Warwick Smith - Renegade London Wine
Renegade London Wine - East London Urban Winery - Bethnal Green
Dunno, founder, asst-winemaker, office monkey, jack of all trades
Grew up in the UK and France. Studied Economics at LSE in London. Worked in London and Asia in asset management for many years before starting Renegade in 2016.
What are the advantages of urban wine making in the UK?
Being based in London we are very close to amazing UK vineyards and super close to mainland Europe for access to a wider range of grape varieties and super producers. The UK is an innovative, open-minded country that embraces innovation and also loves wine. Renegade is a good fit for people who love wine, love English wine and wants a new brand to challenge the norms and innovate in wine. The advantages of being in London is that we don't have to play by appellation rules so we can try new things and make new wine styles.
What drawbacks and restrictions have you come across?
The main drawbacks of urban winemaking in a city like London is the cost of overheads and access issues for trucks, and winemaking equipment. Also, making wine in an urban environment comes with added difficulty regarding regulations, licenses and other admin issues. These high overheads and low production volumes simply mean that you need to produce a premium product that justifies the prices you need to charge to trade and retail.
Which grape varieties do you use and what regions do you source them from? How do you get them to your winery?
For our first vintage we kept things quite conservative with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Bacchus, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. In 2017 we shook it up a bit, expanded the grape varieties and increased the number of on-skins, natural, nat fiz, and whole bunch ferments with Cab Sav, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Bacchus, Syrah and Grenache. Last year the grapes came from all over Europe and the UK. We upped the UK fruit portion from 15% to nearer 35%. I can see us making that nearer 50% in the coming vintages. We always hand harvest the grapes and ship them in refrigerated trucks by road direct to our winery in East London.
Do you feel that you have more freedom to experiment than a classic grower/producer? If so, why is that?
Maybe yeah, I mean we are not making wine in an established wine making area and there are no classic London styles yet, so it's up to us to innovate and create these new London styles. We like to experiment and our customers like us to make interesting wine styles and break the rules. What's the point making wine in London and making it taste the same as a classic wine made in an old world winery in Europe? Pointless I think. If you want the classics, buy the classics. If you want to taste a new wave of wine, then drink Renegade.
We like to experiment
and our customers like
us to make interesting wine styles and break the rules.
Photo Credits: @renegadelondonwine
Which of your wines are you most excited about?
The 'London Sparkling Blanc de Noirs 2016' is a coming together as a brilliant wine. I am mega excited about the release later this year. We taste a bottle from the crypt ever month or so with buyers and it's just off the chart in terms of character and elegance. It's great to be making the first traditional method wine made in London. It's an honour. That said, the more esoteric wines like our Bacchus On Skins 2017 is honestly a stonker. We need to be making more wines like this that really express some of the amazingness of English grapes.
What is the general perception of an urban winery as it’s ‘unconventional’?
I don't think many people outside of the wine industry (and even inside it tbh) know that urban wineries are a growing trend globally. Most people think wines are always made at the vineyard and don't know wineries exist in cities like London. Some restaurants are helping to break the mould. 34 Mayfair is one in London with a dedicated urban wine list. If you tell people that there are urban wineries in London, the general response is where are the grapes as people think wines are made next to the vineyard. In all honestly, it is unconventional. So lets make the wines unconventional too. Unconventional, but brilliant.
Where do you think the urban wine making scene is going in the UK over the next few years?
It's only going to grow. We're at the beginning in the UK. I can imagine that there will be 10 urban wineries in London over the next 5 years. I can also see ones popping up in Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool etc. London may have started the trend but we get feedback that other cities are game to spread the urban love. People love to drink and eat locally made products. The issue is cost, scale and passionate people to lead the push.
So you want to start an Urban Winery...what do you need to be looking for?
Great grape producers. We focus on buying fantastic fruit and making the most out of it. Forget fancy premises, fancy gear, fancy pr and marketing. Just make great wine from great fruit. Also, if you can find someone with loads of money to help you through the first 5 years, that'd be great. If anyone out there is keen to invest in Renegade and join us on the journey, we're up for a chat! :)