Sommelier Kelvin McCabe on where to buy good wine to celebrate (and enjoy) 2021
No New Year’s Eve celebration is complete without a bottle of bubbly; the pop of a cork is the perfect start to any party playlist. However, exceptional wine isn’t limited to sparkling, nor need it be reserved for only special occasions – any meal can be elevated with the right label. Raising a toast to 2021 with a great wine is the ideal way to start as one means to go on. What’s key is knowing where to buy it.
According to Kelvin McCabe – beverage director of the Adam Handling Group – the best way to discover a great wine for your dinner table is by looking to producers who sell to restaurants. Finding them is possible by looking for shops stocking small growers with quality bottles that are harder to find in bigger, regular shops. These sellers can be trusted to source new and exciting wine.
The charming sommelier, however, tells us that contrary to a common belief, a bottle is not necessarily better per se. Drinking wine, above all, is about sharing an experience. It’s based upon the food you eat, the company and your emotional mood. So it’s all about how you feel and who you share it with.
Here are five places – physical and online – where you can always find great products.
Authentique Épicerie & Bar
McCabe’s first recommendation, Authentique Épicerie & Bar, offers a unique and unpretentious selection encompassing the best wines from all over France. Because of their background, this team of Frenchmen have the passion of true sommeliers, and you can get everything you need to accompany your bottle: cheese, baguettes, fresh canelés. McCabe is particularly excited about a bottle of spicy syrah Fleurs de Mai 2018 from Georges Vernay.
Authentique is at 114A-116 Fortess Road London NW5 2HL. Visit their website here.
Dynamic Vines are a fan of minimal-intervention wines. At their warehouse, open in Bermondsey every Saturday, you can meet the mastermind behind the business, who will not only take you through the bottles but tell you what’s going on in the market at that moment. McCabe advises checking out their true-to-the-soil minimum intervention wines, which, as the name suggests, are full of energy.
Dynamic Vines sell directly from their website and you can visit their shop at Unit 5, Discovery Business Park, St James’s Road London SE16 4RA every Saturday 8am-2pm.
This third top pick is a partner of hospitality hub Trade Soho. Flint wines have a great selection of Burgundy and work with some of the top new Californian producers whose bottles are reflective of the European quality. McCabe is excited that this year they’ve bought Burgundy-specialist merchant Domaine Direct – fantastic news for lovers of classic French wine.
Flint Wines sell directly from their website here.
Roberson Wine offers up an inviting and varied fine wine portfolio with a lot of great Californian and classical European bottles from producers including Broc Cellars and Domaine de la Côte pinot noir. McCabe’s highlight is London Cru, which producers English wines by an Australian winemaker. It’s a great purveyor sourcing from a series of top Californian producers and, in general, providing a great choice for fine wines.
Roberson Wine sell directly from their website here.
Yapp Brothers Wine
McCabe’s last recommendation was established in 1969. With a selection encompassing Languedoc and many iconic winemakers, Yapp Brothers is a great go-to for guaranteed quality. The company sell great Rhone wines including Jean-Louis Chave, the best from south-west France and also Corsican bottles.
Yapp Brothers sell directly from their website here or you can visit their shop at The Old Brewery, Water Street BA12 6 Mere.
More about wine from Kelvin McCabe
During our conversation, it’s inevitable to touch on the argument of the new versus old world. McCabe is adamant that you can’t beat the classics: France, Italy, Germany. And yet, the sommelier has a passion for high-altitude Australian and Californian wines, and stresses that even on his own lists, he includes classic varietals from new places. The key, then, is a balance of both worlds, dependent on the experience you are looking for.
The current trend for natural wines, though, McCabe is less enthusiastic about. He likens the term to a form of branding, which he feels is unnecessary: in essence, “natural doesn’t mean good”.
He points out that 20 years ago he was already drinking and appreciating biodynamic wines, and notes that the moment you begin to cultivate the grape you can’t call it natural anymore. The correct term is minimal intervention. Many natural wines, on the other hand, taste like cider or vinegar because of the fermentation. McCabe believes that as a sommelier you have a precondition which means that experiencing a new style of wine can be exciting. However, this can be dangerous when giving wine to a consumer who doesn’t understand and enjoy it. He mentions a North London restaurant that had guests who were unhappy with the wine served, and the response to that was a citation of the practices of restaurant Noma. “If you do that you fail at your job, which, in a restaurant, is to look after people.”
and Rosamund Kelby
Portraits: Filippo L’Astorina