Wine Bars are Back. But Why?

Wine Bars are Back. But Why?

James Sandrini 10th April 2018

P. Franco has a fucking cool website. I’m not sure how it works necessarily, but it’s super fucking cool.

And have you been at Laughing Heart after midnight? Riotous. Haven’t been? It’s just around the corner from Sager + Wilde. I’m headed to Sapling next week by the way. And my ears prick up every time I hear about The Remedy.

Wine bars – proper bars with proper wine – are back in a big way. And not just in the throes of East London. I’m not complaining, but it begs the question, why now?

The natural wine movement hasn’t thrilled everyone, but it’s certainly reinvigorated the industry. A new wave of consumers has been hit with big flavours and bigger personalities. Those that have followed the craft beer craze have surely been lured in by promises of provenance too. Wine is cool again.

Now, I’m holding on tightly to the idea that not every natural winemaker is quite as beautiful or fascinating or eccentric as those I’ve met, despite the evidence to the contrary. And let’s not get started on those rugged biodynamiques…those bastards can transport you straight from vine to vine wine bar in a couple of verses.

Their natural charms are being complemented by a few broader trends: Younger people are drinking less and, despite what you might be reading online, Seedlip isn’t the only beneficiary. Rather than binging on spirits, drinkers are sipping lower ABV drinks, often with food. Natural wines, bearing the unrelenting provenance of their terroir, simply work better than just about anything else.

Lunch (RIP lunch) died a while back. Instead, we now graze over brunch and whatever we end up calling ‘linner’ in the near future (my money’s on dinchfast). Tapas at 2? Small plates at 6? Hunger pangs at 10? You need some wine, my friend.

"Jack Daniels will taste the same in Taunton & Tokyo; Malibu is just as terrifying, whether you’re in Mexico or Malta"

Wine hasn’t always been so friendly, of course. But advances in wine tech have brought even the most esoteric wines out of lost-to-the-cellar darkness and into the twinkle of accessibility. Many of the venues cited above offer exceptional products, by the glass, ready for sampling, and at low mark-ups. You’re getting more for your money.

Spirits have always maintained a scalable advantage over wine; consistency. Jack Daniels will taste the same in Taunton & Tokyo; Malibu is just as terrifying, whether you’re in Mexico or Malta. But, as Mike Sager noted in his recent interview with us, the application of these spirits in cocktail form might actually be less trustworthy than the wine alternative. I know I know, I’m on a roll, but let’s bring Mike back in to see what he thinks is behind the boon:

"I think that the UK consumer has already connected very well with specialty coffee, craft cocktails, and local microbreweries. Food and wine is a logical sequitur.   Once people started offering wine in a non-pretentious context and taking it out of fancy restaurants, it was only a matter of time before everyone would become wine bar drinkers. They are very similar to the pub; a British institution"
Mike Sager

Well said. So, natural wine and the bars that serve them are in vogue (literally). And there are two very good reasons that they’re here to stay:

1. Distribution

It’s not uncommon for a wine bar to have – wait for it – 5 distinct revenue streams: Wholesale to restaurants and other bars, pre-booked trainings & tastings, in-store retail for customers on site, and delivery to those at home, and the damn bar. That’s a whole bunch of ways to make money from noon ‘til late night.

2. Deployment

Restaurants need kitchens and extraction and changing rooms. Pubs need pipes and cooling rooms. Wine bars need….wine and wine glasses. And while the very best wine bars rely on a troupe of skilled servers, the model can work with a talented buyer and trainer leading a team of lesser experienced – therefore less expensive – teammates.

Wine bars are back. My punning skills should be resuscitated sometime next week.