London’s new wave wine bars

Sager + Wilde

Like The Remedy’s “Cellar” list, Sager + Wilde’s “Market” list is Michael’s pride and joy. He spends many an hour fine-tuning the line-up, with old Burgundy from the likes of Dujac and J.F Mugnier getting a huge amount of airplay. Currently on sale is 1983 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe from the Southern Rhône at £124 a bottle.

“The provenance of the wines is vital – we get chancers turning up on our doorstep Del Boy-style with back vintages, but there’s no way we’d buy them as we need to know that they’ve been properly cellared, so we rely on the likes of Berry Bros & Rudd and Corney & Barrow,” reveals Charlotte. Save for aromatic whites and sparkling wines, every bottle sold at the bar is decanted, whether the customers like it or not.

Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde

Usually they do. “We don’t use the traditional show and tell model of parading the bottle in front of our guests and trying the wine in front of them – a decanter does the trick,” says Michael. While the pair were clear on the look they wanted for the bar, they had to battle it out over how industrial the final appearance was, with Michael keen for the full-on industrial treatment and Charlotte preferring a more subtle approach.

The result is a happy union of the two, with disused Victorian park benches sharing a space with the squirrel bulbs that have become ubiquitous at edgy urban bars.

Since opening, Sager + Wilde has become a honeypot for a colourful array of wine lovers. “We get all sorts in, from locals who sit at the bar by themselves and want to chat, to couples on dates, hardcore wine geeks and wine trade regulars,” says Charlotte.

The pair hope S+W becomes a reference point for how to succeed in running a London wine bar and are considering opening a second site in Brixton, though their focus at the moment is on a sister bar in East London that champions New World wines, which will share Sager + Wilde’s ‘fine wine by the glass’ concept.

“The early noughties was all about craft cocktails, then the craft beer boom hit and now it’s all about wine,” says Charlotte, who believes the natural wine movement has been pivotal in getting new drinkers into the wine category.

“We’re trying to fill the middle ground between obscure wines from the Jura and those made on an industrial scale and sold on offer at the supermarket. The wine world is too polarised at the moment, so we’re seeking to occupy the hole in the middle.

It’s an exciting time to be running a wine bar in London as there’s a lot of momentum behind the new-wave bars and we all want each other to succeed. We’re doing different things in different parts of town, so there’s room for us all.”

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