Volunteers crush the grapes and raise a glass at London winery

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LONDON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Winemakers always hope their customers want to drink their wine. Not many want them to help make it too.

As a startup, east London's Renegade Urban Winery has limited funds for a big workforce come harvest time, so they turn to volunteers to help with processing the grapes - with payment in fun, food, some teaching and a few glasses to drink.

"People are really eager to learn more about the way wines are made but also to meet people," founder Warwick Smith said as the volunteers de-stemmed the fruit by hand and then crushed them with their feet.

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"It has been a very long time people have been locked inside their flats, so people are dying to get out, learn something new and learn about winemaking and drink."

Smith set up Renegade in 2016 and uses grapes from 15 vineyards in Britain and abroad. It produces 80,000 bottles a year - many sold with labels with the faces of Londoners on.

He hopes that in the same way that craft beer firms have boomed in the capital in recent years, wine producers can thrive at a distance from the vineyards growing the grapes that have so long been the focus of the industry.

"There is no reason why in London you can't really make brilliant wines as long as you buy brilliant fruit," Smith said. "Craft beer has been made in cities for years but no one thinks about where the hops and malt comes from."

For the volunteers, the attraction of the project comes in meeting people and learning something new - as well as the wine itself.

"It is great to see how they are making the wine and to be part of this team is actually great," Figen Yasan, 53, said.

Dominic Richards, 27, added: "If I get paid, I am going to spend my money on wine and food anyway so this eliminates the middleman."

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Reporting by Ben Makori; Editing by Alison Williams

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