10 London wine-focused pubs and bars to visit when they reopen

Sager + Wilde, Hackney Road

Blyde says: When asked if he is still excited by wine, Michael Sager responds, “F*** yeah!” He opened the first, slightly Edward Hopper-esque Sager + Wilde wine bar on Hackney Road in 2013.

“[It is] the quintessential wine bar, exuding warmth and genuine hospitality,” says Sager. “The list is diverse, non-dogmatic, inclusive and affordable, and it is still my favourite wine bar,” he adds.

From the vantage of the rugged counter constructed from salvaged, back-lit pavement tiles, it is possible to drink the world via immaculate glassware. Drawing from 60 suppliers, the ever-changing list is an ode to Sager’s incessant curiosity. Of one producer, Antonio Quari, winemaker at Domaine Prieuré Roch, Sager notes: “He just released the second vintage of his own wine, Non Progredi est Regredi (life or rather time never waits for you) which is also my mantra. The wine is a banger, made naturally from whole clusters of Pinot Noir from the underrated region of Ladoix.” This can be savoured with comforting Cheddar toasties or charcuterie.

Looking back to 2013, Sager notes: “When we opened, the natural wine narrative wasn’t as prevalent. I couldn’t think of a better person to be GM than Dominik Ginzinger to help redefine exactly where we want to be. He was running Austria’s best natural wine bar (O boufés). And time has proven us right.”

Mission opened a year later beneath a railway viaduct on Paradise Row, later also taking the Sager + Wilde moniker.

“[It is] a full-blown restaurant with a Tales of the Cocktail and 50 Best Bars-winning bar programme overseen by beverage director, Marcis Dzelzainis,” notes Sager. “The vibe is warm in the colder months, and from spring to late summer, people love our big garden terrace. We make pasta with our own hands, with plenty of dishes coming from the grill.”

Here, Silvia Pedrotti is in charge, “whom I recruited in Switzerland where I met her running the wine programme for my friend, Patrick Schindler,” Sager says. Meanwhile, Lorenzo Franzoia (formerly of Polpo) oversees both sites. “He ensures the DNA of Sager + Wilde is never lost,” says Sager.

The Sager + Wilde duet has fostered much wine trade talent, although Sager says “they aren’t schools because our way of teaching is autodidactic. Saying that, I am incredibly proud to see Sager + Wilde alumni not only becoming incredible sommeliers but also growing into very skilled managers realising their dreams of owning their own businesses.”

Sager is always encountering new inspirations vinously, including the wines of Georgia, Tenerife and Baja California.

“All three have blown me away with their culture so strongly rooted and their eyes firmly set on preserving the incredible own-rooted vineyards they farm,” he says.

Sager mentions his mentor is Rajat Parr. “His ability to taste is unmatched and he travels the world with such joy and never-ending curiosity. It’s an honour to call him my friend.”

When not working, you may find Sager enjoying a considered pour at Noble Rot, P. Franco, The Laughing Heart, Brawn and Leroy.

Sager & Wilde has turned its Hackney Road site into a deli, while the other, based in Paradise Row, is offering a takeaway menu, which can also be delivered. For more information, visit the Instagram page here. 

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