Humble isn’t usually a word you associate with exclusive wine bars or shops. And in fact, too often wine shops make you feel intimidated and obliged to swirl and sniff in an attempt to try and fit in. Not at Humble Grape. Battersea’s best wine shop is as relaxed as could be, with a wonderfully stocked shop, a trendy downstairs restaurant and wine bar and a private room with a big screen playing the rugby. This is a 21st century winery, where everyone is welcome… provided you like wine!
James Dawson – owner and wine lover – is on a mission to make wine socially inclusive and approachable by anyone. His business is actually inspired by an embarrassing encounter he had in a wine shop in 2009. Struggling to find a bottle to take to a friend’s party, the shop assistant stepped in and asked him what wines he liked and disliked. James replied that he really liked Chablis, but wasn’t a big fan of Chardonnay – to which he was snootily informed that they were the same wine.
Almost immediately after that moment he decided he wanted to make buying wine more approachable. He started packing a few bottles of wine together on a Saturday morning and delivering them to friends and family on his motorbike before heading to work in the City. Since then Humble Grape has come a long way and they now import wine from 54 vineyards across eight countries, run monthly wine tastings, corporate events and private – non-snooty – wine tasting parties.
The photos don’t quite do the place justice. The upstairs shop also has space to sit and enjoy some wine, which you can do by the glass and there’s outside seating too. Head downstairs and there’s a big downstairs bar and restaurant which is always heaving on the weekends. The theme is industrial; the bar is made of champagne riddling racks, the bar counter has been rescued from a 400 year pub and the dim, low lighting makes for a warm and cosy ambience. You can even take a bottle of wine from upstairs to enjoy downstairs.
The menu has been designed to complement the wine and features a delicious selection of nibbles and smaller dishes, from biltong (naturally) and olives, to cheesy spicy potato and green chutney sourdough toasties. If you fancy something more substantial, there’s baked camembert with honey, plus meat, vegetarian and cheese platters – and apparently they’re just the ticket after four or five wines.
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