There are two London wine stores right now in the Noble Fine Liquor stable (not quite yet a chain, perhaps), and another that doubles as a bar and kitchen, and they have quickly created an enviable reputation for themselves, based on their focus on what they agree is a loose term, natural and authentic wines.
Having taken the opportunity to pop in to the store on Farringdon Road, near Clerkenwell, a couple of weeks ago after the Out of the Box Tasting, I can see what the fuss is about. Their web site claims they started out “because the local bottle shop we wanted did not exist”. That would be a tad corny, were there not some substance behind the comment.
There are, of course, places in London which do major in similar wines, not least Winemakers Club which is just down the road, but another shop of this quality, reminiscent of perhaps Les Papilles or Le Verre Volé in Paris, is very welcome, even on London’s relatively crowded wine scene.
The Farringdon/Clerkenwell store takes up the corner of the site occupied by Quality Chop House at 88-94 Farringdon Road. In fact the wine store is open to the QCH deli via an archway, so the two are physically connected, and the friendship stretches to a nice plug for NFL on the QCH web site.
What can you expect in store? Well, first of all Noble Fine Liquor does, justifiably, claim to have the best Jura range in the UK. There’s a big selection, from new names like Domaine Saint-Pierre to rarities such as Domaine L’Octavin (I spotted a few bottles of ULM, or “Ultra Long Maceration”, which is pretty hard to source here). You’ll find a few Ganevats, and the amazing Domaine de la Tournelle, alongside relative newcomers to London like Marnes Blanche, Les Dolomies and La Touraize, among many.
The ULM comes via the excellent ultra-natural wine importer, Tutto Wines, and it looks like a good few more wines on the shelves might come from the same source. Like Gergovie Wines in Maltby Street, Tutto specialises in zero sulphur bottles.
Another hot area on the shelves has to be Austria. Newcomer wines (in Dalston) and Dynamic Vines in Bermondsey have done so much to bring Austria to our attention these past few years, but it is nice to see the country has another champion in London. Arndorfer, Tschida, Muster, Werlitsch, Preisinger, Gut Oggau and Andreas Tscheppe give just a flavour of what’s on offer here.
Other stars, some rarely seen on London shelves, include Mythopia (the Swiss estate between Sion and Brig in the Valais), Ar Pe Pe (Valtellina), Agrapart, Bérêche and Cédric Bouchard (Champagne), Zeireissen, Peter Lauer, Maximin Grünhaus, JJ Prum and Keller (Germany), De Moor, Alexandre Bain, Bruno Schueller, Pierre Frick, Vignes du Maynes, and the ubiquitous Foillard (France), but this list does not do justice to what they have sourced.
Also take a look at some under the radar producers such as Gilles Berlioz (Savoie), Franck Peillot (Bugey), No Control (Auvergne) and Eric Bordelet’s delicious “sidres”. The Partida Creus Vinel.lo VN Blanco I drank last night came from here too, but the Partida Creus wines don’t hang about these days. All in all, the range is pretty impressive, and shows a deep knowledge of the natural wine scene.
I got an incredibly warm and friendly welcome at Noble Fine Liquor Clerkenwell, and as far as I can tell the only thing it has against it is that it’s not the easiest place for most of us to get to. But it is worth the effort. It’s about half way between Chancery Lane and Angel Tube Stations (probably about fifteen minutes walk from each), and a little closer to Farringdon (Tube and Overground). But once there you have the choice of lunch or dinner at Quality Chop House (and I believe QCH are still offering a “no corkage” deal on Monday nights), or you can head down Farringdon Road to the aforementioned Winemakers Club (under the arches of Holborn Viaduct). They offer a selection of cold plates (charcuterie, cheeses etc). Check out their “drink in at shop prices” occasional offers.
The other Noble Fine Liquor store is on Broadway Market, London E8 (just north of the Regent’s Canal and south of London Fields), and they are also behind the shop, bar and kitchen (as it is styled), P Franco, on Lower Clapton Road, E5, which has a reputation of being one of the five or six best “natural wine” diners in the capital.