Three Things to Love About Urban Wineries
Published by Emma Partington on 10/08/2017
With the capital’s third urban winery set to open later this year, London is on the verge of an exciting artisanal winemaking revolution. Londoners are embracing a winemaking phenomenon that started stateside over ten years ago and has now spread across the world, from Sweden to Japan.
The notion is simple: wine is made in a city setting using fruit sourced from indigenous – or international – vineyards. Innovations in technology and logistics have meant that grapes can be transported relatively quickly from rural vineyards to a production site many miles away, and remain in excellent condition.
The idea took off in the USA in the early millennium with Seattle-based winemakers creating wine from Washington State grapes. Americans fell in love with the concept and city wineries began to spring up all over, with a huge scene developing in San Francisco, as well as Portland, Oregon. Now, many of the world’s major urban hubs boast a city-dwelling winery including Paris, New York, Stockholm, Sydney and Hong Kong.
With the term’s recent inclusion in wine lover’s bible ‘The Oxford Companion to Wine’ and our very own London Cru turning four this September, we thought it was high time to celebrate three of the things we love about urban wineries.
Traditionally, wine aficionados had to travel to remote areas to learn about winemaking or see a producer’s winery. With more and more wineries based in cities, it’s easier than ever to see how wine is actually produced, and to keep up to date with the winemaking process and latest releases. You can enjoy the fun of visiting a winery without leaving the personality of your city behind.
Many urban wineries offer the space for hire, or host interesting wine events alongside their winemaking activities. With no need to drive miles into the countryside, you can relax, and enjoy a glass (or three) of wine among the tanks and barrels in which it was made.
What’s more, there’s often an opportunity to get involved in the process. Whether it’s help pressing grapes or assisting with getting the wines through the bottling line, there’s always a chance to learn and develop your wine knowledge in a hands-on way. This leads to city-based wineries having a real community-feel, with local people mucking in and taking part.
Vintage variation has always been somewhat of a problem in the wine industry, especially in Europe. A lack of sunshine, lots of rain or even a big hail storm can have a devastating effect on yield. Urban wineries don’t tend to be tied to a particular vineyard, and by their very nature are located a fair distance away. This gives the winery huge flexibility when it comes to choosing grapes for the year ahead.
For example, most years London Cru makes a wine from English grapes (usually a variety called Bacchus). However, in 2015 there weren’t many good quality Bacchus grapes around, so they made a fantastic Albariño from Spain’s Rías Baixas region instead.
This flexibility means urban wineries never have to make do with the grapes they have – they can constantly seek out the best of every year, to make the best possible wine they can.
The wine industry is still somewhat shackled to a traditional fuddy-duddy reputation of dusty bottles, huge châteaux and thick, complicated wine lists. Urban wineries are leading the charge to banish this image, showing that you don’t need a huge estate to make great wine.
Winemaking regions across the world have strict guidelines about what you can and can’t do. These regulations are intended to protect the reputation of the region’s traditional wine style, but sometimes force producers to make inferior wines. For example, regulations in Tuscany long forced winemakers to add poor quality white grapes to their red Chianti wines.
Being city-based allows urban wineries to rip up the rulebook, experimenting and innovating to their heart’s content.
Want to find out more about our city winery London Cru? Following refurbishment in September 2017, London Cru will re-open with a regular calender of events and tastings.
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