What is new and cool in the wine business today? Well, urban wineries of course. I am not always the early adopter, so perhaps some of you are sighing that urban wineries are already old news. However, for me they are somewhat new and exciting. For those who are wondering what an urban winery is, it is a winery located in a city instead of a remote location close to the vineyards. Urban wineries have been popping up all around the US: San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New York and many other cities. On our last trip to London, we visited the first urban winery in London, the London Cru.
It was a rainy July afternoon when we arrived at West Brompton station, soaking wet of course. Thankfully the winery is located just a few blocks away from the tube. We were greeted by Adam, the man that keeps it all together at London Cru. He welcomed us in and we went straight for the tour of the facilities. Adam started by explaining the process and by introducing the equipment. All was fairly new. Adam also explained how the grapes are shipped from different European destinations. It all happens within 36 hours: The grapes are picked, loaded on to ta truck and transported with temperature controlled vehicles to the winery. The process of winemaking is started immediately when the grapes arrive. This requires very good planning and reliable partners as you cannot have the grapes standing anywhere in the heat. When the grapes arrive in London, they are inspected, pressed and the juice moved to either barrels or steel tanks for fermentation. The French barrels at London Cru have some years behind them, so the oak flavor in their wines does not become too aggressive. At this point of the story, Gavin, the Australian born head winemaker joined us. He had been busy lifting some equipment and was almost out of breath. At London Cru, five guys do all the work, even the heavy lifting. Impressive.
With Gavin joining, we moved on to the tasting of the wines (ok, we took some gulps already while we were waiting for Gavin). He told us a bit about their philosophy and how they want to make exciting wines from the best grapes that year can offer. That means that wines will vary from year to year, but I find that more of a richness than a fault. Most of the grapes come from France, where the boys have some excellent growers they are used to working with. Partnerships are everything in this business and the quality of grapes (or being able to pick the right grapes) speaks louder than any other marketing effort. We tried out some Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. We also had a swing at a Barbera. They tasted amazing! Very crisp wines with taste of minerals, granite and balanced fruit. We looked at each other with M and thought the same thing: this is definitely our style. We would love to have these wines in our selection.
On top of the taste, the labels are fun and the branding of the wine is done with thought. The label features a map of the London city district SW6 (South-West 6), and the wording ‘crushed’ + date refers to the date the grapes arrived to London Cru and the process of winemaking was initiated. I also appreciate that some small details, like the cork have been taken into account in the branding. With our history being in London (in district SE1), an urban wine from the city we fell in love in feels like the right addition to our selection.
The tasting continued with shared stories of wine and how we got into the business. It seems it is more common than I thought, that a (drunken) evening with friends ends up as an actual thriving business. Hey, great minds drink…sorry think, alike. The rain had not stopped, but it was time for us to go. We said our farewells and agreed to keep in touch. We will definitely do a proper study on what it would cost us to bring these wines to Sweden. I really believe that the market will love them (and if not, we will just drink them ourselves).
If you have a chance, check out London Cru wines. They are sold in the UK over the internet (http://www.londoncru.co.uk/) and you can taste them at some restaurants, for example the Michelin-starred Harwood Arm’s.