Last Semester we visited Blackbook Winery and Vagabond, two Urban Wineries in London with our Wine Production and Viticulture & Oenology Masters students. Beck Cedar, one of those students, has just gone live with a crowdfunding campaign to launch an Urban Winery, ‘Haar’. We asked Beck about their experience, their plans, and all things ‘Urban Wine’.

“There are 943 vineyards and 209 wineries in the UK – and none of them are in Brighton & Hove. I had seen all these incredible places like Rathfinny and loved them, but you needed to drive and have access to a car to work there. I’d hear friends saying “I’d love to visit a vineyard but how do you get there?” and I knew there’d be a buzz for something accessible in the city I live.

“I’d heard about people doing things more ‘bootleg’ in cities without needing the same funding, investment, or inherited wealth. No one had set up an Urban Winery in Brighton, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the UK. But if that’s the case, there must be so many people living locally who would want to work in wine but not be able to afford to.

“Haar aims to change that. It’s a social venture, not for profit, making minimal intervention wines from grapes grown organically in Sussex, Kent, and Essex. There are currently around 2,300 people working full time in the UK wine industry. 52% are men, 47% are women, and 0.4% identify in another way. Haar aims to change this for trans and non-binary folks.

“People need to change their buying habits if they’re going to say that they are ethically minded. We have got used to having our wine a certain way, you click to buy and it arrives. English wine already takes a step in the right direction. Traditional method is slow, you have to wait. Haar will take this a step further. It gives customers the opportunity to spend their money more transparently. Every part of our supply chain will have transparency, including profiles of the people making your wine so you know the community you’re helping – building – part of.

“I’m at Plumpton College because I may know how to make a project work, but I need to know how to make wine! The place to do that is here. If you want people to trust you with their hard-earned money, you have to be learning from industry experts, and that’s what you get learning at Plumpton.

“Our Urban Winery visit was great. It was amazing to see what Sergio Verillo, (2014 graduate) has done. It was really aligned to where Haar is coming from. He built Blackbook from the ground, which I’m going to have to do with my project too, as well as being so creative with the space!” Sergio discussed the importance of growers and grapes with our students, sharing his ethos and giving us so much insight into the business. We tasted tank and barrel samples as well as their delicious finished wines.

We stopped at Vagabond Winery afterwards, to visit Jose Quintana (2019 graduate) and Freddie Cobb, who were equally generous with their time, amusing us with the logistics of running a winery in a bar, as well as so many insights about their processes, customers, and unique business approach. We tasted several of the excellent wines and some exciting upcoming projects still in the pipeline…!

Beck mused “You’ve got to learn the rules before you can break them. To see what they’ve done at Vagabond… Proof that you can make wine anywhere!”