NEW! Renegade Pinot Noir, Grown in Lombardy, Made in London 2017

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Renegade.jpg
Renegade.jpg
Renegade.jpg

NEW! Renegade Pinot Noir, Grown in Lombardy, Made in London 2017

24.95

Gimmick! That was the first thought that sprung to mind when we heard about this new venture - an ‘urban winery’ in East London making Pinot Noir from grapes grown in Lombardy, northern Italy. If the words ‘urban winery’ make you want to leave planet earth with a note saying “Sorry, we messed up!”, then I share your pain, but if the words ‘urban winery’ excite you, then you are younger and cooler than me and I hate you. Nevertheless, it’s important that we remain open-minded at all times, not to mention having our ear to the pulse, so we popped along to see what was going on.

The winery itself is minuscule. It’s tucked down a narrow alleyway off Bethnal Green Road, in an archway beneath the railway lines. As we entered, a freight train was rattling overhead, causing the racks to shudder and any loose metal equipment to clang, so the whole place sounded like an early Kraftwerk album. Warwick, one of the owners, welcomed us warmly, or so we assumed, because we could only lip-read until the train had passed. He apologised for the din, but said that it means he doesn’t have to stir the barrels, as the wine gets shaken up every time a train goes by. “It’s natural batonnage!” he said.

Warwick explains the process: “The Pinot Noir grapes were hand-picked from a vineyard in Lombardy, just south of Milan in the region of Oltrepo Pavese and were loaded onto a refrigerated truck at 2 degrees C before being driven to London, where they arrived at 5am when it was cool and quiet (Bethnal Green is nuts by 7am!). They were destemmed by hand over a chicken-wire style mesh. We do this to be very gentle and ensure the whole berries fall through and it doesn't start fermenting as a mush. We never use crusher/destemmers. Doing this we get the carbonic element of the fermentation process first. We put into open-top fermenters with 30% layered as whole bunches like layers in a cake (destemmed, whole bunch, destemmed, whole bunch etc). Ambient wild yeasts kick off the fermentation and it’s pretty much left to its own devices (no chemical additions) before being pressed off and transferred to French oak barrels for a year. No fining, no filtration, no nothing. Very minimal sulphur is added pre-bottling and we only produced 3,400 bottles.”

The whole operation makes you scratch your head and wonder why anyone would go to such extraordinary lengths to make just a few barrels of wine. We continued to scratch our head (for the avoidance of any doubt, we do not share a head, we have one each) until we tasted it and suddenly it all made sense. It’s absolutely delicious! Questions of terroir go out of the window, of course, but it doesn’t matter when a wine tastes like this. In fact, it may be precisely because they don’t have to comply with appellation rules that they have the freedom to make the best wine possible.

The eye-catching label was designed by a local artist and depicts East London wine culture in the way Hogarth might have done if he could only afford a blue biro. The wax capsule does what wax capsules are meant to do and conveys a bit of counter-culture cool. We picked up the bottle to pour ourselves a sample and subconsciously clocked the quality of the label - textured and probably expensive. A quick swirl of the glass and it fanned out its aromas like a magician doing a close-up card trick. An exotic perfume of musk, dried tamarind and scented wood over deep cherry and orange. It’s Pinot Noir in a bold and extrovert style, a really knockout palate of depth and contours, not weedy thin, nor overblown, just full of juicy ripeness and sweet tannins (unfiltered) and the sweet strawberry nectar effect of the whole bunch element (the ‘layer cake’ as described above). But that’s not even the best bit. We took the bottle away with us and tried it again two days later and it had become an even greater wine, softer and more mellow and profoundly delicious. It’s a wine that will clearly get better and better over the coming years, so you can enjoy it now (especially if you decant it for an hour), but it certainly has time on its side. We can’t wait to taste it again in 5 years’ time. 12.5% alc. Drink now-2030.


Press review:

Jancis Robinson (Tamlyn Currin):Renegade is an 'urban winery' in Bethnal Green, London, founded by Englishman Warwick Smith (ex finance) and New Zealand winemaker Josh Hammond (ex Villa Maria). 100% Pinot Noir grapes hand picked on a family-owned vineyard in Lombardy, just south of Milan, and driven in a refrigerated truck (2 °C/35 °F) the 14 hours to London. Destemmed by hand, whole-berry fermentation (to get a carbonic element) in open-top fermenters with 30% layered as whole bunches like layers in a cake (destemmed, whole bunch, destemmed, whole bunch etc). Ambient natural yeasts kick off the fermentation and then it's left alone until completion (no chemical additions) with 20 days on skins before being pressed off and transferred to French oak barrels for a year. No fining, no filtration, minimal sulphur added pre-bottling. 3,400 bottles produced. Cherry wood and blood orange and swirling dark fragrance. Smells almost too luscious to be Pinot Noir, although on the palate the fruit becomes ripe red cherry with razor-sharp edges. Tight, leather-trousers tannins, a little buzz of spice on the tail. Cool minty edges, warm sappy heart. I wrote, 'Pretty damn good!' and then an hour or so later, 'Gets better and better'! If you find yourself worrying about terroir here, it's worth considering the likes of Penfolds and the distances travelled for their blends.. Drink now-2023.” 17 points


Customer comments:

“Loved the wine..! Might need to order more soon!!” - Mr. M.S.P.

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