Walk through one of the many railway arches in London, Battersea and you will find an industrial unit with a difference. Sergio and Lynsey Verrillo have converted unit 41, a brick walled space underneath the railway, into one of the most exciting wineries in the country. On Friday 26th April, we went along to their spring tasting party. It was a great opportunity to taste some of the wines from 2018, catch up with friends and put faces to names with some inspiring people in the wine industry.
Urban wineries are something that we have always been intrigued by here at Emerging Vines HQ. I think that it stems down to the fact that anybody who wants to make wine in a city centre has to go against the grain slightly and stick two fingers up to anybody who wants to judge them too much. You don’t make wine in central london under a railway arch in Battersea or down an alleyway in Bethnal Green to make a fortune, you do it because you want to make the best wine that you possibly can in a location with plenty of consumers all around you. The craft beer industry has done it, so why can’t the wine industry? Sergio loves winemaking and both he and Lynsey have an affection for London, therefore it makes complete sense for the couple to set up there.
Where do the grapes come from though? One of the beauties of the Urban Winery model is that you can source the best fruit that you can find from multiple growers around the country, or even the continent if you want to. This means that a winemaker could bring in Bacchus from Kent, Seyval Blanc from Surrey, Pinot Noir from Sussex and Madeleine Angevine from Devon, for example. By working closely with growers, a winemaker can build up a relationship that could last for decades and if it negates the worry of trying to plant all of the varieties that you want to work with on one site, which might not be perfect for all of them, then it’s a no brainer… right?
Sergio and Lynsey use this idea brilliantly. Carefully selecting fruit parcels from growers that are at the top of their game and like the Blackbook approach. The resulting wines are excellent examples of what can be achieved by sourcing grapes from regions that have optimum conditions to grow them. So what are the wines like? Here’s our brief outline of the four new wines that we tried at yesterday’s event;
2018 Bacchus Tamesis - Forty Hall Vineyard (organic certified) , London - Bacchus 100%
This is the first wine to be grown and vinified in London since the Roman times. Seeing as the Romans started the original English Wine Movement, it seems mad that it’s taken this long to do it again (all be it that London’s citiscape has changed somewhat since then). The wine is Bacchus but with a punch. It’s got weight and depth, married with a nice savouriness and the classic floral aromas that give the grape its plaudits. The label on this wine is a one off, a lovely piece of artwork but if you ask the right questions, a whole load of intricate stories and links to the roman winemakers of the past came into play. Check out Matthew Frame - @mrmrframe to see more of his work.
2018 The Mix-Up - Redhill Farm Estate (sustainable) , Kent - 50% Bacchus / 50% Ortega
The Bacchus was fermented in stainless steel whilst the Ortega was on skins for 25 days before getting pressed into Burgundy barrels. Both varieties spontaneously fermented with 6 months on gross lees after this. The resulting wine had a great texture and ripe tropical fruit, mixed with some spice and citrus fruits.
2018 I’d Rather Be A Rebel Rosé - Crouch Valley Vineyard, Essex - 100% Pinot Noir
This wine follows on from the brilliant version in 2017. This 2018 rosé builds on the previous year with more weight and an acidity that appears to balance even better with the wine. Ripe red English fruits take center stage here, supported by a rich creaminess. A nice long finish rounds this wine off nicely and it would be a great choice for a summer's afternoon or the answer to a tricky food match.
2017 Seyval Blanc GMF - Yew Tree Vineyard, Berkshire - 100% Seyval Blanc
This English Sparkling wine is a bit different to the norm. It’s fun and easy to drink. It almost sits somewhere between a traditional English fizz and a Col Fondo style of wine. Whole bunch pressing into a 50/50 split of barrel and stainless steel. Primary fermentation was spontaneous followed by lees stirring with 7 months on gross lees. A traditional secondary ferment was then started as it went into bottle. Disgorged and a relatively low pressure of about 4 bar, results in a citrus driven and floral sparkler that would be perfect for a hot summer's day.
All in all, we love what Blackbook Winery are doing with their set up. The wines from 2018 are exciting and you’ll see more of them from us over the next 12 months I’m sure. We encourage anybody who is living in London or just happens to visit from time to time (like us) to get in touch with them and head on down. We also love Renegade Urban Winery in Bethnal Green, so why not make a day of Urban wineries in London?