Blackbook is an urban winery, based under a railway arch in Battersea, London. It’s the project of Sergio and Lynsey Verrillo.
They’ve been here since 2017. Sergio was a sommelier at Maze under Laura Patry back in 2010, and this is where his love for wine really took off. Fairly soon, he realized that he wanted to make it and went and studied for a viticulture and enology degree at Plumpton (Sussex, UK).
This was followed by vintage experience at Flowers and Calera in California, and De Montille in Burgundy. Sergio’s thing is cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
He followed up this experience by working with Adam Mason and Mick Craven at Mulderbosch in South Africa, Greyfriars in the UK, and Ata Rangi in New Zealand. He then started exploring the urban winery model, and found this location at the London Stone Business Centre in Battersea.
First vintage was 2017, so the 2019, which was underway as I visited, was the third. The plan was to be focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, although this has since broadened. The first vineyard they sourced from was Clayhill Vineyard in Essex. ‘We want to celebrate the role of the grower,’ says Sergio. ‘No one in the UK who is making wine from growers puts their name on the label.’
In the first vintage they did 7 tons, then in 2018 did 20.5 tons. 2019 looks to be a similar volume. Sergio admits that there was a lot of rot in 2019, with three weeks of rain at the end of the season. Essex is doing better than other areas, he says.
The philosophy is the focus on being sustainable, and using minimal intervention in the winery. In the UK, organics is challenging. There’s no fining of any of the wines. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the primary focus (Sergio says he’s grown to love Ortega, too, although he won’t work again with Bacchus after 2018), and they are looking to emphasize texture by working with barrel fermentation and the use of lees.
The small winery is run with the help of a band of volunteers. Many of them are students looking for practical winemaking experience.
Blackbook GMF Sparkling 2017 England
This is an undisgorged traditional-method sparkler made with Sauvignon Blanc from the Yew Tree vineyard, and it’s the first vintage. Cloudy, this is juicy and grainy with nice structure. Fresh with lemony acidity. Bright and fruit driven with a lovely spicy quality, and great precision. 90/100
Blackbook Tamesis Bacchus 2018 England
An exception to the not-working-with-Bacchus rule. Tamesis is a collaboration between Blackbook and Forty Hall, London’s certified organic vineyard. Barrel fermented with malolactic. This is fabulous: it has a hint of elderflower, but there’s really nice texture and focus. Shows fine spiciness and has a lovely citrus core. Real finesse here. 92/100
Blackbook Painter of Light Chardonnay 2018 Essex, England
This is from the Clayhill vineyard, and has 20% new oak. Lovely grapefruit and citrus here. It’s fresh with good acidity, and has a lovely mineral core. Very precise and linear with tart acidity. Nice freshness with subtle nutty hints on the finish. 91/100
Blackbook The Mix-Up 2018 Kent, England
A blend of Bacchus (tank fermented) and Ortega (barrel fermented) from Kent. Supple with nice green hints, some green tea, and hints of spice. Fresh with lots of citrus fruit character, nice acidity and focused flavours. Has some grapefruit pith on the finish. 90/100
Blackbook Rosé 2018 Essex, England
This is from the Crouch Valley Vineyard in Essex. Has a subtly creamy edge to the juicy cherry and raspberry fruit. Nice focus here with nice cherry fruit. Has lovely presence and a bit of grip. 89/100
Blackbook Night Jar Pinot Noir 2018 Essex, England
Clayhill vineyard. A ripe year meant that they could use 10% new oak. Burgundy clones of Pinot. Focused and juicy with red cherries, plums and some raspberry brightness. Sappy and well defined with some structure. Has nice expressive cherry and raspberry fruit. Juicy and long. 90/100
Blackbook Little Wonder Cabernet Noir 2018 Kent, England
This is a disease-resistant variety, also known as Caberet Noir, developed by Valentin Blattner in Switzerland in 1991. It’s one of the class of hybrids known as PIWIs. The vineyard this comes from in Kent is the first to grow it in the UK. 11.5% alcohol. It has a green herbal Cabernet Franc-style nose. Juicy, focused and fresh on the palate with nice berry and blackcurrant fruit, with good acidity. This has lovely focus. 92/100
A short film of the visit:
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See also: Westwell: an innovative winery in Kent