The trend for warmer weather has resulted in the UK seeing a huge investment in English Wines, with approximately 1.5 million new vines having been planted over this last winter.
The southern English climate is conducive to growing grape vines either for their fruit or to press for wine. They can be grown on wires or trellis or on a south-facing wall or fence. You can just let them grow naturally for ornamental effect such as their vivid autumn colours, but to achieve sweet grapes, select a site in full sun and remove the fruit for the first two years to ensure strong root and top growth. Cut back all buds apart from the 2 or 3 strongest in the first year. Allow these to grow tall and in December prune them back to leave 3 leaf buds.
In the second year, leave the strongest 2 or 3 shoots again and cut off the rest. Once they have grown for the season, cut them back again in December to approximately 60cm (2ft) tall.
In the third year, train the two strongest shoots along a horizontal wire or trellis – these will produce grapes. Leave two more shoots to grow so you have new shoots to prune back in December for producing grapes in the following year. After harvest, prune off the fruiting stems.
The excitement of growing grapes begins when you see the bare stick begin to produce buds in March which then flower to set bunches of tiny grapes.
We have three varieties of vines (Vitis vinifera) to offer the would-be homemade wine-maker and equally suitable for eating as fresh fruit: “Chasselas Rose” that produces sweet rosy red fruits, “Crimson Seedless” – a sweet and, as the name suggests, seedless and “Riesling” – makes a medium-sweet, slightly sharp wine with pear, apple and apricot notes, perhaps a sharper flavour eaten as fresh fruit.