Quick Recipes and Easy

How to Grow Grapes for Excellent Wine

I reckon it quite safe to say that more has been written about the cultivation of grapes than has – or ever will be – written about any other fruit. This is not surprising, considering that the grape is probably the oldest of known fruits.

Surprisingly, grapes do not need loads of manures and fertilizers; they grow well on quite poor soils and need small after-attention. The roots will search out and find what they want; all we have to concern ourselves with is where to place the top-growth – the vine itself.

If one wall of your house faces south, south-west or even west, that problem is solved very easily. If you cannot plant the vine under that particular wall, plant it round the corner and train the vine round to the sunny side of the house. Grapes may be grown in the open garden in similar fashion to loganberries, or they may be trained over sheds, garages, out-houses and such-like.

Vines are not expensive, and if two are planted, the yield may be regarded as fantastic when considering the value of the wine that may be made for many years.

Planting is best carried out in autumn and in any case before Christmas. If planting against a wall, take out a hole about two feet each way and plant so that the stem of the vine is about fifteen inches away from the wall itself. Dig deeply and work in any compost that may be available and some builders’ rubble if you can get some. A dusting of lime forked in will be helpful. Spread out the roots well and plant as recommended for fruit trees.

Having planted the vine, spread a small manure above the roots: this will not be necessary in subsequent seasons, but the vine will benefit from a mulch each spring if you can give it one.

Vines must not be allowed to fruit the first season; therefore they must be cut back to about four buds.

Having planted the vine and cut it back, we must choose how to train it to cover the wall. The best plot is to use special wall nails, run wires to and from these and train the vine to the wires.

The four long growths that come from the four buds you left when cutting back are stopped at the bud nearest the growing point. These four leaders are the basis from which the vine will be built up to cover the wall. If flower buds form during the first season, they should be nipped off so that the vine uses its energy producing wood for subsequent fruiting. First-season fruiting often permanently weakens a vine.

When pruning, remember that next year’s fruit will be borne on the wood made this year. But we do not want masses of long, straggling growths hanging about all over the place, so during the summer it is best to cut some of them out. Those left to bear next year’s fruit should be cut back to five or six buds in autumn or early winter. Only new growth should be cut during the summer; never cut ancient wood during summer – indeed ancient wood must never be cut after Christmas, as this can cause profuse bleeding which may be quite impossible to stop. By all means cut away some of the ancient growth to make way for new wood, but if this has not been done before Christmas leave it until the next winter.

Many varieties ripen in September – or earlier if the summer has been excellent. This is especially advantageous because the weather is still warm enough for a satisfactory ferment when you come to make the wine. This is not so vital to those who carry out their fermentation in the house, but where it has to be carried on in a shed or outhouse the warm weather is a fantastic help.

Brian Cook is a freelance writer whose articles on home wine making have appeared in print and on many websites. You can find more of these at: makinggreatwine.com makinggreatwine.com

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