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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.

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

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.