We like wine at Cool Hunting but we don't like the whiff of snobbery that often accompanies it, which is why these three places are more than welcome to top up our glass. In their own way, they're helping to demystify what's behind the label, encouraging drinkers to experiment without fear.
The Sampler (above left) recently opened in Islington, North London to much fanfare. Deservedly so, because the idea behind it is so simple, it's brilliant. You buy a card loaded with however much cash you want to put on it, and then you can wander round with a glass, using the special sampling slot-machines to buy a 25ml shot of dozens of wines on offer. Prices start at 28p and go up to several pounds for a taste, but it means you can try wines that would otherwise cost hundreds of pounds a bottle, educating yourself in the process. When I went in, Â£15 got me a go with several wines, including an astronomically-priced Petrus that I'd be unlikely to try elsewhere. That it's owned by the affable Dawn and Jamie also helps.
A couple of restaurants are doing their bit too. Arbutus (above center) in London's Soho has been commended for encouraging people to try several wines during a meal, and not in the kind of overpriced way many places do by offering several glasses alongside a tasting menu. Here, all wines are available to buy in carafes the size of a third of a bottle (250ml). Varied imbibing ensues.
When a place takes its name from the certification the French give to certain wines and other products, you know it's serious about the stuff. AOC (which stands for Appellation dâOrigine ContrÃ´lÃ©e) (above right) is a celebrated Los Angeles restaurant that has built up a solid reputation due to its extensive list and laid-back Californian atmosphere. Several are affordable and, in my experience, the staff were helpful without casting aspersions on your knowledge, or lack of. Chin chin.