Four urban wineries in London came together on 19 June for the inaugaural Urban Wineries United event. Held at the home of Ldn Cru Winery it was timed to coincide with the start of English Wine Week and enabled members of the trade and press to engage with the urban wineries: Blackbook, Ldn Cru, Renegade and Vagabond.
The Urban location in London connects these wineries together but their individuality is clear. Winemaker and co-founder of Blackbook Winery Sergio Verrillo said: “Strong relationships exist between the Urban wineries and it is a natural progression to be proactive collectively.” Blackbook were able to showcase their impressive magnum bottles of the Essex grown Night Jar Pinot Noir 2021 to all those who had signed up to this first of its kind event.
The event proved so popular that the ticket sales capacity had to be increased to accommodate all the interest that was shown. Warwick Smith founded Renegade winery and he explained: “I looked at the emergence of urban wineries in the USA and thought why does London not have 10 wineries by now? In 2016 I founded Renegade and people have proved really curious.” That curiosity was certainly evident as members of the trade took the opportunity to chat to winemakers throughout the day.
As the name suggests Renegade is a place with imaginative winemaking. Winemaker Andrea Bontempo explained how he enjoys the process of making wines from grapes in a style that is not classical for that variety. “It is about finding the right winemaking process that allows the grapes to express themselves,” said Andrea. Bethnal Bubbles 2021 is made from Pinot Noir vines in Herefordshire but is dry hopped with three varieties of hops: Sabro, Sitra and Mosaic before being bottled prior to secondary fermentation. It was not an understatement when Andrea said he has “fun with experimenting.” Renegade now have the capacity to produce 100,000 bottles from the new winery in Walthamstow which opened its doors in 2021 and it is clear there will be exciting new things from this winery in the future.
Ldn Cru, the hosts of Urban Wineries United have really embraced their urban location and this is evident from the design of their bottle labels. The design really brings together all the elements of their brand. The urban nature of the winery is celebrated in a map that is simultaneously in the shape of a leaf that is specific to the variety in the bottle, so for example, the still Chardonnay 2022 has a map location of the winery encompassed in the shape of a Chardonnay leaf. This attention to detail is found running throughout the wines made by Alex Hurley at Ldn Cru. Using grapes only grown in England, Ldn Cru produces a fantastic selection of both sparkling and still wines.
“We are a community and not competition,” said Aaron Jolley, Sales and Marketing Executive at Ldn Cru and this thought was also expressed by Jose Quintana Winemaker at Vagabond when he explained that the urban wineries were “similar but individual.” “We can sometimes be outliers in the English wine scene because we don’t have our own vineyards,” Jose added. This lack of a vineyard though enables some amazing wines to be produced. The Pet Not – a 100% sparkling Pinot Noir with 0g dosage – is made in the Col Fondo method. This sensational sparkler utilises fruit from Oxfordshire, Essex and Sussex. Jose was able to explain, to the large group that had gathered round, that Germanic Clones from Oxfordshire bring berry and fruit flavours whist the Essex fruit adds savoury characteristics “it is really lovely to make wine from different parts of the UK to play with (fruit from) different soils,” he concluded.
The event was the perfect showcase of what Urban Wineries can bring to the landscape of English Wine and was a great way to start English wine week.
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