Cheers: London Has a Fantastic New French Wine Bar
Trial size? I’ll have a glass.
By-the-glass programs have shrunken at too many restaurants, and that’s a pity. And half-bottles, a size that by now seems like an antique curiosity (at least outside of dessert wines) have almost disappeared.
They are both great ways to try a wine and decide if you like it. You don’t have to be a commitment-phobe to feel that spending $100 on a wine requires being pretty sure that you’re going to dig it.
So it’s a good piece of news indeed when anyone is putting time and energy into trial-size vino. The latest happy event is that Les 110 de Taillevent opened last week in London. The high-end brasserie-style restaurant, set on lovely Cavendish Square, will have a whopping 110 wines by the glass. It’s an offshoot of Paris’s famed, two-Michelin-star Taillevent—think of it as a “second label,” as Bordeaux producers often call their less fancy wine. (It’s right near the Wallace Collection, one of the overlooked treasures of the London museum scene.)
And the Bordeaux comparison is apt, since the owners of the Taillevent group, the Gardinier family, also own Château Phélan Ségur, a top Bordeaux property, as well as Domaine Les Crayères, a Relais & Châteaux hotel in Champagne that is among the nicest places I have ever stayed.
The London iteration is the second spin-off—there’s already a 110 de Taillevent in Paris, near the mother ship. I sat down with Thierry Gardinier earlier this year, to find out more about the concept, and to sip some vintages of Phélan Ségur (the things I do for you, readers!).
It’s pretty straightforward: the original Taillevent is sitting on a mammoth wine cave, with some 3,000 selections (meaning tens of thousands of actual bottles), and they want to make wine more accessible.
When I read between the lines, there’s self-interest here, too, beyond just profitable brand-extension. The Gardiniers know that Bordeaux has been struggling with a snooty reputation—even though there are loads of value wines from the area, it’s thought of as beyond-reach—and anything they can do to broaden and deepen people’s experience with all wine helps the traditional French regions stay relevant.
As long as I can graze all those wines by the glass on my next London trip, I’m all for it.
Ted Loos is the Travel + Leisure’s Wine and Spirits Contributor. Follow him on Twitter at @looslips.
Looking for more on London bars? Read T+L’s Guide to London.