Former London gin distillery becomes winery

Thursday, 7 November, 2013
Jonathan Moules, Enterprise Correspondent
London, a city once famed for its gin distilleries and breweries, is to become a winemaking region. In a sign of changing tastes among the capital’s drinkers, a winery has been constructed in a former Gilbey gin distillery, across the road from West Brompton underground station.
The grapes will be imported from overseas but the wine produced on site in an attempt to emulate the success of microbreweries in tapping drinkers’ appetite for local goods.

Cliff Roberson’s winery joins dozens of craft breweries in London, such as the recently revived Truman brand, which has brought beer making back to the East End. Gin has also made a comeback with companies such as Sipsmith opening microdistilleries in recent years.

But Mr Roberson, an independent wine retailer credited with introducing Chilean wine to the UK, says London is big enough to support more such businesses.

He spent £600,000 of his own money and that of an angel investor refitting the distillery with stainless steel vats and air conditioning to create the right conditions for making wine.

The grapes for the first batch of reds, whites and rosés were hand picked from vineyards in northern Italy and driven overnight to London in refrigerated lorries.

They will enable Mr Roberson to make an initial batch of 22,500 bottles including Syrah, Merlot and Sauvignon blanc, sold under the name London Cru.

The winery will be offering tours and tastings starting on Wednesday ahead of the first bottles going on sale in the spring.

While wine has been imported for centuries it has never been made in London in commercial quantities. Mr Roberson says he wants to “demystify” a part of the drinks industry known for its conservatism.

“Rather than going to buy a bottle of Chardonnay you will be able to see it being made.”

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