Behind the scenes at Britain’s best wine bar
Author: Emily Miles
What inspired Sager & Wilde and can you tell us a bit about the philosophy behind it?
We had the idea four years ago when we were both studying for our WSET exams. It was almost impossible to drink the fine wines we were reading about without buying a full bottle, which were always so extortionately priced. After going off to have adventures including living and working in California and working several wine harvests, we decided to come back to London, where we hosted a wine pop-up serving fine wine by the glass and hard-to-find rare bottles. With very little publicity and only a week to prepare, we were shocked when 250 people turned up on the first night. It was carnage (we had to turn people away!) but we had so much fun with it, and it was fascinating to watch how people responded to the offering. And six months later, Sager & Wilde was born.
You’ve had so much fantastic press – are you surprised about the reception the bar has had?
Hell yeah! The success has exceeded all expectations – it’s been a crazy nine months. It’s given us the freedom to have fun with wine, and we’re now fortunate enough to be opening another wine bar next month where we can highlight all the things we love most about our favourite wine.
There’s a feeling of revolution in the wine bar scene at the moment. What’s going on? Are they the next ‘speakeasy’?
Speakeasy/members’ clubs are dated and over. We believe in making wine accessible and taking away any pretentions or elitism that has been previously linked with wine. I’m hoping more great wine bars will continue to open in London (such as the recently opened Verden in Clapton). Wine can deliver great value if priced correctly and appropriately.
Are there any bars, in the UK or worldwide, that inspired what you’ve done with S&W?
Too many places to mention in California, but in San Francisco particularly, places that have a great respect for wine are Bar Tartine, Zuni Café and RN74. But also lots of places in Melbourne and Sydney. We also love the relaxed vibe of wine bars in Paris.
What’s the question people most commonly ask when they come in?
Where did you get this bartop from?
How would you describe your customers and their knowledge level?
They are curious. And engaging. And all sorts of ages, some into wine, some not, but mostly always people are receptive and encourage getting involved in the conversation. We have a great local crowd, combined with surrounding neighbourhood locals. We’ve had a very high number of industry visits, most of them regulars now.
Where do you see the next most exciting wine region as being?
Have you got any up-and-coming producers that you’re fans of at the moment?
We love what’s coming out of California at the moment: Rajat Parr of Sandhi and Domaine de la Côte (who is also making our house cuvée); Sashi Moorman of Piedrasassi; Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars; Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards. It’s world-class out there right now.
Any wines recently which have blown you away?
Vatan Sancerre is sublime – it’s sheer tension and complexity is mesmerizing.
And finally, what is it about wine that you love?
It’s a vast, ever-evolving and dynamic product. I love the language of wine and how it encourages conversation on all different levels including, art, design, science, history, technology, travel. It’s diverse, it’s intriguing, and continually blows our minds – how one grape from one area of the world can taste completely different to the same grape on the other side of the world.
Follow Sager & Wilde’s ever-changing wine list and forthcoming ventures and openings at sagerandwilde.com.