Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Urban Wine: no urban myth

I just love this. This is a project that you simply could not make up. For people living in the London area with grape vines growing in their gardens or allotments, a growers' collective now exists that produces an 'Urban Wine' from these grapes.

What’s more, the wine is surprisingly palatable. I have now tasted this delicately hued rosé twice and, admittedly, first time around the acidity was a bit too harsh and green (malic) and I was tempted to transform it into kir with a splash of cassis at the earliest opportunity. A couple of months later, I tried it again and it tasted so much more balanced and enjoyable. I even served it on a warm spring evening as a refreshing and pretty apéritif to friends who had come round for a barbeque. And what a great talking point! We polished off the bottle in no time. It’s fascinating seeing how quickly a young wine can settle down and harmonise as this wine came from the recent 2009 vintage.

The Urban Wine Company was founded in the summer of 2007 by Tooting-based Richard Sharp who was wondering what to do with the glut of grapes growing in his and neighbouring gardens. That year saw the first vintage of Château Tooting made from an assortment of garden grapes. By 2009 almost 100 members contributed to the harvest of 1.5 tonnes, producing about 1000 bottles. Membership continues to grow; some 60 new vines (Solaris and Rondo varieties) were planted this spring and Sharp is hoping for 2.5 tonnes in 2010. The wine is professionally made from this eclectic blend of varieties at Bookers Vineyard in Sussex.

Producer Members pay £85 a year to bring grapes to harvest and receive a share of the wine (currently six bespoke-labelled bottles), with additional bottles available at £7.99. Non-members pay £9.99. The minimum contribution of grapes is 3kg (about a bucket full). There is also the chance of joining as a Developer Member (£65) and receiving a vine to plant in your garden to contribute grapes to the scheme in two to three years’ time, once the vine is sufficiently established. The Urban Wine Company organises a number of events for members and could end up being quite a fun community.

Who knows, in a few years’ time I might be sipping some Tufnell Park Premier Crew (sorry!) while waiting for the coals on the barbie to heat up…

(Image courtesy of Urban Wine Company)