Bottle of Renegade and Longton blush elderflower and rhubarb sparkling wine being poured into a champagne glass

Starting with an elderflower wine recipe

There are many people who indulge in wine making as a personal hobby which allows them to experiment with different flavours they can’t buy in their local wine shop and doesn’t require the ownership of  vineyards or wineries.

This is how we started out, making elderflower champagne in a living room, our very own city winery! Wine making in this environment can be tricky and we had a number of explosions resulting in some sticky ceilings!

Tasting our first fruit wines

Once we had decided we wanted to do more than just hobby wine making and that we wanted to have our own wine company. This required some serious thought as starting your own winery is not easy, but the first step was to make sure our fruit wines were perfect.

We decided a wine tasting of what we had made already was the most sensible option and invited around are most knowledgeable friends who have visited many wineries and vineyards between them and are regulars at their local wine shops! They were mostly intrigued by what we had made and that we had our own mini city winery, albeit a shed. After the explosions in the living room wine making was moved to a safer option outside, in the shed.

Co-founder of Renegade and Longton Brendan Thomson with the first fermentation of elderflower wine in a fermenting bucket

The wine tasting was very enjoyable and it really helped build our confidence that we were on the right tracks with the elderflower wines we had made so far. There would of course need to be a few more amendments to the wines in our city winery before they would be ready for full scale production.

One of our friends provided some very formal wine critic tasting notes on these experimental wines “a delicate fresh, mineral nose… a taste of vanilla and honey… an excellent lingering after”, while another “sweet honey and vanilla nose, a complex taste of vanilla, citrus almost cheesy, the finish was sweet, balanced and cherry – excellent”.

Becoming a qualified wine-maker

To give ourselves confidence in our wine making skills Richard attended Plumpton college, the home of all English wine making! This exposure to other techniques and ideas helped to strengthen our core elderflower wine and gave us the confidence to experiment with other ingredients and flavours in our city winery (as we had now christened the shed).

It also exposed us to the wider wine making community with vineyards and wineries from all across the UK represented there.

Starting a city winery

Making the plunge to commercialise our mini city winery required a lot of different things to be thought about beyond just the wine-making, for example, the design and shape of the bottle and label, what our marketing plan would be, how we would finance the wine company initially and which places we would sell bottles to.

Plumpton wine college training certification
Barrels of wine stored in an underground wine cellar

Working with an English winery

When we had decided on the plan for our wine company, we were ready to begin production. This required a partner as although our city winery had produced some great sample wines we just didn’t have the capacity to make enough bottles there, let alone all the licencing complications that would arise with making wine for sale at home.

We contacted wineries and vineyards all across the UK and decided on working with Carr Taylor based on their experience and the flexibility they could show us for our wine making. They even had an onsite wine shop where they would stock our bottles as soon as they were ready! We counted that as our first sale.

The next step on our journey is having our own place and officially becoming a city winery with a wine shop and bar. We are looking at options for this but for the time being we are very happy working with Carr-Taylor wines and their winery.

Treading the fine line between amateur and pro

They say that fermenting man’s passion is their business and theirs alone – but now, our passion for fermenting is quite literally our business! Although we have to remind ourselves not to have to much fun sampling new wines and inventing new cocktails or food pairings otherwise the wine company might not last that long.

Carr Taylor winery logo
Bottle and full glass of Renegade and Longton pure elderflower sparkling wine with elderflowers in front


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