FEW things in life bring out pretention in the human race quite like a glass of fermented grapes. It seems as though there’s one in every (halfway decent) bar; the beast known as the ‘wine snob’, who is sat there swilling, sniffing, slurping, scorning and generally sullying everybody’s Friday night drinks. But tucked away in the...
FEW things in life bring out pretention in the human race quite like a glass of fermented grapes.
It seems as though there’s one in every (halfway decent) bar; the beast known as the ‘wine snob’, who is sat there swilling, sniffing, slurping, scorning and generally sullying everybody’s Friday night drinks.
But tucked away in the historic vaults of St Bride’s is a refuge from talk of tannins and terroir.
Humble Grape is a safe haven for those who enjoy wine but don’t know tonnes about it because, as founder James Dawson says, “you might be a successful lawyer or you might be great at golf but quite frankly you can’t know everything about everything.”
James embarked on his mission to make wine more accessible back in 2009, first as an importer, before opening up the first Humble Grape wine shop and bar in Battersea in 2015.
It’s somewhat fitting that his second venture, which opened less than a year after the first, should be in the former Press House Wine Bar, a famous watering hole for Fleet Street journalists.
As Humble Grape, it remains an unpretentious drinking den for the every man; albeit gussied up with timber panelling and cushy cobalt seats for a woody finish with notes of blue (couldn’t resist).
There are around 35 wines by the glass on the menu, plus up to 300 varieties available by the bottle from the rustic retail space.
Pick a bottle to take home or stick around to sample it with dishes from the small but succinct menu of sharing platters and simple mains – steak, salmon tartare and vibrant sides.
James and his team of expert palettes scour the globe for small, sustainable, independently run vineyards, maintaining a system of direct imports to avoid industry mark-ups. The same goes for the food; a refined menu of simple dishes that let the ethically sourced produce do the talking.
“When a whole family’s livelihood depends on the quality of their wine, they live and breathe the product and you can see the care and the attention to detail that goes into it,” he says.
“We always look for that passion, the story behind the wine.”
It’s these stories that inspire the unique tasting notes for each of the wines available by the glass, a list that changes roughly every month.
Instead of ‘a fine spicy series that plays on pepper and cinnamon’, the description of a Chinon from the Loire Valley reads: “We had to wrestle this old-vine Cab Franc from cantankerous Philippe Pichard”, in keeping with James’ reasoning that people remember stories, rather than spicy finishes.
All part of a service that manages to be all knowing but never know-it-all.
Humble Grape, 1 St Bride’s Passage EC4Y 8EJ