Sometimes you find one of these local shops that feel a bit like home. For me, Philglas & Swiggot in Battersea is one of them. Located on Northcote Road, Battersea's food and wine shopping street (especially if you count the St John's Road extension), this gem of a shop has been supplying the locals with wine for almost two decades. Now there are two other branches, one in Marylebone, the other in Richmond. The efforts of the team to provide good wine and good advice have been recognised, for instance through the award of London Wine Merchant of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
So what's so special about this shop?
First of all staff are always friendly and welcoming, and they also provide expert advice. On almost every visits I saw at least one customer looking for a recommendation - earlier this morning a couple asked for a wine to go with lamb and the staff took time to ask for the garnish and details of the recipe before recommending and describing several wines in much detail. Also very important is the overall atmosphere: it is one of those place where I wish they had a sofa or a few armchairs - I could see myself sitting there for hours, relaxing - ideally with a good wine, of course.
And wine there is plenty. Philglas & Swiggot cover both old and new world, with a particular focus on France, Italy and Australia. You will also find German, Austrian, Spanish, Argentinian and New Zealand wines, and other countries like USA and Portugal. Plus there are fortified wines and spirits and a good range of wine glasses and decanters from manufacturer such as Riedel and Spieglau. Every time I shop there I am very tempted to get one or two of the fragile yet elegant Riedel designs. Prices for wine start at about £7.
The first thing I noticed when scanning the shelves on my first visit in 2007 was that I saw quite a few wines from winemakers I liked, especially from countries I do not know very much about. There always seem to be a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay from Au Bon Climat and I also bought a marvellous red from Bodedgas Mauro, just to name a few. Obviously, you want a wine shop to have wines that you don't know, but it is always good to see that you share a certain taste with the people who advise you. Philglas & Swiggot certainly is one of the places where I would trust a recommendation.
Philglas & Swiggot do also offer a subscription for a wine club - get a mixed case of wine with tasting notes delivered to your door every two or three months. Membership comes in three price ranges and Philglas & Swiggot take great pride in supplying a large number of long term subscribers. I have not tried this service as I buy most of my wine from the continent, which is simply cheaper, so I cannot comment on the quality.
So what about German and Austrian wine then? Philglas & Swiggot do not specialise in German wine, but I have decided to write about them nonetheless for two reasons. First of all because it is just such a lovely shop and even a German Wine Rambler needs 'foreign' wine every so often. Secondly, Philglas & Swiggot do have a smallish but good selection of German and Austrian wine that is always worth a look.
Most of the German wine comes from the Mosel and Philglas & Swiggot have a long-standing relationship with several winemakers there. Two of their favourites are the Paulinshof and Regnery wineries - which is why I bought a wine each this morning; tasting notes will follow. There are also other winemakers, including two of my German favourites, Van Volxem and grand master of elegant Rieslings Dönnhoff. And there are always a few other wines to complement the Riesling selection, such as the inevitable Dr Loosen. Philglas & Swiggot do also stock Riesling and Grüner Veltliner from Austria. They did, for instance, introduce me to Jurtschitsch Sonnhof who make some kick-ass Grüner Veltliners (Austria's national white wine grape variety). Unfortunately though I have never seen a German red wine and only rarely is there one from Austria.
To sum up: If you are ever near Clapham Junction, make sure to visit Philglas & Swiggot and ask for a Riesling recommendation - or trust them to give you something unusual! Click on the P & S tag below to see a list of Philglas & Swiggot wines I have tasted.