Grow Your Own Grapes – Lesson 1
on September 15th, 2010 in Viticulture tagged
The idea of outdoor vine-growing seems absurd to the average Englishman. It is often met with incredulity and reactions, such as, "surely you cannot ripen grapes out of doors in this country?" As the myth goes, vines are believed to be delicate, hard to grow, problematic to prune, and something that can only be managed by an expert vintner, thereby suggesting the weird idea that vines can only be grown in a greenhouse environment. Peruse further and you will see how we debunk these wine myths in our first lesson on how to grow your own grapes.
It might seem overwhelming at first but, with a meticulous approach, it can be darn easy to grow your own grapes. Vines can bloom in the southern half of England, and a good summer can really speed up the ripening process. The Romans introduced winemaking to England when they grew vines in southern Britain. And today there are several small vineyards in England where experiments are being made to benefit from indigenous experience.
Unequivocally, growing your own grapes is so straightforward that all who are interested in home winemaking should try it. Vines occupy less space; they can be planted along fences, at the back of flower borders, or on a south-facing wall. Since vines are deep and not surface-rooted, they don’t interfere with other crops like flowers or salad. If vines are grown on a lattice or trellis (also known as espalier) the vintner may make use of nets to prevent bird droppings and polythene sheets to protect from frost. Since England has a shorter growing season, you must choose an early ripening variety of grapes, such as Muller-Thurgau. Late ripening varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon are usually grown in lower latitudes.
The intention here is not to discuss viticulture in detail, but to put forth a few guidelines for the absolute greenhorn on how to grow your own grapes. Firstly, vines are classified into two main categories – producing wine grapes or dessert grapes. Furthermore, in each category white and black grapes of varying sweetness can be obtained. Secondly, if you plan to plant several vines, ensure that all don’t belong to the same variety. Growing a single variety vine on a large scale can be disappointing if the crop does not turn out well. It is best to grow several different vines in an experimental fashion. So choose some vine varieties and start growing your own grapes.
In lesson 2 on how to grow your own grapes we will learn about planting techniques and hybrid varieties.