Meet Warwick Smith, founder of Renegade Wine – e-Somm – episode 8

By Brian Lemay No comments

– Okay hi guys welcome back to e-Somm! So this
week I’m going to talk about urban wineries, it’s a phenomenon really, it’s
just like, I would say, like clearly we can confirm that it’s like taking London
pretty seriously and now here with me Warwick who is the founder of Renegade,
Renegade Wine we are now in Bethnal Green in the winery and I mean basically
it’s pretty much where everything is happening and we just have a little
interview with Warwick who’s going to tell us everything about urban wineries
and also the reason behind Renegade as well. Just start with you then yeah so Warwick, tell us that’ll be about you, if it’s ok?
– Yeah sure, sure, so my background is not in the wine industry. I came from a
finance background and I just decided in my early thirties to just to have a
completely different change of life and I’d seen the growth and evolution of
urban wineries in the U.S. and I just couldn’t believe why London didn’t
already have urban wineries. And so we started and we started and we’ve changed
a lot over the last three years and I’ll tell you about a little bit about why
we’ve changed but but yeah – So yeah great, great start. A complete change of your life… – Yeah completely! I wanted to make something, I wanted to construct something I wanted
to build a brand that I wanted to change the perception of winemaking
to a certain extent and bring people who live in London into the project. – Nice!
goods stuff and so yeah you actually you went that far that you called
it “Renegade” which is by definition something which goes against
institutions. – Yeah exactly. Well I mean the reason we call it
renegade is because there was a song by a band for the Ex Ambassadors, called “Renegades”
and I used to listen to it in the morning and I just liked the word and
actually the intention of the project in the beginning wasn’t to be very radical
or to be but to be a renegade in the wine space that really happened more
over the two or three years of evolution and the real thing was that when we
started making wine we would buy grapes from small family producers in Europe
and the UK and we would ask them what should we do with your grapes
what sort of wine should we make with your fruit and because they knew they’re
great better than us – yeah – so what we started to do was making
what I call “copycat wines”: wines that tasted very similar to the wines made
from the region we bought the grapes from so if we bought Sauvignon Blanc
from Bordeaux, we would make a Sauvignon Blanc that tasted like a Bordeaux
Sauvignon and we soon realized that he was a complete waste of time.
There’s no point trying to copy styles of wine. And so the thing that happened
was that we changed and we decided to forget about the rules of winemaking
forget about “appellations” and DOCG rules in Italy. – Yeah. – And say: if we could buy really
high quality grapes from Bordeaux or Burgundy or Piemonte or Puglia, what would
you do now with that fruits given that everything you know about winemaking and
everything you know about technology? And so it’s a little bit like what the craft
beer movement have done in beer so if you think 10-15 years ago before BrewDog
and a lot of the urban craft breweries people were making Lager or Pilsner or
the old men were drinking ales in pubs and now everyone’s drinking craft
ale. You know, because they decide to use
German malts, American hops, new technology and try and create a drink
for a modern generation and I think what we’re trying to do in the wine space is
trying to take high quality fruits and make modern wine for a modern palate
and a modern generation, without the constraints of rules. – I mean like, this is clearly a contemporary way of life:
living & creating a new product – Yeah. – And I mean I can tell now because
we’ve been talking about that you are listed in many restaurants around London
and in the UK then – Yeah yeah. – including Michelin stars which is a big achievement
I would say. – Yeah! And one thing that’s been surprising is how welcoming the Sommeliers in Michelin starred restaurants have been. So, for example, we sell to a restaurant
group called Caprice Holdings there are a number of restaurants. – Exact, yeah. – Their head wine buyer was a guy called Guillem, he was Alain Ducasse as head
sommelier in Paris and he brought our wines on in London, you know, and he
was the last person I would think would buy, like a new, independent, alternative
style wine – Yeah well he might sound a bit more traditional in the approach – Exactly! And
he’s put some of our wines on in some of the most traditional restaurants in
London. Because he just thinks that the world is ready for evolution you know
and an innovation in wine. – That’s brilliant, that’s great! Welcome in the on-trade! And so,
tell me a little bit more about, like very briefly, – Yeah. – How would you describe to
people who really don’t understand how on Earth you can make wine in London… – Yeah. – …the process like very quickly? How you can get them grapes from away to here
and make your wine? – Perfect! So the most important thing is the quality of the
fruit. So we buy from small family vineyards in France, Italy, Germany, Spain,
England. We hand harvest the fruit so to keep it in perfect condition and then we
put it in small baskets and transport it to London in refrigerated trucks and the journey from the Pfalz in Germany is 8 hours. The
journey from Bordeaux is 17 hours, and you think that the quality of the fruit
is exactly the same when it arrives here than when it was picked. – Right! – In fact
sometimes it’s better and the reason it’s better is because it’s very good to
press grapes cold and the grapes when we get them are always cold. They are clean,
they are cold and the atmosphere inside the truck means that the
moisture of the grape has dried so the concentrated flavor is better. So, the
condition of the grapes is equal if not better to any vineyard scenario. – Great stuff! And so you are making your wines
just here, in the room next to us, – Yeah, yeah! Every single thing is done here
in London: so pressing, fermentation, ageing, bottling, filtration,
everything is done here. There’s only one thing we don’t do in
London at the moment and that’s the disgorging
of the traditional method. Because we do not have a riddling racks and we
do not have a glycol neck freezer, so it’s done about 30 minutes
south of here. – Okay, great. And so how do you see the future for the
style of wine you’re making or urban wineries as a style actually? – You know what the honest answer is urban wineries are a tough thing to develop
because the financials of winemaking are very different to the financials of
brewing or distilling. And I think that it makes life a lot more difficult we
has the time from grape harvest to production is longer and the expenditure,
the capital expenditures to invest in a winery is higher. But I think that, you
know, when we started there was next to no urban wineries in London, and now there are 4… you know, and if you look in New York there is 8 and in Portland there is 12, you know, I think the future is great. -Yeah! And you told me Paris as well? – Paris has 2: “Les Vignerons Parisiens” and “Le Winery Parisien”. – Amazing yeah! – Very different styles too! Very different styles of winemaking: one biodynamic and one more traditional. – Okay. Last question for you: how do you see the future for Renegade then? – Well I hope it works because if
it doesn’t work I’m gonna be on the street in my forties because everything
I ever earn is invested in this business so I want it to work but I think that
the future of Renegade is.. is evolution of styles. So I think wine in can,
secondary fermentation in can, country blends. I think it’s about, yeah,
innovation. – Innovation, exactly yeah! Okay last one then! Talking innovation I just tried some of your wines, I was just blown away
really, and so there are some wines which are really different. Example you
made me taste a sparkling wine where you use hop which is to make beers with.
I mean it is usually used to make beer with, can you tell me more about this specific wine and actually I have another question for you, a little bit tricky: can we call it a wine or beer at the end? – So, okay. So this is an English sparkling
wine the grapes are from Herefordshire, near Wales, the grape is
Seyval Blanc, it was fermented naturally in stainless steel to become base
wine and then we aromatized it, we added beer hops: Citra and Mosaic. And then
we added a little bit sugar and yeast and bottle fermented it to go for
sparkling in the bottle. Legally it’s called an aromatized wine
based drink. It moves, even though it’s a hundred percent grapes, it moves
from being a wine to being a drink. And so yeah, this is kind of like it was
an experiment because Seyval Blanc as a grape can be very boring and we left
it on the lees for a year it didn’t get very interesting. The only way to
make it good would have been to do traditional method, or method Champenoise, and leave it on the leaves for 3-4
years. We don’t have that time, we have to make himself wine. So yeah so we
decided to copy an idea from the US. In the US there’s a urban winery called “The Infinite Monkey Theorem”, in Denver, Colorado. And they do a carbonated hopped Californian Sauvignon Blanc.
And so I just copied a little bit of their idea and invented
a little bit on ours. – Great, that’s brilliant! Thank you very much! – Pleasure! – Thanks Warwick! So I will see you next week on e-Somm again. I’m also doing this
video for Les “Vins de Manou” for the French. I will do some subtitles so you
guys. Don’t forget to subscribe if you liked it, share with friends and of
course if you pass around London just come and visit Renegade Wines, we are in
Bethnal Green next to the station you could hear the train actually and and so
yeah so see you next week and Santé people!

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