Five restaurants with brilliant own-label wines

A trend that may have started as a means to create a palatable house wine has now evolved into something else entirely, says Joel Hart, and restaurants across London are offering some extraordinary own-label wines as a result

Words by Joel Hart

House wines at Ottolenghi
Ottolenghi's biodynamic wines are made in collaboration with Czech winery Krásná Hora

If you order vino della casa at pretty much any trattoria in Italy, you can expect a jug of something perfectly respectable. House wine in the UK, by contrast, has gathered a reputation as something rather cheap and nasty. In recent years, restaurants in London have started bottling wines with their own labels; this may have begun as an attempt to create a house wine that customers could genuinely enjoy but it has evolved into something else entirely.

Trevor Gulliver, who founded the legendary St. John with Fergus Henderson and heads up the largest restaurant wine business in London, believes it’s a mistake to see the phenomenon as new. Instead, it’s a return to how things previously were. ‘Simply put, some 30 years ago, ordinary claret was just that, bottled off the back of Tooley Street and other places [wine was commonly shipped from Bordeaux in casks and bottled after delivery],’ he says.

The reason Gulliver started bottling wines under the St. John label, he explains, ‘was not about branding or merchandise. It was strictly about having control and doing a good job.’ He cites ‘honesty and a face-to-face, friend-to-friend relationship far away from the volume world of FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] wine’ as benefits.

St. John bourgogne
St. John's range of own-label wines has expanded considerably since their first, a claret, was introduced

Sam Hart, CEO of Harts Group, which owns Barrafina, Quo Vadis, El Pastor, Parrillan, The Drop and Bar Daskal, with 14 locations around London, tells a similar story. ‘The first Hart Bros wine we produced was our Manzanilla en rama. We love sherry and are good friends of the Hidalgo family that has one of the finest bodegas in San Luca,’ says Hart. ‘Over a jolly lunch we managed to persuade them to produce us a special cuvée that they hadn’t made before. It enabled us to make a wine exactly to our taste and also have some fun creating our own label.’

Many other restaurants are following suit for a multitude of reasons, few of which seem to relate merely to the creation of a palatable house wine. Anthony Gopal, head sommelier at Kol, a restaurant that has most recently collaborated with Austrian winemaker Christian Tschida, wants to clarify: ‘I’d like to differentiate between these projects and “house wine”,’ he says, ‘[as] the bottlings we’ve worked to create are not the cheapest on the menu – some far from it – and the negative connotations of “house wine” do a disservice to what are fantastic expressions of site, diverse styles of winemaking, and top-tier growers.’

Five London restaurants with top house wines

St. John's Boulevard Napoleon wines

St. John

St. John’s first collaboration was with the Sichel family, producing the now iconic St. John Claret that, at £17 retail, is still one of the best-value wines around. Since then, the range has expanded enormously to include regional Bourgogne, Beaujolais Villages, Crémant, Premier Cru Beaune, Premier Cru Champagne and much more.

For Gulliver, both the white and red Mâcon are the most versatile and can be enjoyed with most of the menu. ‘We’re not locked in a “white-with-fish dogma” – we are democratic at St. John,’ he says. Since 2011, St. John has made its own wine in the Minervois bottled under the name Boulevard Napoléon, with Liberty the importer for the UK. ‘It was probably inevitable that we would become producers ourselves,’ Gulliver explains. The Boulevard Napoléon Grenache Gris 2018 for £36 is well worth trying, combining sophisticated minerality with great approachability.

Clerkenwell, Marylebone and Spitalfields

hart bros wines


As with St. John, the Harts Group’s wine range has expanded over time. Visitors to Barrafina can now choose from the intense and complex Manzanilla, a fresh but structured Albariño from Galicia, an elegant Garnacha from Madrid that’s bursting with berries, and a vibrant, delicate Garzuela rosé from Navarra. The wines are also served at the group’s other venues, including the two Parrillan restaurants, Bar Daskal and Quo Vadis. El Pastor and The Drop have a smaller selection. Whilst Sam Hart is primarily driven by ‘the ability to tailor the product to your own specification and the joy of having your own wine,’ he admits ‘it is a great marketing tool.’ Hart recommends the Manzanilla with the Paletilla Iberica de Bellota and the Albariño with the gambas rojas. The Garnacha is a fine match for the short rib at El Pastor.

Borough, Charing Cross, Covent Garden, Kings Cross and Soho 



Michelin-starred Mexican restaurant Kol initially developed four wines – a white, orange, rosé, and red – with the Slovakian producer Slobodne and has now produced a wine with legendary Burgenland natural winemaker Christian Tschida. ‘Our range with Slobodne was the starting point,’ Gopal explains, ‘[and] a chance for us to represent a region and style we felt the UK market had little idea about. Now this bottling with Christian is a chance to build on that.’

Hecatomb, meaning sacrifice, is produced from one single barrel of double-planted Cabernet Franc vines specifically chosen by head chef Santiago Lastra. It’s a brooding, earthy and structured wine, tempered by Tschida’s trademark lively acidity and fresh touch. For Gopal, it’s this balance that complements the flavours at Kol: ‘As an example,’ he says, ‘Hecatomb has all the dark fruit, meat and earth to stand up to something like Mole Coloradito without any of the heavy tannin that would exacerbate the spice in the dish.’

9 Seymour St, Marylebone

Manteca volume one


‘Having a Manteca wine is something that has been a goal of ours for quite a while,’ says Emily Acha Derrington, the restaurant’s head of wine. ‘We weren’t looking to produce a “house wine” but more a “signature wine” that we think defines Manteca, in quality, style, personality and taste.’

Manteca’s first wine, Manteca Volume One, is one of around 170 wines on the restaurant’s list. It’s served by the glass for £9.50 and is available to buy in small quantities online for £24 a bottle. Blended by Derrington, it combines white grapes grown by the organic cooperative Valdibella in Sicily, blending direct-pressed Grillo with Cataratto, which has spent some time fermenting on the skins, to produce a pithy, saline wine with generous aromatics and high acidity.

‘What I love about the Manteca Volume One is that it’s a wine that goes with so much of our food,’ says Derrington, ‘it can work with bold flavours and a mix of flavours that are in so many of our dishes. I’d happily drink it with a puntarelle salad, ripe with anchovy and garlic and that lick of chilli, as I would with a grilled pork chop or grilled John Dory with the blackened lemon half. I think it also tastes great by itself!’ Volume Two, a red blend from Puglia produced from the 2019 vintage, will be bottled soon.

49-51 Curtain Road, Shoreditch


Ottolenghi released two own-label wines in 2024, collaborating closely at every stage with organic and biodynamic winery Krásná Hora in South Moravia, Czech Republic. The idea was to produce wines that pair perfectly with the trademark spice, flavour, and fire of the Ottolenghi kitchen.

The Miro-esque labels are designed by Ottolenghi’s long-time collaborator, Ivo Bisignano. The wines cost £26 to take out and £55 to drink at Nopi, Rovi and the chain of Ottolenghi restaurants/delis, where they are only available by the bottle. The red is a blend of Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and Dornfelder, with fermentation and aging taking place in a mixture of used, old oak barrels and stainless-steel tanks, with a juicy, fresh profile and cherry and forest fruit notes. The white includes Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, the latter of which spends a week on the skins, to produce a wine of wonderful aromatic depth. It has a lively, textured palate, ample peachy fruit and complex floral bitters in the salty finish. The latter works particularly well with the food, showing its adaptability with anything from roasted aubergine with cumin yogurt to seabass with grazed leek, macadamia romesco and curry leaf.

Nopi, Rovi, Chelsea, Hampstead, Islington, Marylebone, Notting Hill, Spitalfields