It’s 8 am on a Wednesday morning in September, and I’m in a slightly sketchy part of west London, just down the road from the Earls Court exhibition centre. There’s an articulated lorry waiting in the street.
I think I’ve found what I have been looking for. Yes, tucked in behind a block of council houses, there’s a lock-up with the words LDNCRU in bold black type. And a mural of a wine bottle. The lorry? It has just arrived from the south of France, with 6 tons of biodynamic Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This is London’s first urban winery, and I’m about to get a look inside.
Along with a photographer from The Telegraph, I’ve been invited to see the latest delivery of grapes being unloaded. The winery sits under the offices of leading London fine wine retailer Roberson, and Cliff Roberson is one of the backers, along with Will Tomlinson.
It’s a proper winery, with all the usual things you’d expect to find in a small winery, including some nice second-hand Francois Frères barrels (it would be a problem having just new barrels for a new winery, because then everything would be aged in 100% new oak!)
The winemaker is Gavin Monery, an Aussie who was already working for Roberson and happens to be a trained winemaker. 21 tons of grapes will be processed this year, from the Languedoc, Roussillon and Bordeaux. But this is far from a gimmick: Monery is hoping to make some serious wines, and the partners he is buying grapes from are serious players. For example, the Cabernet that has just been delivered is from Jeff Coutelou.
The grapes are unloaded. They look in perfect condition. Hand-picked into small crates, and shipped in a refrigerated lorry, they are in as good a condition as if they had come at a winery sat in the middle of the vineyard. Let’s face it, in Australia grapes are frequently trucked much further, even when they have been machine picked.
I tried some Syrah and Chardonnay that were still fermenting. They’re looking pretty good. I just love this project: it’s such fun, and the people involved are all really cool. Credit to Roberson for initiating and backing such a ground-breaking initiative.
Here’s a film of London Cru and the grapes arriving, with an interview with winemaker Gavin Monery: