The Rise and Rise of the Urban Winemaker
I recently moved to the Big Smoke to take up a job manning PR for a large UK wine company. One of the many positives about living in London is the wine scene. Here the trade can exchange notions, tastes, bottles and opinions almost every night of the week at the various trade tastings and events that take place across the capital. It’s a daunting spectacle.
One of the most noticeable new trends is that of the urban winery. London Cru, established in 2015, uses the city as its inspiration to create wines in the heart of the metropolitan, gloriously wrapped in labels which depict the city across a vine leaf. However, with grapes brought in from across Europe, it’s only the winemaking process which takes place in London.
But how new is this attempt to bring wine into our urban landscape?
There are plenty of great wine-cities across the globe. The most notable, and largest, is Vienna. Winemaking here officially started in 1132 (although there is plenty of evidence for Roman and earlier cultivation) and is intrinsically linked to the actual makeup of the city.
In the Medieval period communities throughout the city would look after their local vineyards, creating districts and local identities. In the 18th Century came the legal recognition of the Heurige. These wine taverns brought the field into the city – serving up wine straight from the urban wineries to the adulating public, and instantly creating a legendary romance between vine and Vienna. The modern industry is booming too, with one wine producer per 2,500 residents and 1,680 acres of easily accessible vineyards.
Austria is far from alone in offering a continual vineyard presence in her cities. In Turin, Italy, there has been urban viticulture since the early 17th Century, recently revived and undergoing a true renaissance. In Paris too there is the famous Clos Monmartre.
This tiny vineyard site was a one time favourite of Medieval Royalty and is believed to have been founded around a Roman Temple to Bacchus. Urban development swallowed up the sites whole in the 1800’s, that was until 1933 when, after a fierce planning and development battle, a group of artists brought vines back to the heart of Paris. The site, and festival which accompanies it every Autumn, has become a tourist favourite.
In more than a slight nod to the Roman practise of bringing the vine into the centre of the metropolis, there is a modern day phenomenon of attempting to actually cultivate vines within the city. Rooftop Reds in the US are putting vineyards on the top of buildings in Brooklyn, NY and making wine from the result. In Venice, Thessaloniki, San Francisco and even Enfield, North London, you’ll find hundreds of horny-handed vintners desperate to bring a slice of the wine-landscape into the urban sprawl.
There can be nothing truly unexpected about our long held desire to bring wine into our cities. Wine is, after all, a great tool for escapism. The romantic ideal of both winery and vineyard all speak to a part which longs to be in the countryside, creating something wonderful – particularly after a glass or two. In the melting pot of ideas and tastes which is the London wine scene, the urban winemaker or vinetender can sit supreme.