London Cru – Artisan Wine in the Making:
When I heard rumours that wine was being made in Earls Court I had no idea that it was actually all happening in the street next door. Literally. This part of London is not where you’d expect to find a winery – for a start there really isn’t anywhere for a vineyard. The story behind London Cru is that some of the staff of local wine merchant Roberson realised that the spare space under their Seagrave Road headquarters, space that had been a Gin distillery until the mid 1950s was perfect for an artisan winery. Of course that did leave the little issue of grapes, but Roberson were uniquely placed to identify potential sources.
Of course the first question we all asked, when we learnt that the grapes are imported from France and Italy, was why not English grapes. And in my case, the second question was why not fizz. Well, the very logical answer was that since the grapes would have to be transported anyway, there was no particular reason to use English grapes. While English fizz now has an International reputation, finding vineyards with ‘spare’ grapes would have been challenging and the equipment for making sparkling wines is rather more complicated. So for now, London Cru imports Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from France and Barbera from Italy.
The grapes are hand picked to ensure that they are in perfect condition to be transported and packed in shallow crates before being transported in refrigerated trucks. The timing is crucial. Picking throughout the day means that the grapes can leave mid afternoon and arrive late in the evening on the next day – 36 to 48 hours after harvest. In the winery, the grapes are sorted and checked again by hand before being processed through the crushing and, where appropriate, destemming machine. They are then dropped into the open top tanks and allowed to ferment. After standing for a couple of days to return to room temperature, the mixture is innoculated with a commercial yeast. Once the mixture has fermented and macerated, the first liquid is removed while the skins are put through the press to extract more juice
At London Cru they are using French oak barrels, mostly secondaries that have already had 12-18 months use to ensure that the wines don’t take on too much of a oaked flavour. They are aiming for freshness rather than a heavily oaked wine and if necessary can put the wine back in tanks to prevent it becoming over-oaked. There are significant differences in how the different wines are produced – the Chardonnay is not destemmed for example and here both the red and rose have a malolactic fermentation (a secondary fermentation to reduce the sharp malic acid and produce a softer wine). What we tasted – too young to be sold yet – was perfectly drinkable. A fresh Chardonnay that pays tribute to its French origin and a lush Barbera were my favourites of the four wines.
We learnt that artisan wineries in city centres are growing in popularity. In Hong Kong there are a handful of wineries using grapes which are frozen for transportation. And New York has three or four wineries already. I was impressed by the initial distribution list for the first batch of wine which will be released in September this year. Not only have they placement in M&S but also in some of the excellent restaurants in the area. And, in both the Harwood Arms and the Atlas. If you want to buy for yourself the bottles will retail at £15 and can be bought from the Cellar on Seagrave Road or via the website. Definitely worth a try – and certainly worth taking the time to visit and learn more.
21-27 Seagrave Rd,
London SW6 1RP
020 7381 7871