It's the city that made Australian wine into a global success storyand it's not Sydney. It's where Robert M. Parker, Jr.'s judgments acquired a near-infallible statusand it isn't Bordeaux. It's where wine nuts from Tokyo to San Francisco hoard and trade their priceless collections, and it's where the leading publisher of wine books in Swedish, Dutch and Bulgarian is located. Here's a clue: The national drink of the place isn't wineit's beer (or tea, for the abstemious).
London shares the same northerly latitude as Saskatoon, in Canada, and so might not seem an obvious stop on a wine lover's itinerary. Yet this city has been the linchpin of the world's wine trade for centuries and remains so today. That England's relative lack of vineyards has been an advantage may seem like a paradox, but according to Simon Berry, deputy chairman of the three-hundred-year-old wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd, "Britain became the center of the wine market because we don't have a tradition of making wine."
In Britain, until very recently, drinking wine was a mark of privilege. The first Londoners to have enjoyed wine were Roman soldiers who invaded Britain from France under the emperor Claudius in a.d. 43 and created a new settlement where they forded the Thames. Though posted among barbarians, they insisted on some home comforts, including wine. Peter Rowsome of the Museum of London describes how, in 1995, archaeologists in London dug up a huge wine barrel made of silver fir that had probably been filled in the Alps. The barrel was almost intact, though it dated from a mere 30 years after the Roman invasion.