The Camberwell Society

Society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell

Be of good cheer in Church Street


FROM THE CAMBERWELL QUARTERLY

Wine experts Patrycja Lorek and Donald Edwards talk to Marie Staunton about Dolly Parton chardonnay, climate change and what to drink at Christmas

Patrycja

In Poland Patrycja’s family drank beer or vodka. Inspired by Ella Fitzgerald, dreaming of a career as a singer, she came to London to study music in 2013 and discovered wine. Her boss at the Covent Garden gastro pub where she worked encouraged her to join wine tastings and take courses. She met her husband John through the industry and in 2022 they opened Veraison in Camberwell Church Street (the name refers to the stage when grapes ripen and change colour). Singing is now limited to karaoke.

“I trained at the Wines and Spirits Educational Trust in Bermondsey Street,” she says. “Their three-day level two course is a great way to learn the myriad complexities of wine.”

Patrycja spent nearly a decade in Covent Garden wine bars and has seen fashions change. Chardonnay was ubiquitous, the great white wine success story of the modern era. Big blowsy Chardonnay – what the Aussies call Dolly Parton wines – are now being replaced by New World wines that have the freshness of good white burgundy.

Young winemakers and drinkers favour natural wines which minimize sulphur dioxide and avoid filtration. But without talent the wine can be cloudy and cidery. “Bad winemaking cannot be justified by the term natural,” says Patrycja. “You need to know a lot to do little.”

Most bottles on Veraison’s shelves are minimum intervention wines from small growers, either organic, made without artificial pesticides, e.g. using pheromones instead to sexually confuse moths, stop them mating and producing vine-destroying caterpillars, or biodynamic, from winemakers who believe in harmonious vineyards, crop rotation and natural sprays such as nettles for soil. “Some go to extremes, scattering crystals between the vines and singing ariettas to the barrels. Does it work? Well, many of these wines are beautiful.”

For Christmas dinner Patricya advises wines over £20. After tax and costs in a £6 bottle of wine, only 27p accounts for the juice, compared to £2.04 in a £10 bottle or £6.23 in a £20 bottle. John and Patrycja will be having “a toasty and cosy pinot noir champagne from a small grower with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. With the turkey a chardonnay from Coteaux Champenoise and an elegant red burgundy, Vins d’Arlaud 2017 Hautes Cotes de Nuit.”

Donald

Donald’s neighbours texted him Veraison’s licensing application, fearing a rowdy wine bar. Donald knew Patrycja’s husband John from the wine trade and submitted evidence that he was a well respected and a successful licensee. He says, “In the ten years I have lived in Church Street, Camberwell has developed great independent businesses, from Toad Bakery to Irene’s. I thought Veraison would be a great asset. I was right. Some of the NIMBY objectors are now regulars!”

Donald is head sommelier at the Michelin starred La Trompette in Chiswick. He started a neurology and computing degree, but became fascinated by the complexities of wine. He studied at Plumpton College. He says, “Wine is a prism to study geology, economics, social history. In biodynamics Rudolf Steinar captured traditional agricultural practices, creating and oxygenating a delicate micronutrient ‘compost tea’ just when workers were leaving the land.”

He worked in wine in Paris and the UK and enjoys being a sommelier. “Every table, every moment of your evening, is different. It fits neatly into my ADHD. It just works with my mindset.”

Donald buys wines from independents. “They tend to be a little bit bolder than supermarkets; making something that represents them, their patch of soil. Every wine can be thrilling and different.”

The early 2000s when Donald started was a blessed time with a run of brilliant French vintages. But climate is changing. “I confidently expect to see the end of fine wine in my lifetime. Burgundy was a cool climate region, but now has days at 40 degrees-plus regularly. Wildfires risk is so high that in California vineyards cannot get insurance.”

Essex now has temperatures of a good year in Burgundy. UK is developing wines of note in Kent, Hampshire, East Sussex and now Dorset.

Donald started his own wine label, Simply Mondays. His first wine, a dry, dark rosé called Not my King (he is not a monarchist) is made in Battersea with fruit from Essex.

And for Christmas dinner? Donald has three “aspects of deliciousness on the go: a bottle of good white burgundy, a pinot noir and a Bordeaux. He says new wave South Australian grenache is an underrated turkey wine – as is Essex dry dark rosé!”

Illustration by Jane Moxham

Follow us on Facebook

and Instagram Instagram

The Camberwell Society was formed in 1970 and is the recognised amenity society for those living, working or interested in Camberwell.

The Society’s objectives, as defined by our constitution, are: to stimulate public interest in Camberwell, to promote high standards of planning and architecture in Camberwell, and to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in Camberwell.

We are a charity and raise money for local charities. In the past we have raised money for Southside Rehabilitation Association, St Giles Trust, Cambridge House, the CamberwellCommunity Choir, the HollingtonYouth Centre and the Camberwell Arts Festival