London set for historic grape harvest
Two London wine businesses are teaming up to resurrect the 17th century winemaking heritage of Richmond.
Recently launched online merchant Red Squirrel Wine and Green & Blue wine bar and shop are planning to harvest the grapes at the end of this week.
Growing wild on a cobbled street outside Red Squirrel Wine’s Richmond offices, the vines are in close proximity to “The Vineyard”, a street on the lower slopes of Richmond Hill, where locals planted vineyards in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The current vines are estimated to be up to 40 years old and samples will be sent to the Centre of Excellence in Wine Research at Plumpton College in East Sussex to establish their variety.
Following the harvest, grapes will be transported to Green & Blue’s site in East Dulwich, where they will be fermented using native yeasts. Craig Hawkins, head winemaker at South African organic producer Lammershoek, will act as consultant via Skype.
As yet there are no plans to make the resulting wine commercially available when it is bottled during the next few months.
Instead, Nik Darlington, founder of Red Squirrel Wine, explained: “With all the hubbub around English wine at the moment, we thought it would be an exciting challenge to see what we could achieve with wild English grapes growing in the soil of ancient vineyards.
His partner in the project, Green & Blue director Kate Thal, said: “While we are not expecting this to turn out to be the most delicious wine ever made, who knows? Perhaps it will turn out rather well.
“The vines are certainly being grown without intervention, though in outer London air and right by a road so I don’t think we could call them organic! But whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting.”
The initiative comes two years after the release of Château Tooting, which featured grapes grown in south London.