Idris joins the independent trade

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The star of Luther and The Wire has teamed up with David Farber of Connaught Cellars to open a new wine shop and bar in Kings Cross. The pair are already partners in the Porte Noire Champagne label

 

Wine merchant David Farber has partnered up with actor Idris Elba to open Porte Noire in Kings Cross.

The shop and bar, which will open this month, is a continuation of the Porte Noire brand; their collaboration has already produced two Champagnes and a rosé.

Farber, who established Connaught Cellars near Marble Arch in 2016, admits that a celebrity wine can be both a blessing and a curse, but he is adamant that this is no vanity project.

“It is not just a name endorsement where you associate your name and receive whatever percentage commission on the sales, because otherwise Idris would have associated himself with a famous label, not with me,” he laughs.

The venture seems to have come about quite organically, with the pair meeting through a mutual friend some years ago. “Idris loves Champagne,” explains Farber, “and I think at the back of his mind he always had the idea of maybe having his own. I took him to visit a vineyard and winery I thought would work and his first criterion was to make sure we had a quality product and not a flashy or marketing gimmick.

“He wanted to be totally involved and develop his own brand. He has a good palate. In terms of selecting the Champagne, he has very good taste – just not the cheapest!”
So far the feedback, even from fellow merchants, has been good. “I went to a lunch on Saturday with six wine merchants,” Farber says.

“I bought a magnum of the Champagne and one of them said, ‘oh, as much as I want to hate it because it is a celebrity Champagne, it is actually really good’. The reviews it has had from the critics have been positive so that gave us confidence that we were doing something right.”

Located at the base of Gasholders residential development, Porte Noire will include a dining room, a bar and an outside terrace as well as a shop. “Fifty per cent of the floor space is dedicated to retail, including the walk-in fine wine room,” says Farber.

“At Connaught we are mainly French and Italian focused, but the range at Porte Noire will be larger and more international. There will of course be some crossover and the wines we direct import will be sold from both locations.

“At Kings Cross we are going to have a good selection of organic, natural and biodynamic wines alongside a lot of very classic, fine wines. We are also going to have wines on tap, on KeyKeg, at the bar.

“The place looks very high-end but the prices will be very reasonable,” Farber adds. “We want to become a wine destination for the people who live and work there. Just as we did with Connaught Cellars, whether it is on the retail or the bar side, the idea is to create a small wine community. Most of our customers have become our friends and it is about bringing this friendliness and approachability to the wines. We don’t want to have any pretensions in terms of price or service.”

Idris Elba on wine

Do you remember how you first got interested in wine?
My first time being interested in wine was after tasting Francis Coppola’s red. This was a long time back and it was a gift from a film producer. He told me that Coppola’s name looked great on a bottle – and they thought Elba would look great too one day.

You probably get presented with lots of investment opportunities. What persuaded you to go into business with David and how involved do you expect to be?
The opportunity was to be a small part of a history and amplify the work that Sanger [school of Champagne] had been doing. I was so intrigued by the history of the school and the students continue its journey. David became an instant partner. Well, almost!
He is very knowledgeable, and walks me though the intricate nature of winemaking, without making me feel like a novice. We make a good team (I hope!)

What’s the best wine you’ve enjoyed in the past six months or so?
A wine called Chocolate Block. Firstly I love the name; it’s already intriguing. It’s a heavy bodied fruity Syrah from 2019. I had it at dinner after a vegan curry and it went down properly.

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