It is really good to see new independent retailers like The Bottle Apostle opening (website here). This is especially true when they are in the East End and therefore easily accessible for me. The Apostle is clearly at home in ‘Hackney Village’, just along from the excellent Ginger Pig butchers and opposite the Empress of India ‘gastropub’. Those seeking an old style Hackney experience can still wander through Victoria Park to ‘The Top of the Morning’ pub in Hackney Wick (as I sometime do with friends) but this area is also gentrifying at a swift pace following the influx of artists fleeing Hoxton in the hope of finding affordable studio space .
Anyway, whatever your view of gentrification, the Bottle Apostle is an attractive space with welcoming staff (all of whom seem to be called Tom) and most importantly a good range of the kind of wines you don’t tend to see on supermarket shelves. I plumped for; 2007 Riesling Kabinett Der Brauneberg, 2008 Zarate Albarino (I think Jancis R liked the 2007 so this is worth a punt) and 2008 Pinot Blanc from Domaine Bruno Sorg (pictured).
It is so refreshing not to be treated like an idiot (bogus supermarket discounts and hyped up medal blurb) even if this is not the cheapest selection of wines in town. I think they may have to rethink the Enomatic machines as I am unconvinced that they merit the space and must be a significant investment for a relatively small set up. Better to have a few open bottles, a cheap but effective Vacuvin and friendly banter. They are organising tastings (see site) and currently have a witty competition to design a label for their own claret. Hopefully not the first step in a global branding campaign.
I was saddened to see the plight of Threshers, the 112 year old off-licence chain founded by Samual Thresher, following First Quench Retailing going into administration. Victoria Wine, an important venue in my youth, was merged with Thresher in 1998. Wine cellar recently sold 109 shops after similar difficulties and Unwins had already become part of Threshers in 2005. Oddbins bought by Castel in 2002 was sold at a huge loss. Majestic however seems to be weathering the storm, in part due to the welcome move to reducing its minimum buy to six bottles, but the supermarkets seem to be heading towards an oligopoly (intended or not).
It is hard for conusmers to resist the retail advantages of the supermarkets. Even harder perhaps for producers to negotiate in a marketplace where they are so ‘outgunned’ by retailers. And, as for the critics and bloggers, what is their role in the wine economy? I like to think of myself as a relatively independent blogger due to my main job as a Psychologist, and I try to retain some objectivity when tasting (though would not be naive enough to proclaim a Ralph Nader inspired unimpeachability). I am aware of more than a few ‘critics’ who are so involved with the trade that their claims of objectivity, which is at best a fragile construct, are laughable.
I hope the Bottle Apostle thrives and will do my best to support it and other similar independents. I have no financial links with it but, ‘call me old-fashioned’, I just like local shops with good stock and the human touch.