On 21 October, the Hackney wine merchant Bottle Apostle held a belated “launch party” hosted by owner Andrew Eakin and General Manager Tom Jarvis.
Bottle Apostle opened in July in what used to be Frocks restaurant. The building is in a snug retail strip of boutiques shops and cafes next to Victoria Park in Hackney, an area frequented by yummy mummies and the like. It is an East End version of Bellevue Road and Wandsworth Common, my local “nappy valley”.
The shop has four Enomatic machines that maintain eight wines each, so on any given day 32 wines, typically 16 each of red and white, can be sampled.
These Enomatics cost £8,750 each—quite an investment. Argon gas is pumped into the bottles and can keep a wine fresh for up to four weeks. “They’re labour intensive,” explains Tom. “You have to clean them and change the bottles.” Sometimes they don’t behave—but they are Italian-built.
Customers buy a “Bottle Apostle Smartcard” and then top it up with however much they like, à la Oyster. The appropriate amount is then deducted when a wine is selected from the Enomatic.
The wines are not as grand, or at least not as expensive, as those available by the glass at The Sampler in Islington or Selfridges’ Wonder Bar—no Pétrus here. But despite being in the East End it is a more salubrious location, I think, with the Ginger Pig butchers next door but one. All very civilised.
“We’re not specialists in any given area,” says Tom, who worked at Oddbins before teaching wine courses at Kensington and Chelsea College of Further Education. Tarlant Brut Zero sells well, reinforcing the notion that low dosage Champagnes have become fashionable. A dozen beers and ciders are also stocked and there is a room downstairs for tastings, dinners and so on.
They’re doing well in a difficult period. “Now we’re starting phase 2, to expand beyond the local area and keep the van busy,” Tom said.
I tried the following wines, all of which were sound examples of their type and less than £3 a pop.
Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2008
I spent some time at this estate during my first visit to New Zealand in 2004. This 2008 is richer in style than I remember it, though the barrel-influenced Maremma version was always a big mouthful.
Casa do Mouraz Dão 2007
Green pear skin flavours, with a dry and rather austere finish. Probably a good pairing with bacalhau.
Monte da Peceguina Vinho Regional Alentejano 2008
Fruity, warming finish. Slightly weird, hard to place nose—but it is made from fairly obscure Portuguese varieties!
Mollydooker Two Left Feet McLaren Vale 2008
A leviathan. 16.5 percent alcohol but not as daunting as expected. Nonetheless, as Richard Thompson sang, “How can you dance with two left feet?”
My friend and Hackney resident Jane Egginton has done a post about Bottle Apostle on her blog at http://hackneyhome.blogspot.com/ – well worth a look, especially if you live in the East End.