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Growing Grapes in Your Garden


By DavidS


I have grown grapes in my garden for over 40 years, for most of that time I grew the vine varieties that were growing in English vineyards at that time: MullerThurgau, Reichensteiner, Madeleine Angevine, and Bacchus. These are all vitis vinifera, ( the European winegrape) it was a constant battle against fungal disease. Commercial growers need to spray every two weeks, to combat this; these fungicides are not available
to the garden grower.
I now grow only disease resistant hybrid vines; these are cross-breeds between vitis vinifera, and native American vines like vitis Labrusca. Most of this cross-breeding has been carried out by German vine breeders, and these vines are now widely grown in German and English vineyards.

Recommended Vines:

This is the best grape I have encounted in all my time growing vines; it has big bunches ( see picture) and
a rich flavour, so if want to grow just one or two vines for eating, this is the one to plant. It also makes a lovely
Pink wine, with a strawberry bouquet; and blends well with REGENT 50/50 making a very good flavoured red wine. It is only available from Sunnybank Vine Nursery by mail order; or if you live near me, in South Norfolk
or North Suffolk, I root a few cuttings each year.

This vine produces big crops of black grapes with deep red juice; its wine is similar in character to that produced in France’s Rhone Valley, but I much prefer it blended with Kempsey,

This is another remarkable vine from the German breeders; it produces large crops of smallish white very sweet berries, with a rich flavour. A great plus with Solaris is that it usually develops botrytis cinerea, “the noble rot” ( see pictures) this is the dull-pink colour on the skins; the skin then evaporates some of the juice, concentrating the sugar and flavour, passing on a lovely richness, and body to your wine.

Pick a sunny site, if you have a sunny wall or fence, this even better; with the micro-climate of your garden, a wall or fence will produce temperatures 5-7 c higher than the open garden; my vines on the fence ripen a week earlier, than those growing rows in the garden. If you are growing them in rows, run the row as near as possible north to south, this will give the leaves maximum exposure to the sun. Hybrids are vigorous and should be planted 5-6 feet apart, using the “double Guyot” method of replacement training and pruning.

It is important to get maximum sunlight on the leaves, so thin out some of the vertical fruit-baring shoots, allowing plenty of light and air through the leaf canopy.
Your vines have the precious ability to convert “Sunlight into Wine”
Most UK vineyards are planted south of a line from The Wash to the Bristol Channel; vines can be grown further
north than this, but more care will needed in sighting the vine in sheltered sunny spot. If you have a greenhouse, this gives you much more scope; for example Kempsey Black could be grown as an eating grape in most parts of the UK.

Over the last two decades modern “New World” winemaking techniques are now being used worlwide, the main essence of these new methods is based on selecting good wine yeasts and controling fermentation temperature. This is not difficult, as these yeasts and and methods are available to all of us, I have been using them for several years now and am amazed at the quality of the wine I am now able to produce. The yeasts and cultures are easily avaiable on the internet.

I would like to pass on to you a few methods I use and have developed. I always use Gervin Wine Yeasts; for White and pink wines I use Gervin No.5, and ferment at a low temp (12-15 c) this produces a fruity aromatic wine.
For red wine, I use Gervin No.2 fermented around 18-25c
(temperature is less important with red juice)

MLF fermentation is very important to the quality of red wine; all commercial wines undergo this “secondary” fermentation; add the culture to the wine, when the alcoholic fermentation is almost complete, the MLF fermentation will slowly convert the harsher malic acid into the softer lactic acid.This ferment will stop if the temp drops much below 20c and will resume the following summer as the temp rises; if you have bottled the wine the fermentation will “pop” the cork and spoil the wine. To avoid this, last year, I kept the wine in a warm kitchen until the MLF was complete. I then put the wine in a cold garage over winter, this cold period clears
the wine, and the sediment settles at the bottom of the vessel.

Finding your vines: you are not likely to find hybrid vines at your Garden Centre, so will need to find a specialist supplier; I use Sunnybank Vine Nursery, who have a mail order service.


THE BACKYARD VINTNER, by Jim Law, Published by Quarry Books; this an American book which is very well
illustrated, and has an excellent winemaking section.

More blog posts by DavidS

Previous post: Iris Sibirica: forgotten, but not gone!

Next post: THE CURRY-LEAF PLANT (Murraya Koenigii)



Hi David, how are you? Shame you did not sign in last week, someone had a question about grape vines, I felt you could have answered his question. I hope that person signs in soon and see your blog. :))

30 May, 2014


What a lot of great information - your pictures make me wish I had a glasshouse...

30 May, 2014


We took our vine out this year. the girls don't eat them any more and I decided I could use the space better. But I always got a thrill seeing the flowers then the fruit setting.

lovely informative blog :o)

30 May, 2014


Great timing on this blog. My partner and I were only talking about having a grape vibe this morning. Really informative blog, added to favourites :-)

31 May, 2014


Most interesting reading, we only have two vines, and either eat, chutney, or wine juice, unfortunately they are very pippy!! but too late to change now, wish you had written this blog 5 years ago......impressed with the bottles!!

12 Sep, 2014


Which of those photos are Kempsey black? I'm intrigued in growing it again. I purchased a vine of it in the past from sunnybank vines but foolishly tried to start it earlier indoors and it died.
But the first picture looks really promising - a nice sized, healthy looking bunch. Is it just the one in the first picture?

Since then I've acquired more varieties - American hybrid labrusca types like Canadice, Mars, Trollhaugen, Jodoup, Swenson red and Somerset.
Some 'French hybrid' based ones too like Seyval, Kishmish 342, Jutrezenka and Kishmish Zaporoski and a vine of Madeleine Angevine and an amurensis (Siberian grape) hybrid called Kosmonauts.

French hybrid sorts tend to be close in flavour to European, non-hybrid vinifera grapes whereas American ones based on labrusca are usually quite sweet, fruity.

I'm hoping to breed new, resistant varieties adapted to our cooler climate. Many great varieties exist, but so few seedless ones suitable for growing outside in Britain.
Some fruity "welches grape juice" / Concord flavoured ones and some vinifera flavoured ones.

I'm intrigued by Kempsey black being a historical, rare British variety or an American one forgotten under a different name. That's why I bought it in the first place.
Can you describe it to me?

11 Dec, 2014


And what are the eating aspects like? Is the flesh soft or crisp and is the skin thick?

11 Dec, 2014


Hi interesting reading

I will have a god nose about on the Sunnybank site


26 Jan, 2015

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