The Urban Vineyard


By Paul Olding



A guide to growing grapes in your

garden or on an allotment and

making your own great tasting wine




Foreword written by Richard Reynolds,

author of On Guerrilla Gardening




cover.jpgďYou what?Ē Thatís the double take you will get when telling someone you make your own wine from your own grapes here in Britain. ďAre you bonkers?Ē As a guerrilla gardener I too am used to raising eyebrows because I defy several conventions by snatching scraps of shabby public land and make them productive without permission. This book is giving gardening another much needed twist and I encourage you to delight in challenging perceptions. Youíre holding a radical manifesto! Growing and eating pak choi was until a few years ago saddled by similar scepticism driven by geography and cautious taste buds, but now they only register a flutter of surprise in the most traditional corners of our gardening nation. Even growing tomatoes to eat was seriously frowned upon until the 19th century and now theyíre one of the most popular grow-your-owns.


I joined Paulís epic journey towards becoming an expert urban vigneron a few years ago at the most important part in the whole process, the annual tasting party held in his kitchen winery. We would be about to find out, was his effort really worth it? And can you be sure from putting Paulís words into action that youíll be glugging something to be proud of? Well yes it was and yes I think you can. I discovered that afternoon Paul had crafted splendid wines. I came to Paulís party positively inclined to enjoy myself because Iím a fairly regular drinker of English wines. Iíd initially dabbled out of curiosity, patriotism and my love of the underdog. Since my experimental tasting, Iíve bought English wines by the box-load. At the party, few of Paulís other guests were enthusiastic English wine drinkers but despite that, there was still plenty of genuine and positive surprise in the room (and absolutely no spitting). These were thirsty converts. So follow our authorís advice and youíll be OK.


It helps when wine making from scratch if you can soak up some of Paulís personality. He is part romantic, part scientist and has enough bloody-minded determination to succeed against the odds, be it boggy ground, birds, bad weather, botrytis or Boots The Chemist. That last challenge required Paul to convince the pharmacist he required bigger kicks than booze to get his highs if he was to secure a crucial piece of equipment necessary for wine making. That awkward moment is one heís been through so you hopefully donít have to. And, as youíll see, a wonderful family helps too. This book is filled throughout with Paulís supporting cast and crew of relatives. He has surely started a new wine making dynasty, to become the Gallos of southeast London. Paulís ever-present sage, his father-in-law, looms large as the allotmenteer for life, who regularly solves a conundrum. Think of this book as for you what Paulís father-in-law is to him, and then some.


Thereís no doubt an urban vigneron requires persistence, patience and persuasion. If youíre at the radish stage of grow-your-own gardening then recognize now that drink-your-own gardening requires not just a few weeks between sowing and consuming but a few years. Good things come to those that wait, and itís even more so for your own wine as it is for Guinness.


Iím inspired. So far I have hops growing on a traffic island near Lambeth North but itís early days making this crop work and I havenít had a successful harvest. Meanwhile I have mastered the simple act of growing and harvesting lavender from which we make fragrant pillows and occasionally biscuits. There are guerrilla gardeners closer to achieving grape to glass completeness. Iíve discovered one who has planted vines in parks and Iíve heard from several guerrilla grape pickers - one propagated a vine from the seed of a grape she plucked from an Australian winery. With Paulís guide to hand we can enjoy our own wine from new terroir, whether it is your back garden or back street.††







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Published in Paperback, size A5, 260 pages

with over 230 photographs and illustrations





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All Words and Images © Paul Olding 2015