Wineweek 89: London at a Glimpse

It has been a hot week here in London. Hot and humid. Thunder has seemed imminent, but the the first raindrops we encountered were not before our taxi ride back to Heathrow airport. One could say we have been lucky. On the agenda this time has been food and wine. Isnt it always food and wine though. It feels like shopping and sightseeing have been activities we have filled the gap with between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner. I am feeling a bit of fatique after all that food. However, I am glad I stuffed down every last yummy piece.  Continue reading “Wineweek 89: London at a Glimpse”

London on my Mind

Every year, we do a few trips back to our former home city of London. To be honest, I did not live there that long that I could credibly call it home. But there is something about that city that is always on my mind. I am going crazy as we speak just thinking about walking down the early spring streets of London in a few weeks time. As it is my lazy week, I am not going to write much new today. However, I though I would lift up some of my old posts on the wine-spots I long for. We have some exciting reservations for new places and restaurants, so I promise some new material soon.  Continue reading “London on my Mind”

London Cru, an Urban Wine Experience

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.

Oak barrels at London Cru
Oak barrels at London Cru
The equipment is still new and shiny
The equipment is still new and shiny

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.

Fresh design featuring London's district SW6
Fresh design featuring London’s district SW6
Even the cork is branded. I like the extra effort.
Even the cork is branded. I like the extra effort.

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.

Wineweek 36: London Greetings

It is pouring outside. Weather is what one would expect of London, the type of persistent drizzle you see in the movies. During my one and a half years of living in the city, it did not rain more than I was used to in Helsinki. Probably less. However, the humid air really gets under your skin and reaches your bones, so rather often you feel cold and wet even if it’s not raining. Luckily there are several cozy cafes (and wine bars) where one can sneak into to escape the rain. We have made camp at Tap Coffee on Wardour Street. After second breakfast we will make our way deeper into Soho, visit some of our usual caffeine hangouts and continue towards Selfridges to browse the wine department. I am hoping to find a bottle of Wiston Estate sparkling wine to take home. I am slightly hesitant though and will make my decision once I see the price. English sparklings have really taken a price hike since the success of Ridgeview and Nyetimber. Many of the local bubblies are basically priced as if they were Champagne. I am not saying they are not good, but comparing to some of our premium cavas, the English sparklings are seldom value for money. I have been wondering about the price: is it just that the Brits believe so much in their product, or is it due to the cost of production? I can imagine the grape yields being quite low…what do you think?

But what have we been up to this week? We traveled back home from Finland just to jump on the plane taking us to London on Thursday. Friday we visited a new potential producer for our range of wine, London Cru, an urban winery located near West Brompton (btw. their wines were awesome). And since, we have just been eating (and drinking) our way through London’s culinary hot spots: Kitchen W8, Gymkhana, Social Wine and Tapas, just to mention a few. Tonight we will be checking out the newly reopened Ivy. London always has something fresh to offer. But more about specifics later, here is a series of photos from the week:

Thursday dinner at Duck and Rice. The cava, Rene Barbour was a steal at around five pounds per glass.
Thursday dinner at Duck and Rice. The cava, Rene Barbour was a steal at around five pounds per glass.
Even though Borne & Hollingsworth is hardly a secret any more, the speakeasy has managed to keep a high quality on cocktails.
Even though Borne & Hollingsworth is hardly a secret any more, the speakeasy has managed to keep a high quality on cocktails.
Tasting wines at London Cru, urban winery.
Tasting wines at London Cru, urban winery.
Awesome English sparkling at Social Wine and Tapas
Awesome English sparkling at Social Wine and Tapas
Nothing like some Pimm's to start the day
Nothing like some Pimm’s to start the day
The market is overcrowded with tourists but makes for a colorful place to take photos
The market is overcrowded with tourists but makes for a colorful place to take photos
Coffees at the Magic Roundabout. The cold brew was awesome.
Coffees at the Magic Roundabout. The cold brew was awesome.
A trip to London would be incomplete without a pit-stop at Joses. Snacking on  Padron peppers.
A trip to London would be incomplete without a pit-stop at Joses. Snacking on Padron peppers.
The last drinks of the night at Whiskey Ginger
The last drinks of the night at Whiskey Ginger
An evening walk on the South Bank
An evening walk on the South Bank