When I got an invitation to go to a wine tasting session at London’s only winery I was excited, but also a bit confused. Especially when I found out it was around the corner from my house, right by Earls Court Exhibition Centre. My main question was, how one earth can you make wine in central London?
The wine tasting hour I had with London Cru last Saturday explained all. Along with about 18 others (a mixture of Brits and Internationals) the very friendly co- owner Adam Green introduced the business, the process and the wines. Turns out that while London Cru is the first ‘Urban Winery’ in London, there are a number of urban wineries worldwide, from Hong Kong to New York. San Francisco has a number of them, made easy by its proximity to Napa Valley. But London, Adam pointed out, has the grapes of all of Europe on its doorstep.
One of the big advantages? Picking and choosing the grapes from the regions which have had a good harvest. Last year they were keen to make wine from grapes of the Bordeaux and Loire region, but 2013 was a bad year for these regions. So instead they decided to use the Barbera grape from Piedmonte (Northern Italy). Flexibility seems to be key in this business. Apart from Barbera, they got their grapes from the Langedoc Russillon region in France.
Would the grapes not be damaged transporting them to London? Apparently not. They are driven, carefully, straight to London after picking, and arrive in London the following day, 28-36 hours from harvest. Looking just as they did at the vineyard.
I won’t go through the whole process of how the wine is made from when the grapes arrive in London, because you should go and see for yourself. Adam has worked in wine for 10 years and is clearly so passionate about it, Will Monery, his partner has also been involved in wine for most of his life. Adam briefly takes you through the process, showing you the space and the machines used.
Then, the ‘fun’ part. The tasting.
We tasted five different wines. I thought the Barbera was going to be my favourite as I adore the grape, but it wasn’t. For me the Syrah won.
We tried the following:
First we tried the Chardonnay – from the Languedoc Roussillon region in France (the only white wine they do). I thought it was fresh and light. The wine is to be bottled in a month so it is very close to being ‘ready’. We drank it straight from the tank which was quite fun. You can buy the wine in store in September.
Then we tried the Barbera wine. In fact, two of them. One batch had accidentally turned into a Rose, which is very unusual for this wine. Again, the great thing about London Cru is that they have the flexibility and creativity to try something new like this, even though it was unexpected. And it turned out rather well, with a bit of a strawberry & cream taste. They are so pleased with the result they are going to make another batch this year.
The red Barbera was a little disappointing, but it does need more time in the tank.
Next came the Syrah, from Languedoc Roussillon – a dry wine, which I liked a lot.
And lastly came the Cabernet wines (from near Beziers, in the South of France) – one aged in an old oak barrel, the other in a new one. It was very interesting to try the difference: the old barrel wines are much more oaky than the new barrel wines and it is very clear in the taste. The Cabernet ageing in the old barrel needs more time, and will stay in the barrel as long as possible since it needs more time to soften. The Cabernet from the new barrel was full of body, a bit richer and more tannic.
On the whole the wines were all a bit too early to taste, since they are just getting into their stride. But that made it fun too. I look forward to trying the finished product. The wines will all be sold for the same price: £15 a bottle. Not cheap, but the team are confident the wines will be worth it. You’ll be able to buy the wines at Marks & Spencer’s (under M&S brand ‘Spirit of London’). But you will also be able to buy the wine on their website: under the brand SW6.
They are having some problems about what the actual put not he label, since legislation is difficult. They can’t say the wines are French or Italian, since the wine is not actually made in the regions the grapes are from. Hence they will be go with ‘Wine of European Community’, which is a mouthful to say the least, but will have to do until they can think of something better or get around the legislation.
Bottom line: this is a fantastic tour which is both educational and fun. The perfect thing to do on a Saturday afternoon with a partner or group of friends. Or a father for upcoming Father’s Day. Tickets are £15, and you can get them here: http://www.londoncru.co.uk/.
21-27 Seagrave Rd