This time we explore places with a bigger focus on drinking in
Have you ever fallen madly in love with a bottle of wine in a bar or restaurant, faffed around online the next day trying to source it and realised you can only buy it online in cases of six, or even 12?
Indie wine bars to the rescue! They give you the chance to try all kinds of familiar and unusual wines in a relaxed bar environment and, if you find one you really love, you can buy a bottle or two to take home. Like good independent wine shops, they also tend to have friendly staff who are passionate about wine and fizzing with enthusiasm to share it with you. A decent wine bar makes drinking educational - if you want to learn about wine, it’s basically a field trip.
The line between bar and shop can be as blurry as our vision after a couple of glasses
In part one of our series celebrating indie wine heroes, we clinked our glasses to some brilliant wine shops, many of which allow you to pull up a stool and buy a glass or two along with some nibbles on the side. Part two celebrates the places we consider to be ‘more bar than shop’ but whose take-away bottle offering is significant. The line between bar and shop can be as blurry as our vision after a couple of glasses of Amarone but we’ve done our best to make the distinction.
Here are some we think are corkers.
Named after the smaller barrels used in Bordeaux winemaking, Barrique is housed in a Grade II listed Market Hall dating back to 1848. The team behind the bar are Jake Crimmin - ex-sommelier from Gaucho and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen - and Charles Furnell and Michael Robinson who have a long history of running cocktails bars. Wineemotion wine vending machines that give guests the chance to taste a wide range of interesting wines are a focal point - there’s even a new whisky version that provides a very wee 10ml dram as well as the usual measures. Inside, the walls are lined with hundreds of bottles that can be bought to take home but it’s worth pausing awhile to enjoy a glass or two on the large outdoor terrace complete with sheepskin blankets. Accompanying food comes from the in-house deli counter and on Wednesdays there’s a free sharing board when you top up your wine card with £20.
3 Market Square, Lytham, Lytham Saint Annes FY8 5LW
Young sibling of city centre favourite Hanging Ditch Wine Merchants near the Cathedral, this Ancoats wine bar kept us hanging for quite some time from inception to opening. Blossom Street Social is also near a place of worship, Hallé St Peters - anyone would think there was a connection between wine and churches - and Roger Stephenson OBE, the acclaimed Manchester architect behind the redesigned Hallé also worked on the bar. Fans will be glad to see they haven’t ditched their sky scraping ‘wall of wine’ in this second venue, customers can risk a crick in the neck while perusing to take a bottle away or linger a while in the much more substantial bar area. Keep an eye on the happy hour offers where you can drink in at take home prices as well as regular street food pop ups from the likes of Mia's Arepas.
51 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF
You might have thought that The Creameries was more a restaurant than wine bar or shop but it is actually a bit of all three. Furthermore, Mary Ellen McTague and crew are offering something that - as far as we know - nobody else round here is: wine refillables. As part of a wider sustainability initiative, some of the wines are available on keg and can be served by the glass or taken home in litre or half litre bottles which can be returned and reused. The range of ‘unique, low intervention and natural wines’ are also available in traditional bottles and more modern cans. Enjoy them with a few in house snacks - think split pea chips or lime pickle potato sticks - or take some treats home. There are also monthly wine club boxes for those who want to explore the world of natural and biodynamic wines.
406 Wilbraham Rd, Manchester M21 0SD
These bars - or are they shops? - in Prestwich and Ramsbottom fall into that gris area. They describe themselves as shops but have a heavy emphasis on sitting in and trying their wares. There are huge gnarly wooden tables like something out of an idyllic Mediterranean family lunch fantasy (just us?) where you can sit and sip the afternoon away with one of their heaving cheeseboards. Staff are brimming with enthusiasm and their wines of the week are a good starting point for wine explorers. The new Kabinett bar at the Ramsbottom branch, which holds about 25 people, is perfect for their fun weekly tasting events - recent ones have celebrated tapas and Spanish wine, fizzy wines with a chippy tea and white wines paired with meat. Kabinett is open for cocktails at weekends and can be hired for private functions.
1 Corner of Church Ln, Prestwich, Manchester M25 1AN
43 Bridge St, Ramsbottom, Bury, BL0 9AD
One of the newer places on our list, Isca is a thoroughly modern and forward thinking wine bar in Levy. Co-owner Caroline Dubois (the ‘Ca’ to Isobel Jenkins’ ‘Is’ in the name) is known for being sommelier at Stockport’s fermentastic fine dining spot, Where The Light Gets In, so there are no prizes for guessing that the wine list here sticks its fork firmly in the natural and biodynamic patch. The selection changes regularly with lesser-known producers that are focused on sustainability at the fore. You can buy by the glass or bottle to drink in or take a bottle (or case) away. There are also small plates, cakes to nibble on. Along with regular supper clubs from similarly sustainably minded folk, there are regular wine tastings that provide a perfect opportunity to peer into the murky waters of the super-hip natural wine world.
825 Stockport Rd, Levenshulme, Manchester M19 3PN
Some members of team Confidentials find it almost impossible to walk past Salut on the way home from the office without nipping in. The twinkling pendant lights, pretty tiled floor and warm welcome provide an alluring haven from the inclement weather and rush hour pavement pounders. There are so many reasons to pop in. You might just want to peruse the shelves of over 400 bottles to take home something for the weekend. But it’s all too tempting to stay a while and charge up a tasting card to explore some fine wines from the 32 bottles in their Enomatic wine dispensers - available in three measures: a taste, a small glass or a medium glass. Alternatively, you can order a bottle and a platter of cheese, charcuterie or mezze. If you want to get even more nerdy, speak to them about arranging a bespoke wine tasting session for your group. There are regular in-house tasting events and wine fairs here too.
11 Cooper St, Manchester M2 2FW
Bougie old Didders loves a good wine bar and Sip is a popular spot for local swirlers. Owner Nick Yates has over 25 years’ experience in the retail, import and distribution of wine for the hospitality industry so he's well placed to help with your vine training. With 30 wines available by the glass - or smaller samples - from the help-yourself Enomatic wine machines, you can sip, slurp or savour at your leisure and they very much encourage a leisurely attitude. There’s a monthly ‘wine workout’ which they describe as ‘a book club for wine’ specialising in a different grape each month, a monthly wine quiz and a Wednesday-Sunday tasting menu showcasing three dishes each served with a matching wine. Other food offerings include small plates, tasting boards and nibbles - including fries with aioli.
156 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 1LH
Launched in 2013 by a Sicilian couple studying business at university in Manchester, one of whom just happened to have a multi-generational family vineyard. Veeno now has branches across the UK (including Liverpool, Leeds and Chester) but it was the little place on Brazennose street just off Albert Square that fermented first. The focus here is on the wines of Italy with a heavy weighting towards Sicilian wines including plenty from their own vineyard in coastal Marsala. They are all available to drink in and to take away along with emerald olive oil also from their vineyard which pairs beautifully with balsamic vinegar to dip your bread into and is served as part of a menu that includes Aperitivo platters and pizza. Have a nose at our new monthly 'Wine's Cool' series in collaboration with Veenoto find out more about Sicilian grapes.
14 Brazennose St, Manchester M2 6LW
This classy wine (and beer AKA wallop) bar has branches in Didsbury and Knutsford. All wines are available to take home at a discounted rate and on Tuesdays when you dine in you can get a bottle at the usual takeout price. Wine tastings here have a modern tilt, a recent example being ‘new wave winemakers of the new world’ and they also do regular wine fair events which take over two whole floors. The food offering is more comprehensive than most on our list with the usual sharing boards and deli sandwiches but also oysters, Sundays roasts and brunch. The Didsbury branch has a function room top floor and there’s live music on Sundays.
97 Lapwing Ln, West Didsbury, Manchester M20 6UR
76-78 King St, Knutsford WA16 6ED
Want to learn more about wine?
Pretty much all the independent shops and bars on our list offer regular, informative and informal tasting events and some even more formal education options. Some of the most recognised qualifications in the world of wine come from the WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) and there are many places in Manchester and beyond where you can study and sit WSET exams.
In addition to the wealth of knowledge you can get from your local wine bar or shop, Manchester Wine School also offer a jam-packed calendar of wine-centred events with everything from sociable wine and cheese matching evenings to formal wine dinners and a new grape-focused tasting series - as well as professional WSET courses. Check out their list of upcoming courses and events here.