It’s fair to say that London likes to embrace the unusual, the offbeat and pretty much anyone who likes to think outside the box. But why should this be limited to the art world? London is a also hive of creativity when it comes to food and drink. Indeed sometimes it seems like you can’t walk down a high street without falling over a new bar concept or an experiment in molecular gastronomy, the only thing that limits the city at times is its ability to harvest its own produce.
A combination of cooler climate and limited space have led some to experiment with underground allotments and a new wine initiative situated in the heart of south west London has even found a way around the lack of suitable grapes. London Cru, the city’s first urban winery, is thinking so far outside the box that they’ve travelled to the top vineyards of France and Italy to create something that is distinctly ‘London’. Confused? Let me explain.
Inspired by the boom in microbreweries and distilleries, Cliff Roberson, founder of top independent merchant and importer Roberson Wine, wanted to bring wine to Londoners in a new and exciting way. The city has always been great place for wine enthusiasts to explore – the popularity of the new wave of wine bars in recent years is testament to the passion of those wishing to discover something new – so why not be a bit more creative with the idea of provenance?
Employing the expertise of international winemaker Gavin Monery and Master of Wine student Mark Andrew, they used their established contacts to source grapes from vineyards in Languedoc, Roussillon and Piedmont in Northern Italy. After carefully transporting the first shipments back to London last autumn, the process has begun to produce the best wine possible right here in the capital – a classic style, but with a story that is as distinctive as the city in which it is made.
Monery studied oenology (the science behind the winemaking) with top Western Australian producer Cullen, situated in the warmer climes of the picturesque Margaret River. After working in the French vineyards of Burgundy and Rhône, he came to London to learn more about other aspects of the industry, but found the opportunity to take the helm of London Cru too good to resist. “With so many talented people creating world-class craft beers and spirits in London we thought it was time to do the same with wine” he says. “Sharing the experience of making it with people who want a hands-on, informative and entertaining experience. London Cru will be the embodiment of the “Made in London” spirit, and this brand new concept fits perfectly into the city’s thriving wine scene.”
A short walk from West Brompton tube station and in the imposing shadow of Earls Court, London Cru isn’t shouting its whereabouts from the rooftops. The operation is, rather fittingly, situated in the former home of an old gin distillery, taking on this ‘made in London’ baton in yet another way.
The slightly concealed entrance is coupled with a dramatic splash of wine-inspired street art from The Rolling People, a further hint at the creativity behind London Cru. But in spite of the unusual location, the operation is welcoming the public with open arms, keen to offer Londoners a chance to see inside the working winery on their doorstep, create their own ‘vintage’ from barrel samples and even experience being a winemaker for a day.
Perhaps London Cru will inspire further wine-inspired experiments in the big city. But in the shorter term, let’s look forward to trying the first ever batch of wines made in the capital…
Carlo Pandian is an Italian expat that loves writing about London, wine and hyper-local food, and has previously published on Crave Local, Vino101 and Wine Expert Guide. For any questions connect with him on Twitter @carlopandian.