A London Winery
Take a left out of Bethnal Green Tube Station, walk under the railway bridge, make a sharp left down a narrow alleyway, scoot past a furniture store, and you’ll find yourself face to face with the new kid on the London wine scene.
Renegade Urban Winery – the brainchild of owner Warwick Smith – is already making waves with its unique approach to the production and enjoyment of wine, and has been wildly popular with hip Eastenders and serious wine geeks alike since it opened in May 2017.
It’s certainly a balance that’s tricky to achieve, but Renegade has an authenticity and singleness of purpose which allows it to neatly sidestep hipster clichés while avoiding any hint of wine snobbery. Tucked underneath the railway arches, the space is open and inviting, and the huge cooling tanks humming away in one corner (for the white and rosé wines) only add to the trendy, industrial feel. Large wooden benches invite groups to linger over glasses of wine, and racks of French oak barrels (used and refurbished by a cooper in Champagne) line the walls, ready to be broken open once the 2017 vintage is ready. All of Renegade’s wines are made, bottled, labelled, corked and sealed in house, and the newly commissioned labels (which show an illustrated scene of London and even feature some of Renegade’s regular customers), celebrate the Winery’s home at the heart of the city.
An Experimental Approach
The chalkboard behind the bar lists a simple menu of toasties and cheese plates, and when I ask Warwick if he ever plans to expand their food offering, he says it’s not on the cards. Instead, the winery will focus on continuing to produce excellent wine, and visitors who fancy something a little more substantial than a toastie are welcome to bring or order in their own food.
It’s clear from the tongue in cheek ‘crisps and wine’ pairing menu to be found on each table that Warwick is not one to worry about meticulous food and wine pairings. Instead, his philosophy is that each person should drink the wine they genuinely like, and let go of a little of the ‘ponciness’ that can sometimes come hand in hand with choosing and drinking wine. Producing wine, he explains, is a very traditional industry compared to, for example, brewing beer. Renegade, inspired by urban wineries in New York and San Francisco, is interested in finding out what happens once you start to let go of these traditions and approach things in a new way.
A Unique Wine List
Many of Renegade’s wines are made from a blend of Spanish and Italian grapes, and Renegade make a point of prioritising the quality of the finished product over sticking religiously to wine industry norms. And why not? As Warwick explains, ‘we all drink beer made by from New Zealand hops, German grain and English Water by Welshmen in Bristol. Why not combine grapes from different places? The sum of the parts are often more than the individual parts’. In search of the finest grapes, Renegade seeks out family owned vineyards where everything is hand harvested, with no chemical intervention. Over time, they have built relationships with vineyards all over Europe, and are able to constantly experiment, bringing out exciting new wines each year.
The wine list features all of Renegade’s own wines, of course, alongside many others, including plenty of English wine, and lesser known urban wines that the Renegade team have discovered and particularly enjoyed.
Compared to some of the more tightly-laced wine bars in London, Renegade is certainly a welcome breath of fresh air. Warwick is chatty and approachable, and has created an accessible environment where anybody can enjoy and learn about wine. Renegade have nailed a cool, casual vibe, and spent time collaborating with other young businesses within the community. They have built up a following thanks to features on sites like TimeOut and Secret London, and they’ll even give you a discount if you bring a dog. But ultimately, none of that would matter if they were not also producing some excellent wines.
The Wine from Renegade Urban Winery
(A small selection of Winerist’s favourites)
2017 Nat Fiz
‘Nat Fiz’ is Renegade’s answer to the French term ‘Pet Nat’, which describes a natural sparkling wine which is free from artificial yeast, sulphur, additives and has not been filtered or fined. Made in London from Tempranillo, Spanish Grenache and Italian Syrah, this unusual multi-country blend is the epitome of Renegade’s experimental ethos.
Bottled before the end of the first fermentation, Nat Fiz becomes naturally fizzy in the bottle, and the finished product has about half the ‘fizz’ of a Champagne. This makes for a deliciously light and drinkable wine, with plenty of sweet and fruity notes. It’s a gorgeous pale pink colour, and slightly cloudy – made to be enjoyed cold.
Available on Renegade’s website for £20, or at the winery in Bethnal Green, £6.50 by the glass and £29 for a bottle.
2017 GTS Squared Rosé
Another successful break from tradition, this zesty rosé combines English, Italian and Spanish grapes for acidity, complexity and a big, strawberry punch. Perfect for drinking cold in the summer months, this wine is listed as ‘12ish percent I think’ – so perhaps you’ll have to spend a warm evening at Renegade Winery enjoying the sun and finding out!
Available on Renegade’s website for £18, or at the winery in Bethnal Green, £7.50 by the glass and £27 for a bottle.
One to Watch
Renegade completely sold out of their 2016 vintage, were commissioned to produce a wine for the restaurant No. 34 Mayfair, and are beginning to pop up on wine lists all around London including at The Merchants Tavern and The Typing Room. This new kid on the wine scene is definitely one to watch!
Renegade Urban Winery is located at: Arch 12, Gales Gardens, London E2 0EJ, and the Winery Tap Room Bar is open Wednesday – Friday 5pm-11pm, Saturday 2pm- 11pm and Sunday 2pm- 10.30pm