Q&A with Gavin Monery of London Cru

Gavin Monery is the Australian-born winemaker at London Cru, the capital’s first urban winery, which launched in Earl’s Court, West London, last summer and opened to the public in November offering tours, tastings and supper clubs.

Last year was your debut, how did things go?

Given that it was our first attempt, I’m very happy with where the wines are at. They are fresh in style and have good acidity levels. We made around 13,000 bottles of wine last year and are aiming to double our production this year. Our Roussillon Chardonnay will be the first out of the blocks but it’s still on its lees at the moment. I’ve made it in the Burgundian style with no new oak and am very pleased with the result – I think it offers great value for its £15 price tag.

As for the Cabernet, we deliberately went for a fresher style, but you’re walking a fine line between freshness and greenness. We had to be careful as we didn’t want the wine to be stalky, but I’m passionate about approachability – I want to make wines that people want to drink a whole bottle of, not just a glass. I had specific ideas for the Syrah – I wanted to make an elegant, perfumed style like a traditional Hermitage with a delicate and ethereal character and high acid.

The ultimate freedom here is amazing – I’ve never made Barbera before, so was literally looking up how to do it. It was a great challenge. I’m experimenting with different yeasts at the moment and am hoping to make a rosé with some of the Barbera this year as we did a little trial run last year and the results were great – it’s a real crowd pleaser, but I’d like to get the colour a little lighter.

Were there any setbacks?

We were planning on making a Bordeaux Merlot and a Loire Sauvignon Blanc but neither happened in the end as the grapes were heavily damaged by rot. It put a dent in our figures, but I’d rather make less wine than make bad wine. There’s a degree of pressure on us this year as a lot of people are looking at us and waiting to see what we do. We’ve been very transparent about our successes and failures, so it’s key that we get our first releases right.

Who came up with the idea for London Cru?

Cliff Roberson thought of the name but it was Roberson’s business development director, Adam Green’s idea. Cliff was keen to do something different. He wanted to bring wine to Londoners in a new way as it’s a very mature market and business is done in a traditional model, so he felt it was time to shake things up a bit. I got involved in the project as I happened to be working for Roberson at the time selling Bordeaux in 2009 when it was shifting for crazy prices.

I studied oenology and spent three years at Cullen but wanted to learn the other side of the business to give myself a broader grounding in the industry. But when the winemaker job came up, I jumped at it. Cliff and his business partner Will Tomlinson have taken a risk – they won’t see a profit for five years, but it’s their passion so it was worth sticking their necks out.

How will the wines be labelled?

We’re still fine-tuning the details at the moment. All the wines will have to be labelled “European Community Wine” and we’re currently not allowed to put the vintage or grape variety on the label but we’re working on trying to change that. We haven’t started working on the label designs yet but we want to have a bit of fun with them to reflect the irreverent spirit of the owners.

How much will they sell for?

We’re going to be democratic in our pricing and the majority of our wines will be priced at £15 as we want to remain competitive. We’ll sell some of the wine via the cellar door, some through Roberson and the majority through our website. All being well, the Chardonnay and Syrah will be on sale this summer, with the Barbera and the Cabernet to follow at a later date.

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