Tail end of the queue to present grapes
The scene could be a British B movie. A warehouse in South London. A chill October morning. Cars arrive. Packages are taken out and dropped. Money is exchanged. The cars move swiftly away. Actually, it’s vendage time in Wimbledon today when enthusiasts from around the capital attached to Urban Wine bring grapes grown in their gardens or wherever to a pick-up point on Merton industrial estate. Those passed by the grape doctor are transferred to a lorry en route to Bolney’s prestigious winery in Sussex where they will be made into wine and next year returned to their growers on the basis of one bottle per two kilograms of grapes they put in.
This marvellous example of a crowd-sourced urban vineyard is the brain child of Richard Sharp who works in the voluntary sector. He started it five years ago after being inspired by the community spirit of the (much bigger) cooperatives in the French region of Languedoc.
Me putting my grapes in for weighing
This year he has collected about a tonne. He sees no reason why it can’t grow fast as the scheme expands to anyone who has a grape vine on their wall or can identify spaces (like alongside railway tracks?) where grapes can be grown. It is free to join and costs only £6 a bottle to buy a bottle of Chateau Me (after signing a form pledging it is for your own consumption). Those I spoke to today had come from all over London from Kensal Rise and Forest Gate to Walthamstow via Tooting. I arrived at the pick up point on the Merton Industrial Estate having carried my paltry 3kg in a Sainsbury bag from South Wimbledon Underground station fearful that the Plumpton (wine) College trained grape doctor Gwenn McCann of TheHouseWine would turn them away. Not at all. Nothing is too small for this wonderful experiment in cooperative effort. As one of the members said today ; “This is one of the loveliest things in London”. Now for the long wait until early next year when we can collect our bottles from London’s own crowd-sourced vineyard.
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