Of all of the food and drink buzzwords to have become ubiquitous in the past couple of years, natural wine is surely one of the most difficult for the casual drinker to get their head around. Isn't all wine made in a process that's natural? Does it mean the same as organic, or biodynamic? And what's the difference in taste?
Put simply, it refers to wine that's made with as little technological intervention as possible between growing the grapes and turning them into wine. And, far from being a meaningless buzzword, it's actually closer to ancient forms of winemaking than the more industrial process that's dominated the wine scene in the modern day. It generally means small-scale production, organic grape-growing, natural yeast, and no sulphites – which are often added to larger-scale wines to ward off that troublesome oxidation that can give a funky, uneven taste to the finished product.
But that funk is exactly what many winemakers – and increasingly bar owners around London and beyond – find so exciting about natural wines. The use of natural yeast and oxidation can give the wine some rough edges, but it can also provide bags of character. As The Laughing Heart's owner Charlie Mellor put it in a column he wrote for us, "good or bad, weird and/or wonderful, natural wines demonstrate the infinite possibility of aromas and flavours that come from spontaneous fermentation."
Where do you go to sample these weird, wonderful wines? Keeping reading our round up of the best natural wine bars in London to find out.
16 natural wine bars in London to try tonight
12A Newburgh Street, W1F 7RR
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Hidden just off of Carnaby Street lies Antidote, formerly La Trouvaille, with over 3000 organic, biodynamic and natural wines hand selected and just waiting for you to try. As with any good wine bar, there’s a delicious selection of food, to go with; a short-but-sweet menu showcasing charcuterie, artisan cheeses and veg-centric small plates. If you don’t have time to drink in, you can also grab a bottle (or more) to go from their first floor wine shop. Don’t miss their weekly expert picks; catch a sneak preview on their own Instagram page.
2. Bar Crispin
Kingly Court, 19 Kingly St, W1B 5PW
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You might already know of Crispin, a lovely restaurant that serves lovely dishes and lovely wines in Spitalfields. And whether you do or you don't, you'll definitely want to check out its new sibling, Bar Crispin in Carnaby Street's Kingly Court, where a 150-bottle-strong wine list awaits. GM and sommelier Alex Price selects the natural, low-intervention wines, and will also host tasting sessions in the site's private dining room. There's food, too (native oysters with shallots; anchovy and potato focaccia; black garlic ice cream), and even better, the bar has a licence to stay open till 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. Better get the aspirin ready...
3. Peckham Cellars
125 Queen's Road, SE15 2ND
They say good neighbours become good friends, and in this case, good friends open a brilliant indie wine bar, restaurant and bottle shop called Peckham Cellars. Founders Helen Hall, Luke West-Whylie and Ben McVeigh are all pals who live in nearby, which seems to be a recipe for success: the bar has just been anointed with a shiny Michelin Bib Gourmand. The sleek space might be bijou, but it still manages to pack a punch with more than 100 different bottles of wine that start at a very wallet-friendly £22. Food gets equal attention: chef Henry Freestone (formerly of Crispin) has carefully curated a menu of small plates so that every last dish is there for a reason – so you're likely to order more rather than less. Dedham Vale steak tartare, get in our face.
4. Top Cuvée
177B Blackstock Rd, N5 2LL
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Top Cuvée started out as a restaurant and natural wine bar in Highbury, and it did that really, really well. It then did the pandemic pivot to open a shop (Shop Cuvée), and it also did that well. And now it's going one step further to open a second site and hidden wine bar (Cave Cuvée) in Bethnal Green, which we suspect it'll do really well, too. The natty wine nous comes from Brodie Meah and his partner in wine Max Venning (also of cocktail bar Three Sheets), and if these guys are behind it, you can trust it'll be good. Alongside the wine, the restaurant also serves seasonal small plates that'll keep you grazing and sipping for hours, and that's exactly our kind of party.
5. The Cellar
258 Pentonville Road, N1 9JY
The Cellar is a self-proclaimed sustainable viticulture wine bar newly opened in Kings Cross. It's the second site from The Cellar team, who made their debut in September 2020 in the Cotswolds. But for all its British countryside origins, this bar looks to Bologna and Madrid for inspiration for its convivial environment designed to encourage drinkers to sample and share. The wines here are low-intervention, celebrating producers that work to showcase the very best of their terroir. Wine bar by night, during the day it becomes a coffee shop with a similar bent: ethically sourced coffee beans, cheese from Neal's Yard Dairy and charcuterie from Saltpig come together to make sure it's an all-day destination.
6. Silver Lining
13 Morning Lane, E9 6ND
Not only is Silver Lining the UK's first bar dedicated to orange wine, but all its wines are natural and low-intervention to boot. If this is your first introduction to skin-contact wines – where the grapes skins are left in contact with the wine while it ferments, adding flavour – you're in for a treat: because Silver Linings is dedicated to orange wines (made with white wine grapes), you can really get a feel for the category, whereas most places only offer one or two. The wine bar also runs a cocktail programme, Every Cloud – making it a one-stop boozing shop.
1 West Gate Street, E8 3R
Pared-back industrial vibe? Superlative small plates? A wine list with more skin contact than a nudist colony? Yeah, Bright is one of those cool restaurants, alright. Created by the team behind P. Franco, Bright has become a media darling in record time. Even the most curmudgeonly diner will find it hard not to be won over by a punchy glass of whatever Bright’s attentive staff recommends. If the way the London dining scene is shifting is any indication, the future is Bright indeed.
8. The Laughing Heart
277 Hackney Road, E2 8NA
If you needed convincing that the world of East London natural wine bars is a small one, go to The Laughing Heart. Not only will you find many of the area's chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs eating and drinking here until the early hours (it's open until 2am, which makes it a hit with industry people wanting to cut loose after a shift), but its owner, former opera singer Charlie Mellor, knows pretty much all of the names and faces driving the natural wine movement in the capital. As well as the bottle shop and bar, there's a dining room catering for a decent number of diners, with the food taking its cues from East Asia as well as the British coastline courtesy of highly rated chef Tom Anglesea.
9. 40 Maltby Street
40 Maltby Street, SE1 3PA
This unassuming Bermondsey wine bar is actually the HQ of Gergovie Wines, a natural wine importer that brings wine from some of the best small-scale producers in Europe together under one roof. Like The Laughing Heart, it's a hit with like-minded restaurateurs and chefs, who can often be seen nursing a glass at its bar. While it's described as a wine bar, that probably does it a huge disservice: the food is good enough to have earned it a place among the pantheon of London's most acclaimed restaurants.
27 Battersea Rise, SW11 1HG
The Terroirs group is a key player in London's natural wine scene – with Terroirs in Soho, a restaurant of the same name in East Dulwich (formerly Toasted) and Soif, a restaurant and wine bar on Battersea Rise, just a short stroll from Clapham Junction. In keeping with the theme, Soif serves up Anglo-French bistro-style food, alongside a France-heavy wine list from natural, biodynamic and low-intervention producers hand-selected by the team.
11. Terroirs Wine Bar
5 William IV Street, WC2N 4DW
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Sure, Covent Garden may be more synonymous with pre-theatre menus and tourists than natural wine bars, but Terroirs puts it firmly on the map as a natural wine bar to try. Whilst it's not the fanciest of settings - don't, and we mean don't, expect chandeliers or grandeur - there is a wide selection of all-natural wines from across the world.
12. Newcomer Wines
5 Dalston Lane, E8 3DF
For a wine bar that's even nicher than an organic, sustainable, wine bar in Cov Garden's All Bar One loving crowd, head to Dalston, where Newcomer Wines is sourcing, serving and selling the very best of natural Austrian wines from a wholly new generation of grape growers. Again, there are a wide range to choose from - 250, to be precise - all of which Newcomer promises are 'honest, distinctive and delicious'. Fun fact: Austria produces 470 times more wine than the UK every single year. Yep.
13. Cellar SW4
1 Voltaire Road, SW4 6DQ
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You may have already read up on our favourite places to eat and drink in Clapham. If you haven't, you may not have heard of Cellar SW4. The wine cellar, bar and shop is from the team behind Dvine Cellars, which lies, coincidentally, just across the road under the railway arches of Clapham High Street overground station. It's worth noting here - the menu is not 100% natural and organic, but the majority of it is, so do check before you order.
14. Lady of the Grapes
16 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NJ
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You're big on shopping local, buying natural and yet have you ever thought about how you could show your support for feminism with your choice of wine? Likely not. At Lady of the Grapes, not only will you be enjoying all-natural wines, you'll also get to try from the best European female winemakers. Why? Well, ownerCarole Bryon says: 'We see more and more women taking the lead and being in charge of vineyards, so let's shine a light on them within this industry, so traditionally male-dominated.' Hear, hear.
15. Naughty Piglets
28 Brixton Water Lane, SW2 1PE
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Did you know? The co-founders of Naughty Piglets have worked at both Michelin-star Trinity and natural wine bar Terroirs. It's actually, Michelle and Barack Obama jokes aside (because yes, they met at work, did you not know?), where they met, and the rest is history. We’re sure, knowing what you know, that you’re not surprised that Brixton-based bar is quite so successful. Head for delicious small plates, a zingy atmosphere and some bloomin' good natural wines.
16. P Franco
107 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0NP
A firm favourite with natural wine drinkers in this neck of the woods, P Franco isn't just a bar, it's also a bottle shop so you can take away your favourite bottle of low-intervention wine if you don't want to trek to sister shop Noble Fine Liquor in Broadway Market. The food here – Italian-inspired dishes made with seasonal British ingredients – has won it huge acclaim. So much so, in fact, that its bigger, more food-focused sister restaurant Bright is just as popular.