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The Future of Wine: Urban Vineyards?

In an age of backlash against big-business agriculture and of increasing value placed on local, sustainable living, the phenomenon known as urban farming flourishes. From tiny planters on the balconies of chic lofts to reclaimed industrial lots, city dwellers in some of America's larger urban centers are finding joy and sustenance in growing their own organic food.

And if people can grow tomatoes and corn in an old vacant lot, then why can't they grow wine grapes?

My friend, winemaker Bryan Harrington, has planted Pinot Noir in several places within the San Francisco city limits over the years and I know a couple of people who have a few vines in their back yards in the city, which they use to make tiny quantities of wine.

Urban viticulture may have just entered a new era, however, as a substantial commercial vineyard has been installed in the city limits of London. A joint venture between a local horticultural college and the urban farm that provided the land, Forty Hall Vineyards hopes to produce a commercial product in time for the 2012 London Olympics.

I wish them luck, if only because I'd love to see more of these types of experiments that can bring wine that much closer to everyone's back yard. With a little more global warming, I might just be able to put a couple of vines in mine.

Comments (36)

05.08.09 at 7:12 AM

Did you know that Switzerland has a long history of urban winemaking? For example, as of today, 13.37 hectares of vineyards can be found within the city limits of Zurich, the biggest Swiss city.

05.08.09 at 7:33 AM

Your post reminds me of a book I once read called Guerrilla Gardening by Richard Reynolds. His book is more about changing our communities through illicit gardening. Interesting stuff.

I'm also reminded of how Vienna is the world's only metropolis with significant wine cultivation within city limits. Did you know it has about 700 hectares serving wine production? It's the only city I'm aware of with commercial-level wine production within its limits. On improving air quality alone this is commendable. All those hectares not only serves production, but also preserves the environment. You can even take a tram out to the vineyards & wine taverns, the Heurigen Express I think it's called. I'm going to Vienna in June and hope to hop aboard.

Darcy & Huber Selections is an importer I know of who is bringing many interesting wines from Vienna to the U.S. Not just the GVs, but other varietals like Zweigelt. As I'm sure you know Vienna also is known for its organic & biodynamic wines, which D&H's portfolio displays nicely. I just went to a D&H tasting that featured many Viennese wines. I especially loved the Weingut Christ Gelber Muskateller. Rainer Christ's wines are known for being unfiltered and biodynamic. Did you know that he is one of 630 wine producers in Vienna? It's astounding to me how this luxurious city manages to blend style and culture with its agricultural tradition.

Alder wrote:
05.08.09 at 9:30 AM

Further proof that Europe is a more advanced civilization? Thanks for the notes on Zurich and Vienna!

John wrote:
05.08.09 at 1:09 PM


in the words of Rob Schneider, "Yoo can doo it!"


Arthur wrote:
05.08.09 at 2:13 PM
JD wrote:
05.11.09 at 1:19 AM

Yes, Zurich and Vienna are great examples of urban winemaking. Let's also not forget Bordeaux: Many of today's Pessac-Léognan wines, including the famous Château Haut-Brion or Château Pape-Clément, come from suburban areas of Bordeaux city.

Dylan wrote:
05.11.09 at 10:47 AM

Perception is truly as eye-opening as it is deceiving. I never thought to look at grape vines as a suitable backyard plant, but you're right, Alder. There's no reason, with the exception of climate, that it's not possible to grow your own grapes on a small plot of land.

dave wrote:
05.11.09 at 2:32 PM

The only problem is:

the wine would be just as polluted as the air we breath. I can even imagine the tasting notes.....

Wonderful notes of petrol, with deep layers of garbage residue, with a long and smooth polluted finish........

If it is possible to taste the effects of a clean environment, and it is possible, then I dont even want to know the flavors that would come from a polluted environment.

Hank wrote:
05.11.09 at 5:23 PM

I grow Zinfandel, Graciano and Aglianico in my backyard just outside of Sacramento. The vines are young, but the wines are pretty good. I started doing this because it is hard to find graciano or aglianico in stores -- and because I think these varieties do well in our climate.

Steve Howe wrote:
05.15.09 at 6:47 PM

One of my favorite wineries is Rosenblum Cellars located smack in the middle of the Bay Area. Urban wineries can grow the grapes elsewhere and produce premium wines from an urban location.

Ashley wrote:
05.20.09 at 6:15 AM

Another addition to London Urban Vineyards is this smaller plot located on the Twickenham Road in Hounslow greater London. I stumbled across it on my way to the market to get some food. They have Reisling, Pinot Noir, and a red called Dunkelfelder planted.



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