Four years ago, I wrote my first piece on London wineries in Vineyard Magazine. I titled the piece ‘Urban Jungle’ – I felt this summed up the mood at the time. Four years ago, before the pandemic, it was a very different landscape with an emerging group of talented winemakers making names for themselves with edgier, perhaps more daring wines than those found in the Shires.

Fast forward to an age where more players in this sector are making more wines. Wines of every style, shape, grape and colour have popped up in our capital, and they are every bit as exciting as those found in leafier corners of the country. As a collective, these wines are a vast improvement on those made four years ago. Freedom and character are emerging for each of the four wineries mentioned in this article, and while they are all different, they all form part of the compelling London Calling jigsaw. These are wines with one eye on metropolitan chic and the other on arresting label design while respecting some of the more formal tenets concerning the manufacture of delicious fermented grape products.

Because I only have space for three wines on this spread, I will nod to my friend Sergio Verrillo in this introduction. His portfolio is crammed with individuality, flair and spontaneity, and every wine I tasted at the recent Urban Wineries United tasting was questioning, rewarding and delicious. 

If I were forced to highlight one, then 2022 Black Book, Fragments of Time Sauvignac, South Bank Vineyard (£25.00, was insanely delicious, pushing my flavour boundaries into new and different corridors of delight. While I know Sergio’s portfolio reasonably well, it was the first time I had encountered Renegade’s portfolio – a wild maelstrom of flavours and ideas; all brought to life in the form of wine. I found a bottle that was truly arresting, so it is a joy to bring it to your attention. 

Alex Hurley’s LDN Cru journey continues with a finessing of his range. These are subtle, honed, expressive wines; if you are new to London’s wine offerings, this is the place to start. Jose Quintana’s tenure at Vagabond is fast becoming a triumphant signing as he is managing to coax out more detail and subtle layers of flavour than I have previously encountered in his range, and his new vintage releases are all worthy of an ovation. If you haven’t already tasted these wines – get on with it. 

If you haven’t visited these wineries – they are all dead easy to access, and they would love to see you. One thing is sure – London wineries are a vital hotbed of creativity and originality, and I cannot wait to see what they come up with next!

2022 LDN CRU, Pinot Noir


Pink, pale, shimmering in the glass and, to all intents and purposes, looking slightly tremulous at the prospect of being devoured by anyone, let alone this wine writer; 2022 LDN CRU PN (surely some secret code!) looked like it might faint before I got a chance to savour its charms. 

All at once, I was proved horribly wrong. Despite the tiptoe-light 11.5% alcohol and the quietest hue, this is an utterly spectacular wine. Winemaker Alex Hurley describes this wine as ‘pretty’, and he is not wrong. It is enchantingly attractive, with a perfect Pinot nose, a long, soothing, wild berry mid-palate and a bright, engaging finish. I could not ask for more. But I did.

I went back for a second taste to check that I hadn’t missed anything, and the perfume and flavour seemed even more expressive and attenuated.  The final line of my scribbled tasting note read, ‘so unlikely and yet so beautiful’. You simply must taste this wine.

2021 Renegade, Sara


Renegade is a new winery to me. While driving home after the tasting, I admit I didn’t grasp how odd their collection was. 

A Puglian red, a white from Blaye, was I dreaming? In the absence of a tasting booklet at this particular gathering, I hurried notes down on the back of some tech sheets, and the combination of my appalling scrawl and some rather odd commentary meant I had to jump on the Renegade website the second I walked in my door. 

Tis true; these renegades source grapes from far and wide, so it was good fortune that my favourite wine was made from Chardonnay, harvested in Essex! Barrel fermented in older Burgundian and Hungarian barrels, along with some new French barrels and some stainless steel, judicious lees work has resulted in a white wine with terrific gravitas and complexity. 

I noted, and this is no word of a lie, that it reminded me of ‘Art Series’. This refers to Leeuwin Estate’s top Chardonnay from Margaret River in Western Australia. Any synaptic synergy between an Essex Chardy and Australia’s most consistently epic version is high praise indeed. So congratulations to this mob. They clearly know what they are doing. PS – regarding the label, Sara is a retired French teacher who lives in East Sheen. 

2022 Vagabond, Ortega


I feel it necessary to impart the bad news first. There were only 1,553 bottles of this wine made, and I demolished one of them, so this is a tiny production wine which is a travesty because it deserves to be featured on every decent restaurant wine list in the country – BY THE GLASS! 

Made from 100% Ortega from the Yew Tree Vineyard in Oxfordshire, little trickery is employed here besides wild fermentation and half of the crop seeing old French oak. 

While this is a bone-dry wine, it possesses the most ravishing curves on the palate, featuring pineapple husk, jasmine and Canary melon tones, among others. This sleight of hand brings uncommon ripeness to the mid-palate before the generosity is ratcheted to a wincingly tight finish. 

Oh my goodness, this is an exciting wine. I have no idea if Tom Cruise likes a drink, but this stunning Ortega is bombastically showy and nerve-janglingly dramatic in equal measure, a little like Tom! In terms of value, this is a wickedly well-priced wine and short of one Roero Arneis, a couple of Jurançon Secs and a pair of Vermentinos, I cannot think of another wine with this flavour shape on earth!