A collaboration between a newly launched online wine merchant and an established wine bar and shop is set to see the first harvest of grapes in central Richmond upon Thames in over three centuries; meaning wine could be made within the confines of zone 4.
Red Squirrel Wine, a new online wine merchant in Richmond, and Green & Blue, a wine bar and shop in East Dulwich, are teaming up to harvest the first grapes in Richmond’s historic vineyard district for nearly 300 years.
The grapes grow wild on an idyllic cobble-stoned street only yards away from ‘The Vineyard’, a famous street in Richmond and the site of early vineyards in the 17th and 18th century, when townspeople tried to rival the wines from France by planting vines on the slopes of the famous Richmond Hill.
Set up in Richmond in July 2012 by Nik Darlington and his sister Georgie, Red Squirrel Wine as an online purveyor of rare and unique monthly wine boxes from all over the world while Green & Blue is a wine shop and bar that opened in East Dulwich in summer 2005, selling wines made by small producers.
The vines, which judging by their trunks could be as much as 40 years old, grow outside Red Squirrel Wine’s central Richmond headquarters. The variety will be tested by members of the Centre of Excellence in Wine Research at Plumpton College, East Sussex.
Any wine produced from the vines will not be sold commercially but could be an indication of the future potential of making wine again in Richmond for the first time since the early Georgian era.
Wine from Richmond
Darlington said: “These vines have been growing on this spot relatively unnoticed for years. With 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.
“At Red Squirrel Wine, we distinguish between the ‘grey squirrels’ and ‘red squirrels’ of the wine world. Wild wine from Richmond is rare, unique and utterly native – it ticks all the boxes!”
Kate Thal, director of Green & Blue, said: “It was probably about six years ago that I first fantasised about making our own wine in London, however the small fact of not having access to a vineyard or viable grapes in all that time has meant that this never got beyond the illusive fantasy. Until now.
“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.”
A genuinely London-wide project, the grapes will be transported across town to Green & Blue on Lordship Lane in East Dulwich, where the juice will be fermented naturally using native yeasts. South African natural winemaker Craig Hawkins is acting as a consultant on the project and, thanks to Skype, will be virtually present during fermentation.
“All going well, a small batch of fresh and natural wine will be produced and bottled within a few months, and all within in London,” said Darlington.