for everything I do. Indeed, many new wine drinkers credit their burgeoning interest to the approachable attitude to wine that Top Cuvée pioneered. Meah and I chat business over a glass of French red blend (it’s definitely stretching into the red wine hours) and discuss an exciting upcoming project – watch this space.
7pm: Shoreditch House, Ebor Street
Hand on heart, after a day out in Shoreditch, where else could we end up? We ascend to the newly refurbished bar right at the back of the top floor. The removal of my puffa jacket is a welcome development (although my wine jacket remains firmly buttoned up). To round off the day and kick off the evening, we opt for Champagne – Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. It’s definitely the most conventional choice of the day, but it’s one of my favourite 100% Chardonnay Champagnes. We fill up our coupes and talk for hours.