A vinous waft drifts to Bethnal Green Road from down the alley. It’s fruitier than the usual street scents, luring you past several old railway arches until it reaches its height by a bar inside Arch 12. Our bartender – wearing a black beret that would seem ironic if we weren’t in east London – pulls back tarpaulin to reveal the source, a vat of purpling grapes. She works in the area’s first urban winery, where those grapes are imported from vines around Europe and turned into wine under the arches, with a bench-filled taproom in among the barrels and fermentation tanks.
Renegade has been producing since early 2017, with four wines on the roster – three white, one red – and an English sparkler coming soon. They had sold out of the bacchus I was most interested in trying, made from British grapes. But a chardonnay caught my attention, French oak barrels of the stuff aging at the rear of the room. It had all the right bold and buttery characteristics and slipped down a dream alongside a British cheese platter – including a jet-black charcoal cheddar – served with a generous basket of bread from Bow’s Breid bakery. Their sauvignon blanc was a quaffable number, but it didn’t compare.
A few other wines from European producers are available, but it would be a shame not to try the output from these passionate winemakers. Indeed, after I showed a nerdy interest, I was enthusiastically presented with a sample of grape juice from early on in the fermentation process. Curiosity seems to be coaxing in locals too, many popping their heads in and staying for wine by candlelight and soft jazz. It’s a combination sure to go to your head, if those aromas hadn’t done so already.