Grapes of delight

Not something one usually associates with the bleak North Pennines, grapes can be grown in south-facing polytunnels, as long as the fermenter (us!) doesn’t depend solely on the natural sweetness of the fruit, but is prepared to add in extra sugar to the mash. Err, there doesn’t seem much point in having a vine or two in the polytunnel if one isn’t prepared to ferment the fruit, does there?

You have to figure, if elderberries, blackberries, loganberries and red currants are reasonable hedgerow fruits suitable for fermenting into cottage wines, then grapes as well should turn into, well, grape wine or, as the cognoscenti call it, wine. It’ll be the flavour we’re after, of course, though alcohol makes a reasonable by-product of the process too.

Anyway, yesterday on a wet and miserable afternoon, we’d promised our grandson that harvesting the grapes at last was on the schedule after Sunday lunch, and so we made a dash for it to the dry interior of the polytunnel. The white grapes were still piquantly sour, though we harvested some 6 kilograms before the little family had to start their long return to Edinburgh. Safely tucked up in a little bag for the journey were a few bunches of the ‘red’ grapes, which never got enough sunshine to turn, but still managed to be much sweeter, good enough even to eat.

After culling out a few rotten fruits, we bagged the harvest and popped it into the freezer, against the day we set off a new fermentation sometime in the darkest winter.

I’m quite sure that the end product will never be a recognisable Sauvignon blanc, but if it tastes, drinks and feels like wine, it will be good enough for us. It’s hard to believe, though the two vines have been growing without much attention at one end of the polytunnel since we put it together about five years ago, but the harvest really is significant this year. I’ll find it difficult to wait until we bottle from the demi-johns after the first decanting, and then open the first bottle for tasting, possibly sometime late in 2020, or even on into the next year.


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