The rise of urban wine

Posted on 4 Jan 2019 by Maddy White

Where is your favourite wine from? Your answer probably isn't Battersea. The area may be more famous for its power station, but it's also home to an urban winery that sources its grapes from just down the road.

It’s one of many in recent years to have opened up in the capital, as the urban wine movement gains momentum. Maddy White visited. 

60% of adults across the UK drink wine – image courtesy of Blackbook.
60% of adults across the UK drink wine – image courtesy of Blackbook.

“Why here? We love London.” Sergio Verrillo says as we sit under the railway arch near Battersea which houses the urban winery he co-founded.

“Being on the doorstep of such a wine-centric city, it makes sense for us to be here. It is an ideal place,” he adds.

Brits enjoy wine; 60% of adults across the UK drink it, and the popularity of English wine is rising. Recent figures show that 3.86 million bottles of sparkling and still wine made in UK vineyards were sold in 2017 – up 64% on the previous year, according to the WSTA.

Contributing to this growth, are a string of UK wineries based in the buzz of urban areas. Blackbook winery is one of those.

Sourcing their grapes impressively from sometimes just two hours down the road, Verrillo says, “We focus our attention toward East Anglia, last year we worked with two different growers one in Oxfordshire and then the remaining fruit came from Essex.”

He adds, “For us it was never a question of sourcing fruit from outside of the UK, having a London-based wine that has grapes sourced very closely is our USP.”

Supply Chain

The provenance of products is becoming increasingly important to consumers. The conscious customer now wants to know the origins and journey their products have been on, particularly when it comes to food and drink.

Urban wine producer Sergio Verrillo is pictured - image courtesy of Blackbook.
Urban wine producer, Sergio Verrillo – image courtesy of Blackbook.

This is confirmed in extensive research that showed 39% of international consumers are willing to pay more for British made products, and one-third of UK consumers now claim to be very concerned about issues regarding the origin of products.

Verrillo explains that it is critical to have a strong relationship with vineyards and growers – this easiest when they are located nearby. 

“During the growing season I am there on the ground. I have to ensure my supply chain is exactly how it should be, it is quality control. I am quite vigorous in the vineyard in terms of what I want to be used,” he says.

“The value as a consumer is when you know exactly where that wine has come from, you can visit the vineyard where the fruit was sourced.” He explains, “That’s great and you should be able to do that.”

The business uses burgundy barrels to ferment their wine. Verrillo explains that everything is completed under this railway arch and that Blackbook’s clientele are usually Michelin-starred restaurants and wine-centric bars.

Shift to service for SME food and drink manufacturers

Micro distilleries and breweries have too gained popularity over the past decade, and these have seen a shift toward service-based business models. Tap rooms and tours of facilities are being offered up in a servitized approach.

Salmon is cured at Forman's Fishery - image courtesy of TM.
Salmon is cured at Forman’s Fishery – image courtesy of TM.

This in the case of Fourpure in Bermondsey, which opens to the public on weekends and also Forman’s Fishery, which has a viewing gallery of the factory floor and a restaurant and events space both based onsite, The Manufacturer visited last year. It only makes sense for urban wineries to follow suit.

Verrillo says: “We want to see it [the business] expanding by adding tourism to it. We do bi-weekly tours right now – on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We want to make this a real destination for drinks and food.”

This allows consumers to understand the journey their product has taken. It is appealing for a customer to be able to explain to their guests just where the gin, beer, wine or even smoked salmon they are consuming has been manufactured.

As English wine continues to grow in popularity, urban wineries likely will too. Being able to offer consumers a London-based wine with grapes sourced locally is unique and interesting. Further extending services, like tours, tastings or restaurants and bars, could enable small businesses like Blackbook to become favourable.

Manufacturer of the Year 2018: Accolade Wines

The Manufacturer MX Awards, AKA the most coveted manufacturing awards in industry, saw Accolade Wines win the top prize of the night: Manufacturer of the Year.

The Manufacturer MX Awards 2018 - (Centre) - Accolade Wines' Richard Lloyd and Alison Beard-Gunter - image courtesy of The Manufacturer.
(Centre) – Accolade Wines’ Richard Lloyd and Alison Beard-Gunter – image courtesy of TM.

By contrast to bespoke urban wineries, Accolade Wines’ manufacturing facility in the UK, Accolade Park, employs more than 500 people and produces 25 million 9L case equivalents of wine each year.

Based in the Bristol suburb of Avonmouth, the multi-award-winning bottling facility is the only dedicated wine bottling facility in the UK, with the ability to package every format, from 187ml to 75cl in glass bottles and 1.5Ltr to 10Ltr casks.

Accolade Park is Europe’s largest wine warehouse and distribution centre, and in less than a decade has become renowned for setting new standards in wine production and packaging.