King of Grapes?

King of Grapes?

As the 1980s drew to a close big, oaky Chardonnay gave way to lean, grassy Sauvignon Blanc and more recently the popularity of Prosecco prompted the biggest revolution in sparkling wine we’ve ever seen. Many grapes and styles of wine flit in and out of fashion from year to year but Cabernet Sauvignon is one grape that shows no sign of falling out of favour. This accidental 17th century lovechild of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc produces durable, deep purple grapes that make superb age-worthy wine. It is responsible for producing some of the world’s greatest (and most expensive!) wines. But what’s all the fuss about? 

Old World Cabernet Sauvignon

Old World wines are from the European regions where winemaking originated thousands of years ago. Although Cabernet grapes are now grown all over Europe the most famous are from vines grown on the banks of the River Gironde in Bordeaux, south west France. Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Old World is generally blended with another varietal; in Bordeaux its famous bedfellow is Merlot, but Italians have developed a wonderful blend using Sangiovese and winemakers all over Eastern Europe combine it with local varietals. Traditional Old World Cabernet has a concentrated core of blackcurrant fruit alongside layers of toasted oak.

New World Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon’s success in Europe prompted wider plantings all over the newer winemaking regions. Its vines can now be found in Australasia, South Africa, the US, South America and even China. In the New World, Cabernet Sauvignon wines are more likely to be single varietal highlighting the grape’s own flavours. In these sunnier climes Cabernet is able to ripen fully, allowing its softer, fruitier side to emerge. Standout regions include Coonawarra in Australia for intense cassis flavoured wines and Napa Valley in California for dark cherry, structured examples.

Longevity

Wine is a living, breathing product that is constantly changing. However, not all wines get better with age. If a wine is to improve as time goes on it needs high acidity and powerful tannins – both of which are hallmarks of a well made Cabernet Sauvignon. With time, Cabernet Sauvignon begins to take on deep, spicy plum flavours and succulent tannins, making it a fantastic wine for ageing if kept in the right conditions. We are starting to see London Cru’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon soften and develop - it acts as a great comparison to the younger 2014 Cabernet as they both hail from the same vineyard in Languedoc, France. When critic Victoria Moore re-tasted our 2013 Cabernet earlier this year she said that it had "improved immeasurably", saying "it has become more elegant with a bit of time in the bottle and has beautiful cassis and cedar notes, and smells of pencil shavings."

Food

Cabernet Sauvignon is a food wine through and through. From deep, rich stews to punchy, tangy aged cheese, the big, bold flavours in Cabernet can stand up to hearty meals. The best food and wine pairings improve the flavours in both the food and the wine. As a harder and sharper cheese, cheddar can handle the tannins in Cabernet Sauvignon and the fruitiness of the wine perfectly complements the cheese’s flavour. Stews and pie fillings with melt in the mouth cuts of fatty beef work well too – the high tannins act as a palette cleanser and the bold flavours in both the wine and the food stand up to each other. Personally, we love drinking the London Cru Cabernet with a big juicy burger with plenty of oozing cheese and salty bacon. Delicious!

The 2015's Go On Their Way

The 2015's Go On Their Way

It's an emotional time when you finally finish bottling a vintage. A whole year of hard work, into bottle and shipped off. Being one of the less romantic wine-making processes it's often overlooked; there are days on end of clinking glass, feeding bottles onto the line and watching them rotate under the filler bowl. The hypnotic rhythm of the corking machine and the constant battle to ensure labels are perfectly applied. There are lots of moving parts and plenty to go wrong, but as the culmination of a year’s work it's also incredibly satisfying. - knowing that every bottle that rolls off the line contains a conversation or two, some laughter, perhaps dinner party or even a birthday. It's a time capsule of a single vineyard in a specific year, and every bottle tells a story.

For the winemaker of course it's the end of the grapes' journey, but really it's just the beginning. Our bottles are bottled onsite via a mobile bottling plant. It's an advanced (and expensive) machine that offers advantages that smaller bottling lines just can't compete with. The bottles start their journey by being sterilised then rinsed, before a vacuum is applied and the air removed. Nitrogen is introduced to create an inert atmosphere inside the bottle before it starts on the carousel, triggering a valve that lets the wine flow in under gravity alone. Once filled they move along to the corking machine, which creates a small vacuum before inserting the cork.

After this it's through to the labelling line before being boxed up, stacked onto pallets and stored in a temperature controlled warehouse - until it's time to pull the cork of course.

Better than Burgundy?

Better than Burgundy?

Recently, a prominent wine writer and Master of Wine proclaimed that our 2015 Chardonnay, Charlotte St, is better than most Chardonnay made in Burgundy. What an accolade! Richard Hemming MW has long been a friend of London Cru and has tasted each vintage since the inaugural release in 2013. This year, he popped round especially to taste the first releases from 2015…and has declared this year's vintage as a ‘breakthrough’.

A breakthrough

Writing up his visit on his blog, Hemming said:

“The quality of this wine is not just the best they’ve produced but – and this is the really important point – significantly better than most of the Chardonnay made in situ. In fact, it’s a whole lot better than Chardonnay made from a whole host of places, and it even has the intrinsic quality and complexity to challenge famous names from Burgundy”

Our winemaker, Gavin Monery, said:

"It's wonderful to hear that someone loves our wines, all the more so when they taste as widely as Richard does. When I first saw this vineyard I knew we could make something special, so to hear the wine described as 'a must try for lovers of sophisticated Chardonnay' is just fantastic. We'll continue working closely with our growers across Europe so we can keep making world class wine right here in London."

Hemming also praised London Cru's new Albariño, Albemarle St.

The wine

Charlotte St is made in London with grapes from prime south facing vineyards on limestone soil in Limoux, south of France. The wine, which is made with minimum intervention, spent an additional eight months maturing in 100% oak barrels before being bottled in May this year.

Charlotte St 2015 will be available from November. The 2014 Chardonnay is also drinking fantastically now and is available to buy for immediate delivery.

Summer Whites - Albariño

Summer Whites - Albariño

The lush coastal town of Galicia in north west Spain is home to this increasingly popular grape. But what is Albariño? And why is it the summer white del día?

The region

Some grapes have an overwhelming connection to their place (some in the wine industry call this terroir), and Albariño is one of those grapes.

90% of vineyards in Rías Baixas (the area around Galicia) grow the Albariño grape, and you can see why. The conditions are absolutely perfect for this variety, and the resulting wines are crisp and refreshing. Grown in the surprisingly green and cool Rías Baixas right on the Atlantic, you can almost taste the salty sea air in the finished wines. With rocky, granite soil, and misty green hillsides, the wines are also intensely stony and mineral.

London Cru’s Albariño, Albemarle St, is from a coastal vineyard near beautiful traditional Galician town Pontevedra, in the heart of Rías Baixas.

The wine

Albariño is aromatic, with concentrated stone fruit and citrus flavours alongside grassy, mineral overtones. With moderate alcohol and high acidity, it is the perfect summer white.

Some winemakers choose to ferment and age in stainless steel, giving the freshest, leanest style of Albariño. However, it is also common to give Albariño some time ageing in an oak barrel to add texture, or leaving it to develop on its lees (leftover yeast cells from fermentation). Both of these techniques offset the high acidity, providing mouth feel and a subtle creamy character.

The food

Galicia is home to a large proportion of Spain’s fishing fleet, so it is no surprise that their star white wine pairs wonderfully with fresh shellfish and grilled fish.

The wine’s high acidity will help to cut through butter or cream sauces, and blends perfectly with sharp, citrus flavours.

Best enjoyed with a plate of Dover Sole with brown butter, or a 'plateau de fruits de mer’. Both with plenty of lemon and black pepper.

Piedmont Pairings

Piedmont Pairings

Rosé is developing a serious reputation for being a multi-talented food wine. From light and refreshing Provençal styles to bolder, darker Spanish wines, rosé is asserting itself as a real contender on many a restaurant wine list. London Cru’s Rosaville Rd lies somewhere in the middle of these styles. It it a beautiful copper colour, with aromas of grapefruit, strawberry and lychee and wonderful textural quality from time ageing on the lees (the leftover yeast from fermentation). The grapes hail from Piedmont in northern Italy, grown by Giovanni Codero who runs a family business growing grapes and breeding cattle to make homemade salami. The family kindly kept their best two Barbera sites aside for us and allowed us to make vineyard adjustments so that we could focus on getting the best flavours from the grapes.

Here, members of London Cru and Roberson Wine give their favourite Italian food pairing for Rosaville Rd.

Vitello Tonnato – Shana, On-Trade at Roberson Wine

Vitello Tonnato is a wonderful summer dish from Piedmont. Cold or roasted veal is served with a tuna, anchovy and caper mayonnaise, perhaps alongside some tiny new potatoes and a lemony salad. It’s a firm favourite in the north of Italy, and absolutely perfect in warm weather. Pair with Rosaville Rd to beautifully cut through the rich mayonnaise and enhance the delicate flavours of the veal.

Agnolotti alla Piemontese - Emma, London Cru

These exquisite pasta parcels are similar in shape to ravioli. Every family’s recipe is different, passed down through generations. Generally, an egg-rich dough is stuffed with a mixture of beef, pork and rabbit and served with ‘salvia e parmigiano’ (sage butter and parmesan). Decadent and delicious, this rich pasta dish is the perfect foil to the refreshing acidity of Rosaville Rd rosé.

Risotto Milanese- Talya, Director at Roberson Wine

I find food and wine pairings often focus on meat or fish, and being a vegetarian this presents me with a conundrum. Risotto Milanese is a wonderful, unctuous saffron risotto, usually sprinkled with a traditional garnish of lemon zest, garlic and parsley (‘Gremolata’). It pairs magically with the complex, delicate flavours in Rosaville Rd with the wine’s crisp, dry finish cutting through the rich butter textures of the Milanese. Bellissimo!

Burrata – Gavin, Winemaker at London Cru

Without a doubt, this soft, opulent cheese would be spot on with Rosaville Rd’s textural complexity. Like mozarella’s better, bigger brother, Burrata has an outer shell of morzarella and a filling of cream, giving it a fantastic richness. Add a few leaves of rocket to inject a hit of peppery spice, and you have a food and wine pairing made in heaven.

International Chardonnay Day

International Chardonnay Day

Chardonnay seems to be a bit like Marmite: you either love it or you hate it.

However, despite this varied reputation it’s coming back into fashion with premium winemakers all over the world making top quality, luxurious wines. And what’s not to like? It’s versatile and resistant, allowing terroir to shine through and winemakers to make their mark.

London Cru winemaker Gavin is no newbie to Chardonnay, having made it in his native Margaret River and in Burgundy.

Our 2014 Chardonnay is ripe with peachy notes and a subtle toastiness. Lees contact (which is the proximity of the wine with the dead yeast cells that collect at the bottom of the barrel post-fermentation) adds weight and complexity. Gavin believes acidity to be the backbone of any wine and the 2014 has plenty of it, which balances nicely with the gentle oak flavours. The critics have agreed, with both Jamie Goode and Richard Hemming rating it highly.

The 2015 Chardonnay is all downstairs in the winery, as yet unlabelled. From the sneak preview tastings we’ve had so far, it’s set to be a fantastic wine, so look out for its release in the coming months. This year, we’ve sourced grapes from Limoux – an area with a growing reputation for quality Chardonnay in South West France.

Enough about London Cru. What you really want for International Chardonnay Day is cold hard facts about this ‘Marmite’ grape, and maybe a glass or two of the stuff itself...

  1. Chardonnay is a key grape in many sparkling wines, most famously Champagne
  2. People used to think Chardonnay was related to Pinot Noir and until about 1950 it  was often labelled ‘Pinot Chardonnay’
  3. Lots of people think oak when they think of Chardonnay, but Chardonnay can be unoaked (for example, Chablis). If a Chardonnay is aged properly in an oak barrel, the wine because textured, rich and creamy with buttery flavours. If it’s not the result is a crisp, mineral wine with green apple flavours
  4. Chardonnay loves chalky, limestone soil which helps give the final wine freshness and minerality
  5. Although Chardonnay is gaining popularity again in the UK, the US are way ahead of us with Chardonnay coming in as the top selling white varietal in the States

If that has got you in the mood, pour yourself a glass to enjoy now and visit the London Cru website to order our 2014 Chardonnay.

A Tasting at The Hide

A Tasting at The Hide

Last night we made our way over to bustling Bermondsey St to give two hour-long tastings to an excited group of bloggers, sommeliers and The Hide customers to celebrate London Wine Week 2016. The Hide proved the perfect setting for an intimate introduction to London Cru, with funky decor, a buzzing atmosphere and tasty small plates to satiate post-tasting hunger pangs. Being right next to the wine industry’s education HQ (The Wine and Spirit Education Trust), we felt completely at home.

Gavin Monery, winemaker, led an in-depth introduction to London Cru wines, supported by Lindsey and Emma from London Cru and Zainab, from sister company Roberson Wine. Zainab’s on-trade experience as a sommelier certainly came in handy when pouring the wines around!

Gavin talked the group through the various processes of winemaking, from hand-harvesting the grapes in Europe and the grape reception in London, to pressing, fermenting and ageing. This was all followed by a tutored tasting of the full 2014 range, with a sneaky peak of the yet-to-be-labelled 2015 Albariño.

Many thanks to Paolo from The Hide for being such a wonderful host, despite nervously waiting for his overdue first baby to arrive. Also a big thanks must go to the The Hide’s bar team and to marketing manager Fiona for helping to organise the event.

The Hide have ripped up their usual wine list and are only serving London Cru wines this week – by the glass and the bottle - so if you couldn’t make yesterday’s tasting, pop down any time this week to give London Cru a try.

London Wine Week at The Hide

London Wine Week at The Hide

Bermondsey St's The Hide are tearing up their usual wine list for one week only and keeping it local, serving only London Cru wines at the bar. It's a great chance to try a range of London Cru wines by the glass, and choose a new favourite. The Hide Bar will be serving up the following London Cru wines:

  • 2014 Bacchus "The bacchus 2014 might just be the best I've tasted." Victoria Moore
  • 2014 Barbera "Extraordinary fragrance and expression – full of astonishing and bright floral character." Richard Hemming
  • 2014 Chardonnay "Lovely complex nose of toast, spice and citrus, with some creaminess in the mouth, as well as nuts and toast." Jamie Goode
  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon "Lovely pure sweet blackcurrant fruit nose with some blackcurrant leaf. So classic and expressive." Jamie Goode
  • 2013 Syrah "Perfumed, violet, great clarity, really dry and delicate, with just enough tannin. Juicy and fragrant and really subtly done." JancisRobinson.com

So head down to this funky, warehouse venue from the 24 - 28 May and taste wines the critics are raving about.

Free tasting!

During this week, for one night only, talented London Cru winemaker Gavin Monery will be hosting a free tasting of London Cru's 2013 and 2014 vintages at The Hide.

It's a unique opportunity to learn more about one of Europe's most innovative wineries and get an exclusive introduction to the different wines made in the heart of London, by the winemaker himself.

Day: Tuesday 24 May Time: 8-9pm Location: The Hide, 39-45 Bermondsey St, London, SE1 3XF

Spaces for the tasting are limited. RSVP to mail@londoncru.co.uk

After the Storm

After the Storm

After the madness of the 2015 harvest the month of December in the winery is relatively relaxed. All the wines (except Albariño) are in barrel, and for the most part they'll happily stay there until the new year. This month I'll spend a lot of time in our onsite laboratory, analysing the wines regularly to make sure they're on track.

All our red wines, as well as our Chardonnay are going through malolactic fermentation, when specific bacteria convert the tart malic acid to softer tasting Lactic acid. The vast majority of red wines around the world will undergo this process, as well as a good proportion of full bodied whites. The bacteria that make this conversion are happiest at 20˚C, however so are the bacteria that turn wine into vinegar, so it's a risky few months.

Of course the lab analyses can give us numbers and tell us what's going on inside the wine, but it can't tell us the most important thing - how does it taste..? For that we have to get stuck in ourselves and have a glass. Or two..

Another big part of the holiday season for us is showing off the winery through our tours, tastings and events. We try and do things differently at London Cru, so visitors are taken directly into the production area of the winery, rather than being received in a typical cellar door.

We’re a small, boutique, but very much working winery and we like to show people the equipment and explain the processes while they taste. Our equipment is simple, low tech and labour intensive, however we feel it’s the best available to bring out the true characters of each wine. During tours we can teach as much or as little as you might want to know about wine, but we steer clear of wine snobbery; our philosophy is if a glass is half full then there’s room for more..

Three Down, Three to Go

Three Down, Three to Go

Apologies for the radio silence, as you can imagine, things have been a little bit hectic here at London Cru in recent weeks. The following will give an insight into what you’ve missed.  

Chardonnay

Chardonnay grapes from our man, Maurice, in Limoux, arrived at the beginning of the month. Good picking conditions greeted us in the foothills of the Pyrenees and the grapes themselves were at a perfect level of sugar ripeness and acidity.

When the grapes arrived in London they were whole bunch pressed with minimal sorting (having received a primary triage in the vineyard before transit). Clear juice from this year’s Chardonnay, a new site and region for us, meant that once again we had no need or desire to add enzymes for clarification. Instead, we allowed the juice to settle in tank for around 24 hours before transferring to barrel to begin fermentation and élevage.

Gavin has made Chardonnay in both his native Margaret River and under his own label in Burgundy, so knows more than a thing or two about how to bring out the best of this grape. Our first two Chardonnays have shown unmistakable varietal character, textural complexity and fresh acidity. With a fantastic new vineyard to work with, we aim to deliver another wine in a similar vain. To achieve this we must carefully select the yeast strains we use as they have a significant impact on the resulting wine.

We have used three cultivated yeasts, isolated in Burgundy, and have left three barrels to naturally ferment. By using different varieties, we are able to augment and promote particular characteristics. For example, one of our yeasts has the ability, due to its enzymatic profile, to promote the appearance of varietal aroma precursors, producing a wine with an elegant nose. Another aids textural complexity by producing more polysaccharides. These build suppleness and volume, promoting a ‘rounded’ mouthfeel. The natural yeasts bring added complexity to the party.

At the time of writing, all but a handful of our Chardonnay barrels have completed their primary fermentation.

Barbera

A particularly warm and dry summer in North-west Italy meant that our pick date for this year’s Barbera was atypical. The grapes for both the 2013 and 2014 wines were harvested well into October, whereas this year we’d barely gotten beyond the half way stage of September before the call came through from the Codero family to say the fruit was ready.

Early indications suggest that the 2015 Barbera is going to be special. All 7.8 tonnes of fruit, our biggest single pick to date, was pristine on arrival, allowing us to sort through in record time. Appearance aside, the grapes have incredible acidity and sugar, as well as delicious flavour.

Once sorted and destemmed the grapes were loaded into two steel tanks and one of our new concrete fermenters. After a few hours skin contact we drew around 700 litres of juice from the bottom of the tank, a method of rosé production known as Saignée. This was then sent off to a separate tank where it will ferment and age, eventually giving us a delicate rosé in a Provençal style.

The grapes had a few days to cold soak before fermentation, a useful process for the extraction of aromatic precursors, after which all three tanks were then inoculated to allow the ferment to begin. Fermentation management is split between a regime of pump-overs and punch downs. The colour of the young Barbera wine is a stunning, intense purple; needless to say, we’re all now proud owners of perpetually stained hands.

At the time of writing, the ferment temperatures have risen to around 30°C and we’re now under a week from their completion at which stage we will press and send off to the wine to steel, concrete and oak for ageing.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Last Tuesday Gavin and I headed down to Puimisson, Langudeoc to pick our third grape variety of the harvest; Cabernet Sauvignon. In contrast to the unusually early pick date for the Barbera, we found ourselves picking the Cab two weeks late (according to the 2013 and 2014 harvest).

Things have a strange way of working out though, as what appeared like a setback early on has worked out ideally in terms of the ripeness of the grapes and how they fit into our schedule.

I’ll admit, I only lasted around 3 hours in the vineyard, all the time being put to shame by the speed and efficiency of the team of Moroccan pickers who made light work of a big task. After this, I moved on to helping Jeff and Michel load the tractor, before helping Gavin to load the truck.

One of the merits of organic management is that wildlife is able to flourish, including some audacious individuals trying to hitch a ride back to the UK (see below). On top of spiders, mites and the occasional mantis, the most successful passengers were hordes of organic escargot. If we’d had a larger team we might have collected them and seen if any of our neighbouring French bistros could've taken them off our hands.

Back in London and back in the winery a few days later, with a team half the size of the previous weekend, we set about processing the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Given the ripeness of this year’s fruit, there was no need to use the crusher to liberate juice from the berries. A consequence of tightly-bound bunches is that our destemmer wasn’t operating as efficiently as it did for the less compacted Barbera bunches. The answer; load whole bunches straight into the destemmer and then onto the sorting table afterwards - effectively hand sorting berry by berry. This method allowed stem fragments, any poor quality berries, snails etc to be removed.

Exactly the same programme of fermentation vessels was used for the Cabernet (2 steel, 1 concrete) but without a cold soak. Punch downs and pump-overs are both being carried out and at the time of writing, the ferment temperatures are slowly rising and the rate of CO2 production is increasing.

Later this week, Albariño will be arriving from Galicia ahead of the arrival of our next red, Grenache from Calatayud, next week.

Pinot & Our Spanish Affair

Pinot & Our Spanish Affair

July was a month of good news for London Cru. We successfully completed the bottling of our 2014 wines following our trip to France. Further positivity arrived in the form of news from our network of growers in Spain and Italy. As it stands, all of our 2015 fruit is healthy and exactly where we want it in terms of yield and expected pick date. In keeping with our desire to push the boundaries and experiment with new varieties, we embarked upon two further trips to find a late ripening white variety and an early ripening red. We approached this with an open mind, considering all manner of regions and varieties. We were initially keen to source some Grüner Veltliner from Austria, but following a few challenging harvests in consecutive years, this proved a fruitless (excuse the pun) endeavour.

Our spirits weren't dampened by this and we set about exploring the possibility of securing another late ripening white grape; Albariño. With a little help from contacts in Galicia, we were able to get around a table with Zarate, a biodynamic and organic producer in the area. After talking about our project, over an incredible seafood lunch with barrel-aged Albariño, they put us in contact with a local grower who showed us around their vineyard (above). Perfect aspect, a soil bed of decomposed granite and wonderfully expressive and aromatic grapes; it didn't take us long to shake hands on a price. Safe to say, we boarded the plane at Santiago de Compostela later that day excited at the prospect of working with a new variety that's stock is constantly rising among wine lovers.

Sadly, we didn't have the same luck on 'Project Pinot'. We took an exploratory trip to Slovenia to try and source this enigmatic grape, in Gavin's eyes; the holy grail. The region of Podravje certainly has potential, but unfortunately this time around, we weren't able to find any vineyards that were suitable for us. Yield, aspect and soil type were the deciding factors in putting our search for the elusive red variety on the back burner. For now....

A Flying Visit

A Flying Visit

At the beginning of what proved to be an absolutely scorching week in the UK, Gavin and I headed down to the South West corner of France on a mission; drink as much wine talk to our network of growers and confirm grapes for the 2015 vintage.

After touching down in Toulouse (an hour later than scheduled owing to a very busy Gatwick airport) we picked up the hire car and headed straight to the small town of Puimisson, Languedoc to visit Jeff Coutelou. Jeff is an exceptionally talented viticulturist and vigneron, choosing to follow the practices of biodynamic and organic vineyard management alongside natural vinification.

Besides a few processes such as tilling the soil, every vineyard process is carried out by hand. This fastidious approach ensures that the soil does not become compacted, as you might find in a commercial, chemically treated vineyard, but also any issues that may arise are quickly identified and mitigated.

The purpose of our visit to this small village, just outside of Béziers, was to assess the Cabernet Sauvignon plots that Jeff has once again agreed to let us work with. The grapes have overcome challenging conditions during flowering, with high winds causing some isolated patches of coulure (when the grape bunches develop unevenly during fruit set). The fruit looks wonderfully healthy and we’re expecting low yields with deep concentration of flavour. Skilled management of vine vigour ensures the grapes enjoy a balance of shade and airflow through the canopy.

This was also a chance for us to see other plots of Jeff’s vineyards as well as the winery itself. On the fringes of his bush vine Grenache vineyards, a group of fig trees illustrates the contrasting effects of organic management versus the use of chemical sprays. The side of the tree facing Jeff’s Grenache bore plump, ripe and luscious figs (albeit a little warm after sitting in the 40oC afternoon sun) whereas the tree facing his neighbour’s chemically treated vineyard had been stripped off all fruit and flowers.

Nice spot for a swim
Nice spot for a swim

After a chilled glass (a revelation by all accounts) of our 2013 Cabernet, an evening swim in the River L’Orb and dinner we made tracks for our overnight stop in Carcassonne, feeling satisfied with the day’s outcome.

Our focus for day two was Chardonnay. Research and intuition indicates that Limoux is a growing haven for the grape responsible for our most popular wine. High altitudes, moderating air currents and free-draining soil all work together to aid the development of Chardonnay with classic varietal character and fresh acidity. We were fortunate enough to have a contact in the area; James Kinglake owner of the highly successful Domaine Begude, who not only showed us round his estate and cellars but also set up a meeting with a local grower; Maurice.

We met Maurice on his farm-come-workshop and briefly outlined our project before being taken to the potential sites. In similar fashion to Jeff’s vineyards, the first thing that struck us was the healthy appearance of the fruit bunches and immaculate condition of the vines owing to Biodynamic and Organic (certified) management. After a couple of hours walking through the vineyards and assessing each potential parcel, we shook hands on a deal and retreated to the shade.

We're very fortunate to be able to work with such dedicated and passionate people and believe our line-up this year, from the Southwest corner of France, is our strongest to date.

Next stop Slovenia and Galicia, watch this space.....

Among the vines in Limoux
Among the vines in Limoux

Bottling and Blending

Bottling and Blending

The time between the beginning of March and the end of April appears to have elapsed at an unprecedentedly rapid rate this year. That is, however, an observation from the perspective of someone who has been in the belly of the beast at London Cru for the past 6 weeks.

Since the last blog post, we have been incredibly busy in both the winery and the boardroom (Roberson wine’s kitchen). Let’s begin with the former….

Our first English wine, Bacchus, is now safely stored under 1900 screw caps following bottling a fortnight ago. In 2013 we externally outsourced this crucial final stage of the journey from vineyard to glass, to a winery with its own bottling line. Whilst this was a hiccup-free endeavour, this year we felt that everything with a London Cru label should arrive at the winery as grapes and leave as finished, bottled wine.

1900 bottles almost ready to go...
1900 bottles almost ready to go...

We set about exploring all avenues to make this a reality and were, in truth, days from begrudgingly investing in our own, in-house facility. That was until our friends at Bevtech came to the rescue with their mobile bottling line. With their state-of-the-art equipment and technical expertise, we were able to get everything bottled in a matter of a few hours.

In the preceding weeks the homogenised Bacchus blend (40% barrel, 60% tank) was cold stabilised, allowing the majority of the suspended tartrate crystals to precipitate out. It was imperative to monitor both the temperature and taste of the wine at this stage as one of the risks of this purely aesthetic alteration, is that it can have a detrimental impact on the structural components of the wine. Overly aggressive cold stabilisation can cause levels of tartrate precipitation that alter the pH and overall levels of acidity, changing the palate’s perception of the wine. We believe that through our careful management, we have a Goldilocks outcome: A Bacchus that shouldn't throw any crystals whilst in your fridge, that also tastes exactly how intended it to.

Cold stabilisation encourages tartrate crystals to precipitate out of the wine
Cold stabilisation encourages tartrate crystals to precipitate out of the wine

Aside from the winery, some big decisions have been made upstairs, the most significant of which is deciding on our new label. We agonised over several, well-thought out and interesting concepts before making a final decision. Now that the new label design has been decided on and sent to print, we can count down the days until the Bacchus is labelled and released (expected late May).

This will also coincide with the bottling and labeling of our 2014 Chardonnay, which itself was racked to tank to clarify last week. The rest of the bottling schedule is yet TBC but is likely to resume with the lighter reds at the end of July and finish with the Cabernet or Syrah just before we begin the 2014 harvest.

If you've still not paid us a visit, there are plenty of opportunities to do so over the next few months, head to our events page for details and remember to follow us across all social media platforms for regular updates from the winery and beyond.

Winery latest

Winery latest

Spring always seems to breathe positivity after the long winter months. The weather gets warmer, the day’s get longer and the barbecue edges closer to making its first appearance of the year. Meanwhile, here at London Cru, all of last year’s hard work from vineyard to winery begins to fall into place. All six of our 2014 wines (Chardonnay, Bacchus, Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon & Barbera) are developing nicely, with some key milestones passed in the last fortnight.

All, bar a couple, of our Cabernet barrels have now fully completed Malolactic fermentation. For those that haven’t attended one of our ‘Meet the Cru’ tours, or are otherwise not in the know, this is the process through which the acidic composition of the wine changes. Malolactic fermentation (MLF) sees the tart malic acid (think of that first bite into a Granny Smith apple) convert into the softer, more rounded lactic acid (think milk and yoghurt) through the action of the bacterium, oenococcus oeni.

This is a process that all of our red wines go through, as the combination of malic acid and tannins would otherwise leave the wine astringent and not particularly palatable. If this process isn’t completed during winemaking then it could start spontaneously in bottle, causing a haze, some fizziness and off aromas. White wine; by contrast, doesn’t always have to undergo this transformation. For the 2013 Chardonnay, Gavin chose to complete full Malo’, leading to its subtly textured character.

However, for the 2014 Chardonnay he’s chosen to go half Malo’ in order to deliver a fresher style. Aromatic white varietals, such as our Bacchus, seldom complete MLF.

Testing VA in the lab
Testing VA in the lab

After each barrel completed malolactic fermentation we added a small amount of Sulphur Dioxide. This preserves and protects the wine against three threats: Oxygen, bacteria and spoilage yeasts like Brettanomyces. Minimising oxidation allows the wine’s fruit character to be conserved. The anti-fungal/antibacterial properties of SO2 have another benefit in slowing Brettanomyces or Acetobacter from flourishing, thus preventing the build-up of undesirable aromas or acetic acid (Vinegar): a volatile acid.

Another test carried out in the past few weeks was to check the Volatile acidity (VA) of each of the wines. The results from the spectrometer thankfully made for satisfying reading.

The most significant steps made recently were with the Bacchus, our first wine from English grapes. We have established the final blend; heat stabilised and racked the wine off its lees. Over the weeks leading up to bottling in early April, cold stabilisation will take place and allow the removal of any residual tartrate crystals.

Having ‘benchmarked’ our Bacchus against other British producers we are happy that our blend will hold its own alongside its peers.

Expect our Bacchus to exhibit delicate varietal and quintessentially English characteristics with a touch of textural complexity as a result of partial oak aging.

Hopefully by the middle of May, London Cru’s first Bacchus will be ready for drinking, just in time for summer!

We can hardly contain our excitement with how our 2014 wines are shaping up. After tasting samples from the barrel last week, we believe that a step forward has been taken since our impressive inaugural vintage and that we have some truly special wines on the way for you.

Don’t take our word for it, come and try for yourself at the winery.

Hitting the Road

Hitting the Road

Spring is here and soon we’ll be bottling our 2013’s, so we thought it was time to get out there and let the public get their hands on London’s first wines. We’ve decided our first trip outside the safe confines of London Cru HQ will be to Wine Car Boot in Kings Cross on Sunday 8th June in what we are now calling internally ‘Operation Wine Forklift’. We’ll be joining some of London’s top wine merchants to celebrate the end of London Wine Week and to try and convince customers that trading up from fake discounts and three for a tenner offers will change your drinking experience in a massive way. And if you like what you try we’ll be taking advance orders on the day (the wines will be bottled in the next few months and we’ll then let them rest for a couple of months, so deliveries are likely to start in September).

Tickets for Wine Car Boot include your first five samples and a tasting glass, so what are you waiting for – get your ticket and prepare to fill your (car) boots.

Be a Winemaker for a Day

Be a Winemaker for a Day

One of our main goals here at London Cru is to make wine approachable to everybody. You can, of course, come down and take one of our Saturday afternoon tours. On the tour, we give you a behind the scenes look at what we do around here as well as some of the cracking wines we made this year. However, if you’ve ever harboured dreams of getting into the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to be a part of the actual winemaking process, you might want to look into our Winemaker for a Day sessions.

We recently had our first WMFAD session and it was not only sold out but a lot of fun! Guests were first given a rundown of the fundamentals of wine tastings, the components of wine, a tiny bit of wine science and the art of wine blending before being let loose to create their very own wine blend.

Two members of London Cru were on hand to help out with any questions or to give advice on how to achieve just the right blend. Once the blends were done, guests were led on a tutored tasting of London Cru’s wine (which were still in barrel at the time) before being presented with their very own blended wine to take home.

You can really work up an appetite doing all that blending so we include a two course lunch break with wine at The Atlas pub halfway through the day to keep you going.

Our First Tours

Our First Tours

We’ve been open to the public for little over a month now and it’s been quite exciting here at the winery. We kicked off with our bi-monthly Saturday winery tours on November 9th and it proved to be a popular event. Gavin, our winemaker, happily took our guests around the winery, explaining the wine processes and all the equipment in a fun and informative way.

After a brief talk about the winery’s goings-on, we got down to the fun part where Gavin pulled out his pipette (not what you’re thinking, it’s a long thin glass pipe to withdraw wine from the barrels) and guests were able to sample the wine direct from the barrel. If you’ve never done it before, I can tell you, it’s a unique experience  to taste young wine. We weren’t able to sample all the wines from the barrel as we have to be careful we don’t open the barrels too often but there were other samples from the stainless steel tanks to try.

Adam Talks About the Winery
Adam Talks About the Winery

As well as the kick-off of our Saturday tours, we also inaugurated our first Winemaker For a Day class on November 25th. The class was full and great fun. Participants learned about the components of wine as well as the basics of blending before getting stuck in with their own single variety wines to blend them into a classic Bordeaux blend. At the end of the day, we took everyone’s recipe, blended them up in our lab, returned them to their rightful owners and sent everyone happily home to enjoy the fruits of that day’s labours.

We will be continuing with our tours in 2014 as well as the Winemaker For A Day classes and other such themed events. For more information, pop over to the events page or give us a call, 0207 381 7873.

Where We Are Now

Where We Are Now

Last Monday, our last load of grapes, Barbera from Piemonte, arrived at the winery and we got to work. The Barbera was a last minute replacement for the unfortunate loss of Sauvingon Blanc and Merlot we were supposed to be getting from Bordeaux.

Despite that, the Italian grapes were more than up to the task, coming in looking beautiful and sailing through the sorting table in the winery. After triage, the grapes were quickly put into the stainless steel tanks and within a day or so we had added our yeast and let them start fermenting. The Barbera is still fermenting as we, er, type, but we expect it to be done soon and going into barrel. Gavin has also filled 2 integral barrels with the Barbera grapes to see how they ferment in the oak.

We had some juice left from the 4.6 tonnes of grapes so Gavin decided to make a rosé! Exciting stuff! The rosé is already in tank and  we’re hoping it will be ready in time for our launch party. As there was so little of it we’ll probably save it for in-house events, so if you get a space on one of our first public tours in November you might be lucky enough to try it!

Gavin at Work in the Winery
Gavin at Work in the Winery

We’re really busy right now getting ready for our grand opening in a few weeks. We’ll be giving tours of the winery everySaturday, starting on Nov 9th. Tours will cost £15 including a tasting of some of our wines, and afterwards you can have a drink and something to eat from our pop up bar.

If you want a bit more in-depth experience in the winery, we’ll also be offering “Winemaker for a Day” sessions, where you will learn what’s in a winery, how wine is made, and even blend your own bottle to take home.

We'll also be holding regular Supper Clubs on the second Monday of each month, starting with Nathan Green, head chef at Michelin star restaurant “Restaurant Story”, on the 11th of November. Be warned, we think that one’s going to sell out very quickly, but if you don’t get tickets, December will bring another exciting chef to London Cru.

Be sure to join our mailing list if you haven’t already. This way you’ll be the first to hear about events at London Cru and when tickets go on sale. We’ll also be offering some free tours once we open to the people on our mailing list, but you didn’t hear that from me!

A Difficult Decision

A Difficult Decision

Late yesterday, we had to make the very tough decision to turn down seven tonnes of grapes due to come from Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. By a stroke of luck, we have managed replace some of the lost grapes with four tonnes of Barbera from Northern Italy, sourced by top Italian producer Luca Roagna

Our First Grapes Arrive

Our First Grapes Arrive

Last week our first shipment of grapes arrived. Watch what happened right here.