Top 10 millennial wine venuesBy Darren Smith
Millennials: who are they, what do they want, how much of a threat do they pose? These are the sorts of question being asked in drinks company conference rooms all the time. Well, perhaps not the last one – although, in terms of the health of a drinks business or brand, failure to engage millennials is a sort of existential threat.
Who are they? They are young adults aged 18 to 34, according to a certain semi-arbitrary reckoning. They’re health-conscious, they work for peanuts, they’re non-committal and spend 85% of their waking life online.
When they drink, they want to know the drink’s provenance. An answer of ‘Our distribution depot in Sudbury’ will not satisfy them. They want to know the OS co-ordinates of the farm the raw materials were grown on, the colour of the farmer’s eyes and who he voted for in the last general election.
How does the drinks industry appease this elusive demographic? For all the handwringing and market research, many fail. There is a generational gap at play here. Take wine. Millennials are not tied to the old world of wine. They are quickly bored by the swirler, the garnet rim regarder.
If it tastes good, it makes me happy, ergo bibo. Such often seems to be the millennial’s philosophy – which may go some way to explaining the success of the places featured in the following pages, our top 10 London wine venues with millennial appeal…
10. Wine Beats
Millennial appeal: partying
Last year, Austrian wine specialist Newcomer Wines hosted a one-off party – Wine Beats Vol 1 – in Shoreditch Studios, combining fantastic Austrian wine with electronic music and tasty street food. A long queue formed down Shoreditch High Street with 550 paying guest drinking Grüner from magnums, meeting enthusiastic young Austrian winemakers and generally having a ball.
Wine Beats would be higher up this list if it were not such an embryonic event. However, Newcomer Wines’ Peter Honegger says a Wine Beats Vol 2 is currently being planned, and will be getting all up in Shoreditch’s face in late 2016 or early 2017. There’s very little in London that occupies this space – that is, offering top-quality wine in a proper, heaving party environment. Wine Beats has the chance to make its mark here.
9. Brilliant Corners
Millennial appeal: sushi, jazz, natural wine
A very sleek venue established in 2013 by Kingsland Waste in Dalston. Brilliant Corners does jazz, Japanese food and an enviable selection of natural wine, and is hugely popular with the young ‘uns of East London and beyond.
The bar boasts a library of books, travel guides, magazines, newspapers and jazz records, while the venue is good for casual, low-key evening events involving poetry, book launches, film screenings and DJ parties.
It also has a very beautiful analogue sound system, complete with vintage Klipschorn speakers. The venue was inspired by The Loft, the legendary underground club created by David Mancuso in 70s New York, which is pretty, for want of a better word, cool.
8. The New Zealand Cellar
Millennial appeal: non-Burgundian Pinot Noir
With a permanent wine bar in the middle of Boxpark, Brixton, The New Zealand Wine Cellar scores highly on millennial appeal.
Founder Melanie Brown worked in the London restaurant industry for eight years during which she played a fundamental role in developing The Providores and Tapa Room wine list to offer the largest selection of premium New Zealand wines in Europe.
The NZ Cellar is a place where the curious wine drinker can find – among others – a big range of stunningly good Pinot Noir with none of the masonic, fustian overtones associated with sellers of fine Burgundy.
The NZ Cellar’s regular events are also very open and casual to appeal to the millennial set – as exemplified in its annual garage sale – the wine lover’s answer to fashion’s sample sale – held every year in held Pop Brixton.
7. The Remedy
Millennial appeal: natural wine, collaborations
One of the most exciting new bars to have popped up in London in recent years, with a very informal ambience and a treasure trove of interesting wines, many of which are organic, biodynamic or natural.
Accessibility is important here and is reflected in the very reasonable prices for what are some of the world’s most talked-about minimal-intervention wines.
“We want to make wine fun and accessible, hence our icon list offering great vintage wines at crazy prices,” says co-owner David Clawson. “A lot of our regulars order exclusively off that list.”
Another winning feature of The Remedy is its openness to collaboration. A prime example: later this month it will be linking up with French burger supremos Big Fernand.
On April 21, the Remedy will be up sticks from its home on Cleveland Street, to serve up a selection of white, red and orange wines by the glass from a mini wine bar inside Big Fernand’s Percy Street restaurant.
Each burger will be specially chosen to match with Big Fernand’s Gallic-themed burgers. There’s even a wine flight with Big Fernand sliders. (Anyone interested can pick up tickets here.)
6. Wine Underground
Millennial appeal: music, natural wine
The original and still one of the best natural wine bars in London, Terroirs has recently made efforts to draw in younger punters with a selection of casual parties with top-quality wines and small plates of food in its cosy basement space.
Wine Underground has so far featured cool DJ sets and collaborations with London natural wine lynchpins such as Tutto, who helped put on a night featuring exclusively no-added-sulphur wines.
Millennial appeal: low prices
Bag-in-box wine has come a long way in recent years – a fact recognised by former Great Queen Street restaurant manager Kirsty Tinkler.
Tinkler set up BIB, natural bag-in-box wine pop-up in Dalston, in November last year. She was sufficiently encouraged by the response that she is set to return for a six-month stint in 2016 covering the summer months.
“It is important to educate people about it,” she told db. “It is wonderful to have a simple idea like BIB that you know will make a difference, and receive the response we had last November.”
She has increased her range of wines from the November pop-up, and wants to offer between eight to 10 reds, the same number of whites and at least three rosés. All are from the Old World, predominantly Spain, Italy and France.
Millennial appeal: hotdogs
Combining gourmet hotdogs and grower Champagne takes a bit of chutzpah, and Bubbledogs in Fitzrovia deserves every success for its bold step, which keeps the punters coming in week after week.
James Knappett, a former head chef at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley heads the venture with his wife, Sandia Chang, who clearly made a shrewd decision to take fine Champagne outside of its traditional, fine dining setting.
Is it the most harmonious pairing for a hotdog? If you’re asking that question, you’re probably not a millennial.
3. Wine Car Boot
Millennial appeal: choice
The peripatetic wine show set up by former model Ruth Spivey brings sample ranges of some of London’s best wine retailers to London’s young, food and drinking loving crowd.
The event was set up by Spivey in August 2013 in a bid to move consumers away from the supermarket aisles and get them tasting interesting wines in a relaxed setting, with street food and music thrown in.
It’s done a great job so far, giving the average wine drinker an idea of the diverse range of wines that are out there. It returns for it’s sixth outing in spring 2016. Hopefully it will continue long into the future.
2. Noble Rot
Millennial appeal: Multi-disciplinary
Noble Rot fanzine founders Mark Andrew and Dan Keeling opened this wine bar and restaurant on Lamb’s Conduit Street late last year. It may be housed in the decidedly old-school former Vats wine bar, but the ideas a right up to the present date, with loads of fun to be had with a thrilling range of wines. Raveneau Rock Oysters, anyone?
The space boasts a 70-seater restaurant headed up by Paul Weaver of St John Bread & Wine and The Sportsman in Seasalter fame.
The bar specialises in British produce with a French accent and its menu will change with the seasons. Wines comes from around the world with a strong by the glass offering at generous prices. Bottles, meanwhile, feature hard-to-find back vintages from top producers.
Andrew and Keeling’s success with Noble Rot the fanzine owed as much to the pair’s shrewd design and marketing as it did to content; there’s little doubt that same shrewdness will make this venue a destination for a new generation of wine drinkers, as well as some of the old ones who know a good new thing when they see it.
1. Lucky Chip Burgers and Wine
Millennial appeal: burgers
Burgers and wine always wins.
Lucky Chip started life as a burger van in London Fields, launched by Ben Denner, former general manager at the Cobden Club in Kensal Rise, and his wife Jody.
There can be few burger places in the world with such a dedicated wine list. Denner uses 18-20 suppliers, and always has plenty on offer by the glass.
Burgers and Wine also features a Cult Wine Thursday theme (previous cult wines have included a 2007 Silver Oak Cabernet, Kissla Chardonnay 2001 and Alban vineyards 2010), a Monday night wine club, plus winemaker events once a month.
This burger joint is no McDonald’s – one customer, Denner relates, came in and spent £300 in 20 minutes on a ‘Royale wit Cheese’ and a bottle of Sine Qua Non; although it should be said the burger was £8.95.
On the wine side Lucky Chip offers cash margins that decrease as you go up the list, and the good news for lovers of burgers and wine is that Denner’s five-year plan is to open three more such venues in London.