I am a freelance writer, editor and teacher based in north London.
Published September 17th 2012
In times of economic hardship, it can be hard to grasp why independent wine shops, such as Bottle Apostle, continue to thrive. It seems that when cash is short, we turn to shops that provide a little expert knowledge and personal service, rather than throw money into a supermarket or a faceless chain. Life is too short for a week without wine and cash is too short to waste on a bad bottle.
So what's the secret? The Apostle offers so much more bottle for your buck, with regular wine tasting courses, designed to provide their customers with a crash course in the basics, without falling into the wine-snob trap. If you cannot make these events, they have the perfect solution in their wine sampling machines, which allow you to sample the vino before making the all-important decision.
In addition to this, they have an upcoming Indian Vegetarian Feast at the Victoria Park branch, offering a bountiful harvest celebration, which is the latest in their supper club series. They risk doing themselves out of business by offering a beginner's class in home winemaking, although I am doubtful that our efforts will rival the professionals from France or the New World.
The first shop was set up as an alternative to the intimidating, uptight shops, run by proud cork-connoisseurs who seem to revel in pointing out their customer's lack of knowledge. On this front, it must be judged a steaming success, as I, a committed beer and nuts kinda guy, found the service exceptionally helpful and jovial. My trip to the Bottle Apostle helped me make a decision far more informed than my traditional 'most-heavily-discounted-in-Budgens' choice. If you really can't be prized from your pint, fear not; they supply a wide range of locally brewed porters, ales and lagers to keep you refreshed on any given night.
Their first shop opened near Victoria Park and they've recently expanded into Crouch End, a success story set against a narrative of shop closures and retail industry hardships. It seems that when times are tough, we want to give our cash to people who work a little harder, make a little more effort and ensure that we leave with the right bottle to turn a night in into memorable event. I will be back.