They are not actually growing grapes in central London, but instead the team behind London Cru are bringing grapes to the city to be crushed, fermented and then turned into bottles of wine for us to drink. Here’s how and why…
Wine is made in the most glamorous and most unusual places in the world. From the finest Bordeaux chateaux, to mountain top hideaways, to bottles aged at the bottom of the sea. But never in the middle of a capital city.
That is until London Cru came along in the summer of 2013. But this really is fully working, operational winery that takes in grapes, ferments them and turns them in to luscious wines to drink.
Grapes that are brought in the dead of night, freshly picked from vineyards across northern Europe to become the latest London Cru release.
It is all the idea of the rather brilliant, but by his own admission eccentric, Cliff Roberson, owner and founder of the Roberson Wine business that helps supply the majority of top restaurants with wines from all over the world. Including London Cru.
The winery has actually been built directly below Roberson’s head office just off the West Brompton Road in west London. At first glance you think might have stumbled across a disused nightclub as the entrance and walls to the winery are covered in trendy urban graffiti.
This is not the first time the space has been used to ply Londoners with drink for between 1878 to the 1950s it was a working gin distillery.
All mod cons winery
It has now been modified an an all-singing, dancing modern winery with all the gleaming stainless steel tanks and fermenters you could want. Well there actually eight fermentation tanks, four 1,500 litre storage tanks and a further 5,000 tank for good measure.
The skills and brains behind the operation is the hugely friendly and enthusiastic Australian winemaker, Gavin Monery.
Monery, who has made wine for producers all over the world, works with the Roberson team to source grapes from a number of specially selected wineries and vineyards across Europe, but particularly in France, Italy and Spain.
From vine to London in 36 hours
Once the grapes are picked it is battle against the clock to get them to London Cru winery so that they are still fresh and ripe to be used. The team uses special refrigerated lorries to transport the grapes in double quick time, to ensure they arrive within 36 hours after picking.
Wines with no names
Producing wine in London does come with its difficulties. Namely the fact it is not a designated winemaking region under European law. So although London Cru sources all sorts of grape varieties from across Europe, like Alabrino from Spain, Barbera in Italy, Syrah from the Pyrenees in France, it can’t mention them on the wine label.
So instead it has to number them 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on, or colour code them. But if anything it adds to the intrigue and unique nature of the wines.
It is certainly working. Production and demand is going up every year. In 2013 it made 1,100 cases of wine, which went up to 2,100 in 2014 and 2,500 cases in 2015.
It is possible to do tours at the winery and they come highly recommended. You can even hire out the winery to hold events. What better way to celebrate a special event by toasting it in your very own winery for the night!