Monthly Archives: October 2017

One man and his vineyard

Posted by Victor Keegan on October 26, 2017
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PAUL OLDING has a bit of an advantage over the rest of us when it comes to planting a vineyard. He has already written a much praised book on the subject, “The Urban Vineyard” based on a tiny one of his own on an allotment in Lewisham, south London. Now, in fulfilment of a long held dream, he is going rural with Wildwood, a lovely one-acre vineyard on a sunny south/south-eastern facing hillside off a bridle path in vine-friendly East Sussex.

Having endured tortuous procedures to get planning permission both for the vines and a shed he then suffered the freak late frost after bud burst that hit vineyards throughout the UK inflicting wholesale damage on the crop. But those and numerous other problems are in the past. Now he and his family can now look with satisfaction at a thoroughly professional vineyard with no noticeable side effects from the frost.

It was a very un-Brexity multinational effort: vines and wires from Germany, end posts from Belgium, the larger cabin from Latvia, the smaller one from Slovenia, a tractor insured in Wales and a toilet from Ireland installed by Romanians. Skilled Romanians also put in all the posts (and planted the vines) as is common in English and Welsh vineyards. But the wine will be unashamedly English.

When? Paul, who is 44, believes in letting the roots settle and is planning only a small harvest in 2018 using two bunches from the stronger vines with a full harvest planned for 2019. The plot was purchased in 2014 but it took 18 months of preparation doing such tasks as reducing the acidity of the soil by spreading lime.

He is growing (highly popular) Bacchus, Regent and two varietals of Pinot Noir. This is clearly a fun thing for him and he is not expecting to make much of a profit and especially not if the huge cost of land is factored in. There are no plans to give up the day job as a TV producer/director (including some of Brian Cox’s films). With an acre of vines and several more acres of ancient woodland attached slithering down to a happy stream he has already created his own dream world. But he will still have to pray for good weather.

I am hoping to keep an occasional eye on Paul’s progress. You can buy his book at

His website is

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An American in Battersea – London’s new winery

Posted by Victor Keegan on October 09, 2017
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Sergio Verrillo, an American from Connecticut, prepares to taste the first draft of freshly barrelled Chardonnay from his new winery under a railway arch in Battersea. His Blackbook is the third winery to open in central London recently as the capital experiences a mini renaissance of one of the worlds oldest professions. A fourth one, Vagabond, is opening imminently opposite the west wall of Giles Gilbert Scott’s Battersea Power Station barely a mile as the crow flies from Blackbook.


Two others – London Cru in West Brompton and Renegade in Bethnal Green are in full swing.

They are all winemakers – and they need grapes. All of them use at least some sourced from the UK – in Sergio’s case they all come from Essex – but none thus far from London itself which has two sizeable (though still small) sources of grapes. The more important is Forty Hall, a ten acre community vineyard in Enfield which was on a roll until two unexpected events happened this year – a late Spring frost and marauding parakeets – which have made a big dent in output though it won’t affect latest releases including a large batch of their 2015 London Sparkling available later this month.

The other source of London grapes, Chateau Tooting, has had a record year with enough fruit to make well over 1000 bottles. Chateau Tooting gathers grapes from gardens and allotments in London which were collected from a central point at the end of September and dispatched to a professional wine maker outside London to produce a surprisingly good rosé.

Sergio Verrillo is in a different league. He expects to produce nearly 4,000 bottles this year with hopes to triple that next year en route to around the 40,000 bottles needed to be viable in the long term. Sergio, who has a background as a sommelier, trained at Britain’s wine college, Plumpton and has worked in vineyards From California to New Zealand to gain experience. He is clearly deadly serious about what he does and has active plans to plant his own vineyard probably in Kent to become the first vertically integrated outfit in London producing wine from his own grapes.

Originally, he had hoped to make sparkling wine as well but the lack of suitable fruit means he will just be producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir this year.

At first he will be selling to the trade and to individual customers including his growing contacts on social media. He also has hopes to make the winery into a destination for tasting as Renegade has done. Inner city wineries are still a novelty but Sergio points out that there are well over 200 urban wineries in the world. No swinging city should be without one.



This article also appears on my blog