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Details for Chateau Tooting

CountryUnited Kingdom
Urban Wine Company
(click to find out more)


The Romans brought the vine to England, and the Saxons inherited their vineyards.  The Domesday Book records 46 vineyards, and this number expanded thereafter to satisfy the Norman taste for wine.  By the time of Henry VIII there were 139.
Many were owned by the Church, however, and did not survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  This roughly coincided with the start of the “Little Ice Age” with Frost Fairs on the Thames, leading to a further reduction in the surviving vineyards that had flourished during the preceding Medieval Warm Period.
The real deathknell came with the Civil War.  The victorious Puritans grubbed up the vineyards, and by the time of the Restoration the skills required to tend them had been lost.  A few noblemen continued to produce wine on their estates using imported expertise but the last of these, at Castell Coch in South Wales, was ploughed up in 1916 as part of the wartime food production effort.
Modern English wine begins in 1951, when Hambledon in Hampshire was planted with Seyval Blanc to become the first commercial vineyard since Castell Coch.  Others followed, based initially on Seyval Blanc and Müller-Thurgau, augmented in the 1970s by other early-ripening German crosses like Reichensteiner, Huxelrebe and Schönburger.  The style was quite Germanic too, which suited the public taste at a time when Liebfraumilch was the UK’s biggest-selling wine.
The shift to full-bodied dry whites in the Eighties caused a lot of wineries to close – you can’t make Aussie-style Chardonnay in the English climate, even in the good years (two or three each decade).  But plant Chardonnay they did, because it was realised that England is well suited to produce Champagne-style sparkling wines, where underripeness and high acidity are actually required.  Much of southern England, especially the North and South Downs, lies on the same chalk as Champagne.
Today the Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are England’s most-planted varieties, and English sparkling wines compete in quality (and price) with Champagne.  Still whites are now made in a dryer style and largely from Bacchus, which is usefully similar to Sauvignon Blanc.

Urban Wine Company

The Urban Wine Company is the brainchild of neighbours Richard Sharp and Paul Miles from Furzedown on the edge of Tooting.  One sunny afternoon in 2006 they were relaxing under the vine that grows in Richard’s back garden, enjoying a glass of two of wine from halfway around the world, when they began to wonder whether it would be possible to make a wine from London grapes.  A handful of friends and neighbours with vines were recruited, largely by posting an ad on a Tooting community website, and the first, foot-trodden vintage of Château Tooting was made in 2007… all 30 bottles of it.
The project snowballed, leading to the formation in 2009 of the Urban Wine Company, with its own website.  Anyone with a vine (or access to one) could join and contribute their grapes on harvest day.  A large enough harvest (over half a tonne) was made that year to persuade Bolney Estate in West Sussex (then called Bookers Vineyard) to vinify the wine separately to Richard and Paul’s specification, producing the first “commercial” vintage.
Though not very commercial!  Members have first dibs, and are entitled to buy one bottle for every two kilos of grapes they contributed, at a members-only discounted price (currently about £8 per bottle).  The remainder is available for general sale, mostly through wine bars and restaurants in Tooting and Balham.  A typical vintage yields about a tonne of grapes and around one thousand bottles
The last few vintages have been made at Halfpenny Green Vineyards in Staffordshire, and quality has risen steadily.  Quantity is also on the rise, though it fluctuates considerably with the vintage.  2017 saw a harvest collection in Oxfordshire to supplement the established south-west London one, and yielded a record harvest of over two tonnes.  Plans are afoot to start producing a separate white and red.  Up until now the wine has been a rosé as an inevitable consequence of the mixture of white and black grapes that go into it!

about this wine About this wine

2016 was a small vintage in England, about 80% of the usual size due to a cool and wet summer, and this was reflected in the production of Château Tooting which at around one thousand bottles was considerably down on 2015.  But quality was up, thanks to a run of warm dry weather that began in mid-August and continued through to harvest.  The lack of moisture led to smaller berries (and thus an even smaller harvest) but with more concentration.
Harvest collection day was the 24th September, at the Devas community centre in Battersea, just up the road from Tooting.  Around a hundred members contributed just over a tonne of grapes, which were weighed, sorted and then driven the 130 miles to Staffordshire’s Halfpenny Green winery, there to be vinified by winemaker Clive Vickers.

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