It doesn’t sound too auspicious as a title, does it? Don’t worry, although the AWE AGM, as successful as usual, was of limited interest to Harpers readers, the venue, London Cru, was fascinating. And that’s my real subject.
London Cru, London’s first Urban Winery is the new venture of the unstoppable Cliff Roberson. This concept has been going a while in the US and Canada, but the UK seems to be lagging a few years behind on this. Roberson is setting a great example for future ventures, and I hope we see more of them. Cited in Seagrave Road, SW6, the winery occupies the site previously used by Roberson for his warehouse. The concept is not to farm a vineyard in Fulham; I can only see problems with the idea of planting vines in neighbouring Brompton Cemetery. No, London Cru ship handpicked grapes (to avoid damage to bunches) from the Continent in refrigerated trucks, to be vinified in SW6. Adam Green: Business Development Director, proudly guided us round the tiny winery, with technical questions fielded by their energetic Australian winemaker, Gavin Monery.
Here is how it worked this year: four different grapes were shipped from three producers in France and Italy. Two in Roussillon: Château de Corneilla supplied Chardonnay and Syrah, Mas Coutelou contributed organically farmed Cabernet Sauvignon. Then Piedmont: G. Codero, near Alba, brought organic Barbera; substituting a Loire Sauvignon and Merlot from Bordeaux, cancelled due to problems with the levels of rot (remember, of course, that this was the ‘difficult’ 2013 vintage). Despite the longer travel, they still managed to get the Barbera from the vine to SW6 in 48 hours. In the future, they hope to add more regions, or revert to French only supply.
Gavin describes himself as pragmatic, from my experience a very antipodean trait and one we had already seen with the supply decisions, and was also very open about treatments, additions, subtractions, etc. to the wines (something you don’t always experience on the other side of the Channel). Space precludes a full report here, but in any case the complete, and again very honest winemaking description is available at London Cru’s smart website: www.londoncru.co.uk. A brief summary is that London Cru intend their wines to be drunk young, so they do not work them too much, aiming for fruity, juicy wines for early drinking. They use oak, but sparingly, and never exclusively new.
We enjoyed a barrel sample tasting. The Chardonnay was still quite oak sappy, but had lovely fresh citrus tang (no need to re-acidify this year), the Syrah tight, with playful acidity, and a hint of aniseed greenness, the Cabernet Sauvignon more substantial, black fruited and oaky, and the Barbera a bit of a beast; rustic and chewy, with typical sour red cherry flavours, and grainy tannins. Promising wines, soon to be bottled and sold.
Some of us might have suspected that this was a bit of a PR exercise on Cliff Roberson’s part to see his name in print again. In that respect, it has succeeded already. As well, however, London Cru have a slick team working to get some return on what must have been a pretty substantial investment: Adam Green, clearly keen to start selling the wines; Gavin Monery, hugely professional, honest, and clearly striving for, and achieving, quality, and Jana Scholtzova, Head of Events. On this subject, the winery is already open to the public, with events for up to 200 and visits for up to 20 people available – educators take note! I will certainly be taking a group to visit London’s first commercial winery, and I am sure other members of the Association of Wine Educators will too. Rock on, Cliff!