Back to a cooler climate for a change (not me, but the blog). Its time to write about my favorite wine shop in London. The Sampler is everything I want from a wine boutique. They have a large selection with some emphasis on small producer sparkling, they have an abundance of tasting machines, and they serve snacks. I love having snacks with my wine.
The sampler has two locations in London. The original one is in Islington and then the one we mainly visit (and the one this post is about) is in South Kensington, just a stone throw away from the tube. This branch is slightly more spacious and I also feel that the staff has been very attentive and knowledgeable. The set-up is that they sell over 1500 wines. It is a wide range of wines from “cheap” (below £10 per bottle, not talking about bag in box here) and up to high-end wines. They are not really aiming for the big brands but rather more unique or interesting wines which makes it a really great place to find new things.
At all times they have at least 80 wines ready to sample in the tasting machines. To use the machines you just need to buy a card that can be carged with money (at least £10), a bit like an Oyster card (public transport). After topping up you can insert the card in the machine and press a button to sample the wines. There are three different sizes of tasters so it is great if you want to sample a lot of wines without getting too tipsy. There is usually also a few really rare and expensive wines in the mix, so this is a great way to sample some things that you may never dream of buying. Sometimes I just want to see what (if anything) I am missing out on.
The Sampler also serves some nibbles like charcuteries and cheeses and there are seats to sit down and enjoy a full glass (or glasses). They also arrange some tasting events with specific focus on type of wine, region or matching. For example I recall they had an event on best wines to match with chocolate. Mmmm! Thinking of the Sampler makes me want to live in London again.
The selection of wine is also very interesting and I have found a lot of my favorites and new favorites here. They are especially good with grower champagnes and US red wines, some of my favorite categories. Despite being a great shop prices are also reasonable and this makes the Sampler my top wine shop in London. There are of course many other good places with nice wine and tasting possibilities, like my new hangout on Charlotte street, Vagabond. Check out the review here. However the Sampler was my “first love” in London, so it will always have a place in my heart as one of the favorites (unless they screw it up with bad service someday). So if you are wondering where to go browsing (and tasting and buying) in London for wines, this is my top recommendation.