Complex and littered with pitfalls, the route to buying the perfect plonk is treacherous. So, to help you along, we've distilled three of our favourite wine merchants, where picking the perfect pinot Noir and buying the best Bergerac is naught but a breeze.
If Willy Wonka was into his vino, he’d have come up with something akin to the new Harrods wine emporium. It boasts vast “large format” bottles (up to a whopping 18 litres), an Enomatic wine dispensing system so you can taste whatever you fancy, an “aroma zone” from Le Nez Du Vin to help you figure out what the critics mean when they rave about the “aromas of blueberry leaf and pencil shavings”, fantastic vertical selections (such as Ermitage vintages from 1993), and – most importantly – 3,000 different wines, beers and spirits. No Oompa-Loompas, though.
87–135 Brompton Road, London SW1 (+44 20 7730 1234 www.harrods.com)
On our visit to Vagabond, we spied more men-about-town than vagrants, but the wine offering is certainly accessible – prices start at £5.75. Featuring a tightly edited range of just 100 wines, it takes its cue from where others — Bottle Apostle (bottleapostle.com) and The Sampler (thesampler.co.uk) — left off, as every bottle is available to taste. Founder Stephen Finch says: “we thought it was crazy that customers should be asked to part with a good sum of money for a bottle without knowing what it is they’re buying.” We couldn’t agree more.
18-22 Vanston Place, London SW6 (+44 20 7381 1717 www.vagabondwines.co.uk)
Drawing on the expertise of Esme Johnstone (co-founder of Majestic Wine), and David Campbell (creator of the Guide Hachette des Vins) to invest in some of the best-value bottles on the market, FVD imports directly from the growers, delivers to the door and buys only wines that Campbell and Johnstone enjoy drinking themselves. The best of its selection is often the “declassified” wines such as Pauillac, Margaux and – most recently – St Julien 2008(one of the great “super seconds”).