Last weekend, one of London’s outstanding wine bar and restaurant mini groups quietly opened what is likely to become in time one of the city’s most cherished wine shops. Co-founder Dan Keeling teased Shrine to the Vine on Instagram a fortnight ago, a shop which now sits across the road from the duo’s original restaurant on Lamb’s Conduit Street in Bloomsbury.
Eater since asked Keeling about the new shop, why he and business partner, the master of wine Mark Andrew opened it now, and what those who worship the vine should look out for. The former A&R man, writer, and restaurateur was less willing to divulge what could come next, but it would be folly to rule out future projects from Noble Rot’s owners. In eight years, the duo has published 26 issues of a cult food and wine journal, opened two critically acclaimed restaurants, launched a specialist wine import business, and published their debut book, Wines from Another Galaxy.
Shrine to the Vine follows the long-awaited opening of Noble Rot at the Gay Hussar, the Soho restaurant which pays homage to its predecessor’s Hungarian past, but which is really rooted in the French cooking beloved and mastered by head chef Alex Jackson.
What’s the story — is it a different kind of wine shop? Will you sell anything other than wine?
Shrine to the Vine is part of Keeling Andrew & Co., our import company [launched in 2017], and reflects the wines we talk about in Noble Rot magazine, and sell in Noble Rot restaurants. We also stock merchandise, mags, and books too.
Our logos and shop art have been created by long-time collaborator Jose Miguel Mendez who also designed the label of ‘Chin Chin’, our very popular (and well-travelled) [Portuguese] house wine.
Talk us through a couple of highlights.
We’ve several wines by Francois Rousset-Martin, one the Jura’s most exciting vignerons. His lightly oxidative ‘Cuvée Professor’ 2018 (£58) was sensational with salmon tikka at Gymkhana the other day. Also, Justin Dutraive’s Fleurie ‘La Madone’ 2019 (£43) is rich yet ethereal — a Beaujolais which exemplifies why many Burgundy lovers are seeking value further to the south.
I know you said you wanted to do a wine shop or a record shop, but is this something that’s been accelerated by the pandemic with more people buying for retail?
Yes. As a wine importer we already had a sizeable stockholding (which we have added to from other sources for the shop), but needed different premises, staff and systems to service private customers to the standard we’d like.
Beyond hospitality and wholesale, retail has different challenges!
Where do you pitch yourself in the London wine market — seems like you’re like smack in the middle of Tutto and Berry Bros. — would you say that’s accurate?
We pitch ourselves in exactly the same spot as Noble Rot. We love mature classics from Burgundy, Bordeaux [in France], Rioja [in Spain], and Brunello di Montalcino [in Italy] as much as the best grower Champagne or up-and-coming natural wine producers.
Would you like to open more wine shops before you open more restaurants?
No fixed ideas.