Where to drink natural and biodynamic wine in East London


“Don’t filter your wine. Filter your customers.” Perhaps the first part of this quote is a contentious one, but it comes from Fabrice Domercq, who has spent much of the past decade making biodynamic wine. This goes much further than organic viticulture and sulphite-sprinkling wars, and it has swept some of London’s postcodes quicker than you can write ‘wine o’clock!’ on a plank of wood. So what makes it special? Peculiar farming techniques such as stuffing a horn with cow’s manure and keeping it under the grapevine might get your neighbour to call the first available exorcist, but it is all underpinned by the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner from a century ago.

Natural wine has seen a shift from tasting like emulsified pickle juice to something highly drinkable and interesting. My Sundays no longer have to be spent convincing less adventurous friends that it’s drinkable, and yes the bits of the grape skins are meant to be in there, and no it won’t give you a migraine, and don’t be rude, and stop comparing its colour to a morning tinkle. Oh fine — we’ll swing by a Greene King pub on our way home for a Pinot Grigio served in a plastic, thick glass which has been through one too many runs in the dishwasher. But you’re missing out on a whole world out there.

And it’s not just the colourful bottle labels of natural wines or the chalk-on-a-bottle prices. Not even the fact that the places that sell them are the wine bar equivalent of artisan coffee shops with their tall stools, iPad for tipping and savvy hipster staff.

Instead, it opens valves of attention, siloing what is permissible in winemaking and renews hope for the future by giving viticulture a lifeline. And it is bloody good wine.

So for your next East London adventure, do not miss these…


Cadet, N16

It’s been a hot year for Cadet. On the corner where quaint Islington spills into vibrant Hackney, you will find this restaurant (though it is just as much a bar), where its exterior of sepia tones, inviting windows and proximity to Popham’s Bakery will propel you through the doors.

And the carefully curated wine list, the powerhouse of aroma and endless choice, sings an ode to P. Franco, whose masterminds chose the bottles. P. Franco sadly closed in March 2023, but its legacy will be etched in every sip.

Try this red: Axel Prufer — Le Capitulation Ne Paie Pas (2021). This is an exemplary Cinsault red with carbonic maceration done right, with the perfect balance of cherries and almonds, welded by a fine minerality. Truly light at 9.5%, but making it so moreish, it’s difficult to get enough of.


Hector’s, N1

The standard is there — a blackboard of daily specials, proper sourdough, potentially unpasteurised butter and obligatory pork rillettes.

Knowledgable staff will keep you imbibed and merry, mainly through their carefully selected daily specials by the glass. However, I was a bit like a kid in Hamley’s in the nineties as I was trying to reach the colourful bottles high on the shelves.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to compare its communal vibe to a Parisian café — plus you’ll get wonderful Nocellara olives gratis, which, alongside tinned anchovies, we know De Beauvoir and Dalston are crazy for. When in Rome…

Try this white: Yann Durrmann & Co — Assemblage, Cuvée Nature (2021).



Newcomer Wines, E8

Following my very long visit I won’t be surprised if they start charging for entry and rightly so. I treated this as the National Gallery of E8 with neatly stacked shelves brimming with choice. I have previously crowed about the sublimity of Austrian wine but the choice here is seriously good.

And the atmosphere somehow captures the now-closed Laughing Heart with its long bar. It also features a separate area with large tables for long evenings and the back room for a more intimate atmosphere. But there’s also a garden which invites indolent lounging in the sun on their shabby chic wooden benches, whilst you swirl a glass of rustic bubbles (also known as pétillant naturel or “pét-nat” wine, which is a Limoux-like crémant minus all the secondary sugars). Truly, it’s a bar for every occasion.

Try this white: Michael Wenzel — Gelber Muskateller blend, Lockvogel, Burgenland, Austria (2021); just really wonderfully invigorating and fresh. The waiter had inexplicably compared it to ragù bolognese but I totally loved the idea.


People’s Wine, E8

If you are still sitting between the stools when it comes to natural wine, this bar/shop will help you ensconce safely; their French offerings effuse the old world vibe but with a contemporary twist.

Facing so many choices, you might have to apply the Stanislavski method when ordering. But you won’t go wrong and the staff’s erudite knowledge will help.

They care about the winemakers, they give more than a fair account of each bottle’s provenance and they host tastings from incredible regions from which you would otherwise struggle to source wine. What else could you ask for?

Try this red: David & Nathalie Drussé — Constellation (2020). Silky and balanced with prunes, a hint of truffle and moderate tannins. All the things you never knew you needed at once. Goodbye to obnoxious Eurostar day trips, bonjour Dalston.


Sager + Wilde, E2

It was one of the pioneers in ‘hipster’ wine, having opened ten years ago. Though now well known, it still feels a bit special with its mood lighting and a unique bar-top made out of pavement lights.

The wine list showcases a tantalising number of French whites, then a few more overleaf and then just a bit more. And Central and Eastern European finds, which seem to be growing exponentially (do spend quite a bit of time looking at Polish, Czech and Slovenian stuff).

Whilst this may require spending a bit more, at least you’ll be drinking the very best, without some sommelier despondently pointing to the second cheapest Gavi di Gavi on the list.

This is the kind of place you could visit twice in a single day. It will cater for your haughty uncle who thinks he’s a wine buff and ‘knows what he likes’, as well as your second date after a hectic Colombia Road Flower Market walk.

And if you’re hungry for more, there’s a more food-focused branch on Paradise Row.

Try this white: Fleur Godart — Male Tears (2020); agreeable marriage of Riesling and Sylvaner, bursting with minerals and fruit, a twist of cinnamon bun and a salty finish. A bit like, you know, tears.


April 2023

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