Many people have this idea about wine merchants that they just sit around all day drinking wine and then occasionally selling a case or two . Having worked as one myself I know that isn’t true and yet whenever I walk past Planet of the Grapes on New Oxford Street, there they are, sitting around the table tasting wine and deciding what to have for lunch.
The shop has a somewhat old-fashioned air. There are no enomatics or polished tiles. In fact, with its wooden claret boxes doubling as shelves, haphazard stacks of wine cases and trolleys left around the shop, it has the air of an Oddbins from the 1990s. It’s not a surprise to learn therefore that one of the founders, Marc Wise, is ex-Oddbins (like so many of the British wine trade and press.) He then worked at Milroy’s of Soho where he met Matt Harris. They decided to start their own business when Milroy’s was bought out by Jeroboams. Planet of the Grapes specialise in upmarket wines from classic regions. They’re particularly strong on Burgundy, Italy and Australia, and they do a nice line in mature Bordeaux. The shop functions as a hub for two wine bars that they run in the City and the wines reflect the taste of their customers. You’re not going to find funky Languedoc wines that smell of old socks.
It’s a shop well worth becoming a regular in because you will be invited to sit down at the table and try some wines but be warned you will be expected to have an opinion. They really know their stuff and you’re not allowed to say non-committal things like ‘I think it’s a bit closed.’ After each visit, I return to my publishing job around the corner a little tipsy and wishing that I’d stayed in the wine trade so I could spend all day tasting wine.
Planet of the Grapes, 9 New Oxford Street, London, Holborn WC1A 1BA 020 7405 4912