Sergio owner and founder urban winery in London

4 Brilliant English Urban Wineries

From Kendal to the Cotswolds. The Urban Winery Movement is for town AND country. 

What is an Urban Winery?

Housing winemaking facilities in an urban setting, urban wineries bring artisanal wine
to the heart of cities and towns. Already hugely popular in Australia and the US, the urban winery model in England deserves similar acclaim and plays a vital role in our wine ecosystem. In showing that you don’t need your own vines and a countryside estate to make top quality still and sparkling, urban wineries are democratising wine for consumers and producers alike. They create a community centred around their chosen urban space – one you want to be part of. You can squeeze yourself between barrels and stainless steel tanks, see stillages stacked ceiling high full of exciting new releases, and breathe in alluring aromas. Just hop on a bus, take the Tube, or call a taxi.

Flexible And Experimental

In having to buy their grapes, urban wineries benefit from greater choice than estate grown and bottled producers. They can be very selective. By working with the best growers and sites across the country they source the best quality fruit for their wine. They can also experiment with different varieties without the cost of, and time involved in, planting new vines. Affording them greater creative flexibility and allowing them to tailor their production levels year-on-year in line with consumer demand. Transcending terroir, urban wineries and the winemakers behind them are challenging tradition and it’s bloody exciting.

An Urban Oasis

I love urban wineries because they make wine more accessible and come in all shapes and sizes. Under railway arches, on industrial estates, and in unconventional buildings, they are gems to be discovered. Operating within council and licence restrictions, they offer an urban oasis where you can get up close to winemakers and really see how their wine is made. For an afternoon, you can escape the hubbub and come away armed with some of the best wine currently being produced in this country. We wanted to shine a street light on these 4 urban wineries in England so you too can become part of their community and spread the word:

4 Urban Wineries In England You Must Visit

#1 – Blackbook Winery, London

Me and Sergio at the London Urban Wineries Tasting, March 24
Me and Sergio Verrillo, Blackbook Winery owner and winemaker

The Lowdown

Clambering up old French oak barrels listening to bluegrass. Playing stillage Tetris
with a forklift truck listening to ‘90s hip-hop. Sergio Verrillo, winemaker and co-founder, is a rockstar and the Victorian railway arches housing Blackbook Winery on a Battersea industrial estate are his stage. Having first worked in some of London’s finest restaurants as a sommelier, and then some of the world’s leading vineyards with a Plumpton degree, Sergio and his wife Lynsey settled on London for their urban winery home. Pressing grapes, fermentation, bottling, labeling, and storage – it’s all done across two arches, with serious style. With the dulcet tones of the Southern Railway overhead, Sergio and Lynsey have built an impressive label on the foundations of family. They have an ever-growing community of friends championing their success, and a clear vision of the wines they make.

blackbook urban winery bottle line up

Style of Wine

Sergio produces exceptional single vineyard wines which celebrate the high-quality
fruit he sources from unique sites within a few hours of the city. He combines traditional techniques with innovative and minimal intervention winemaking, focussed on getting the texture just right for each wine. Driven by a love of cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Sergio’s own range is seriously, seriously good. If you have a friend who claims to be a Burgundy aficionado, see if they can tell the difference blind. Sergio’s also a big proponent of Seyval Blanc. In “GMF”, you have a traditional method Seyval sparkling which is one of my favourite wines. And he may have topped that with their new limited edition “Headlights On”. Aged for 4 years and recently released in conjunction with Wild Nothing’s eponymous single. Blackbook also have a Rosé, Pinot Meunier, and red and white blends – something for everyone.

How You Can Join In

Sergio runs tastings most Saturday afternoons from his urban winery. Here he will take you through a selection of four wines and his winemaking process. Blackbook also runs a wine club, “The Black Book”, with two tiers of annual membership. These provide members with first access to all of their releases and exclusive events. You also get a carefully curated case of wine each year. Excitingly, Blackbook will be running a pop-up wine bar in the arches this summer. Follow Blackbook on Instagram and keep your eyes peeled for that.

Black book and Freedom of the Press corks Urban wineries

How To Find Blackbook 

Get the train to any of Battersea Park, Queenstown Road, or Wandsworth Road. It’s then a 10 minute walk to Blackbook at Arch 41 on the London Stone Business Estate.
Itinerary For The Day – Spend the morning walking around Battersea Park with a
coffee in hand before heading to Blackbook for an afternoon tasting. Leave feeling inspired and continue your wine adventure at Aspen & Meursault – a short cab ride away.

Visit Blackbook Winery

Gavin Carver owner Freedom of the Press Winery with Simon Huntington of Marasby
Marasby co-founder Simon Huntington with Freedom Of The Press owner and winemaker Gavin Carver

#2 – Freedom of the Press, Minster Lovell

The Lowdown

Everything happens for a reason. Rewind to early Spring 2020 and former academic Gavin Carver had found a venue to open an urban winery in Oxford. Neighbouring a popular north Oxford pub, it was in a prime location for footfall and would have been loved by locals and students alike. Then Covid intervened. In a way, lucky that it did as Gavin subsequently discovered the perfect unit 15 miles away on a beautiful arable farm above Minster Lovell in the Cotswolds. Today, the unit houses Gavin’s micro winery Freedom of the Press. Like Sergio, Gavin is a master of maximising his space – packing an oenophilic punch with his 150 square metres. It’s a fermentation and ageing playground – full of stoneware jars, French oak barrels, steel tanks, and a concrete egg. Working with exceptional fruit from select vineyards in Essex, Freedom of the Press, Blackbook, and the other wineries in this article show the exponential potential of England as a wine region. Join the revolution!

Freedom of the Press owner Gavin Carver

Style of Wine

Freedom of the Press makes small batches of beautiful still wines. With a focus on amplifying the qualities of the Essex fruit, Gavin’s wines are well balanced and structured. He’s not wedded to a particular style. And is happy to let his wines sit on their lees, age in oak, or go through malolactic conversion. Consequently, Gavin’s small batches really drum up hype. Following the success of the 2020 vintage, Freedom of the Press’ Pinot Gris 2021 is a more elegant incarnation. Joining the line-up is a smashable Bacchus. At only £17.50 a pop and a buttery Chardonnay with notes of lemon curd and tangerine. Yet, it’s “Paradox” which really stands out. An unusual and tantalising white wine made by gently pressing Pinot Noir grapes before fermenting and ageing in old oak barrels. Think baked apple and pear, combined with red fruit and a bit of spice. Yum. All of these wines are available on Marasby here. Make sure you get your hands on them!

How You Can Join In

Freedom of the Press have regular opening hours through the spring and summer, where you can visit to buy wine by the glass to enjoy overlooking the rolling fields and bottles to take away. Gavin also hosts Saturday afternoon tastings during this period and one-off events such as concerts and food and wine events. Similarly to Blackbook, you can also put your name down as a volunteer to help Gavin out during busy times in the winemaking year. An amazing opportunity to see winemaking in action.

Freedom of the press white pinot noir
Freedom Of The Press Paradox – White Pinot Noir

How to Find Freedom of the Press 

If you’re coming from Oxford, Freedom of the Press is a 40 minute drive. If it forms part of a Cotswolds trip, it’s a 15 minute drive from Witney and 5 minute drive from Minster Lovell.
Itinerary For The Day – Spend a morning walking around Oxford’s finest colleges and get your culture fix in the Ashmolean Museum before driving to Freedom of the Press for an afternoon tasting at this countryside urban winery. Alternatively, enjoy the best of the Cotswolds by using Burford as a base and making the short trip to see Gavin. In both cases, make sure you’re not the designated driver!

Visit Freedom of the Press

Chris wilson Gutter and Stars Cambridge Urban winery
Chris Wilson owner and winemaker Gutter&Stars Cambridge Urban Winery

#3 – Gutter&Stars, Cambridge Urban Winery

The Lowdown

An urban winery under a Grade II-listed windmill? Yes, that’s right. In the mill’s basement, founder and winemaker Chris Wilson is making delicious small batch wines less than a mile from the centre of Cambridge. In 2010, Chris swapped music, sport, and newspaper journalism for a winemaking degree at Plumpton. Plumpton then led to winemaking in Napa Valley, Saarland, and East Sussex, and a strong desire to set up his own business. In 2020, Chris found the windmill and Gutter&Stars, Cambridge’s first winery, was born. Weighing in at a mighty 33 square metres, Chris works his magic in an octagonal cave of dreams. Rubbing shoulders with old Burgundy barrels, tanks, and an egg-shaped fermenter, Gutter&Stars shows that winemaking doesn’t have to be confined to traditional spaces. The flexibility to navigate low ceilings and narrow doors is key – the rest is up to your imagination.

Gutter&Stars urban winery bottle line up
Gutter&Stars limited edition wines made in small batches to reflect each vintage.

Style of Wine

Chris looks to source his grapes from as close to his Cambridge urban winery as possible for environmental and logistical reasons. Fortunately for him, Essex is a neighbouring county to the south and the grapes grown in the Crouch Valley are generally excellent. Chris has formed a strong partnership there with Missing Gate Vineyard for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and Bromley Brook Vineyard for Bacchus. Despite the centuries old Cambridge-Oxford rivalry, Yew Tree Vineyard in Oxfordshire provides more Bacchus and Ortega. Chris then transforms this bountiful supply into an exceptional range of wines. Each bottle is adorned with eye-catching sealing wax and colourful labels which make them a work of art in of themselves. With a focus on quality and purity, Gutter&Stars’ Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are consistently great and echo Burgundy. Yet, it’s Chris’ “Lost In You” Bacchus 2022 which is the most prized treasure to track down. It’s full of gooseberry and white peach with well-crafted texture – perfect for a warm summer afternoon. Grab yourself a bottle with Marasby’s help here. If you’re lucky enough to live locally, Chris may even deliver it himself on his Gutter&Stars branded bike!

How You Can Join In

Chris runs tastings under the windmill on two Thursday evenings in select months throughout the year. There, you’ll taste five wines from the Gutter&Stars range and Chris will explain how they were made and what inspired the unique artwork for each bottle. Chris also partners with local restaurants for exclusive events, such as supper clubs, and runs open cellar days. For the superfans, there’s also a Gutter&Stars Wine Club where membership is capped at 100 people. It’s worth getting on the list if you can as you’ll receive nine bottles each year, access to members’ only events, and much more.

Gutter+Stars Urban Winery grade 2 listed windmill
Gutter&Stars owner Chris Wilson outside his urban winery, a Grade 2 listed windmill.

How to Find Gutter&Stars 

If you’re coming from London, jump on a train to Cambridge from Kings Cross or Liverpool Street and then it’s a 15 minute taxi across the city. If you’re already in the city, it’s only a 20 minute bus from the centre. Itinerary For The Day – See how Cambridge’s colleges compare following your trip to Freedom of the Press before swinging by the windmill. Afterwards, if you’re feeling fancy, treat yourselves to a meal at Restaurant Twenty-Two where you’ll find Gutter&Stars and a number of other English producers on their wine list.

Visit Gutter&Stars

#4 – Northern Wine, Kendal Urban Winery

The Lowdown

Partners in life and in wine. Having worked in wineries in Austria, France, New Zealand, and South Africa, Harry Appleyard’s and Stacey Raath’s winemaking journeys led them to meet at an English winery. Inspired by Blackbook and the urban winery movement in London as well as Gutter&Stars, Harry and Stacey launched Northern Wine in Kendal in 2022 with Harry having grown up in Cumbria. Occupying Unit 2 on the Dockray Hall Industrial Estate, they want to make the best wine they can. And build strong foundations with their community and other small artisanal businesses in the area. This admirable vision and Harry and Stacey’s hard work got the recognition it deserved earlier this year with Northern Wine winning the “New Business of the Year” Award at the Cumbria Food Awards 2024. It’s a very exciting start and we can’t wait to see them continue their meteoric rise.

Dale Symons founder Clay Hill Vineyard in Essex best vineyards to visit in essex
Dale Symons founder Clay Hill Vineyard in Essex

Style of Wine

Northern Wine work closely with Clayhill Vineyard and West Street Vineyard in Essex to source Bacchus, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Harry and Stacey are very hands on – helping with harvest and then driving the grapes up to their winery in Kendal. Once they’re in the winery, Harry and Stacey follow a minimal intervention winemaking approach to let the fruit do the talking. While they play around with different processes to create their interesting wines, they do not add any products during fermentation. Natural fermentation and foot stomping the grapes so they can be fed into their hydropress. A lot of effort but it was worth it for their debut vintage in 2022. It comprised a Burgundian-style Chardonnay, two different skinsy Chardonnays from grapes harvested 2 days apart at West Street, and the brilliantly named “Don’t Look Bacchus in Anger”. They’ve teased the release of their Pinot Noir 2022 on the Northern Wine Instagram account and what we can expect from their 2023 wines.  With their stamped wax seals and handcrafted and written labels, I will be persuading my wife Hannah to relax her “one in / one out” bottle policy for our house!

How You Can Join In

Last year, Harry and Stacey poured their wines at their launch party and subsequent events at Fell Brewery’s Glisky venue on the same industrial estate. They then expanded the Northern Wine family in November by opening their own restaurant a 15 minute walk away. “Ramble” offers small plates, roasts, and banging wines by the glass. If you time it right, their own wines may make an appearance. Harry and Stacey could always do with an extra pair of hands in the winery so sign up to their mailing list via the Northern Wine website to join their crew.

How to Find Northern Wine

Northern Wine is worth a pilgrimage from London and should be integrated into a Lake District trip. You can find them on the Dockray Hall Industrial Estate 15 minutes’ walk from Kendal station. Itinerary For The Day – Treat yourself to a day of drinking and feasting across Kendal – stopping at Northern Wine, Fell Brewery, and Ramble. Epic.

Visit Northern Wine

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