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Just received my first order from you and despite them being delayed by the Easter holiday, the plants arrived in perfect condition. They were carefully packed and still damp enough. Very pleased, I will be ordering again. Thank you.
Sue, Lincolnshire

GI-Grapes.jpg

Not So Sour Grapes


A generation ago you would have to be a good gardener indeed if you were to keep a grape vine. Today they are commonplace, if you stick to the rules, says Paul Peacock
.

A polytunnel is probably the ideal place to grow grapes, especially in the cooler north of the country. Many farmers are successfully growing commercial stock in the UK; mostly all converted into wine of ever-increasing quality.

Varieties

At one time the only vine available was the Black Hamburgh, which gave a lot of smallish fruit that were reasonably sweet. The novelty of having grapes at all made them taste a little sweeter. But there are now a large number of varieties available and you can not only grow good eating fruit, but also get a good approximation of some of the world’s favourite wine grapes.

Planting

There are a number of traditions about growing grapes indoors. Firstly, the root is planted outside a greenhouse and the vine is trained through a window inside. The other method is to grow a vine in a hole, half-filled with a dead sheep!

The extra space in a polytunnel however, makes it possible to plant the vines in bush form, as though they were outside in a vineyard. We shall concentrate on the old-fashioned greenhouse method, growing the plant as a cordon outside the tunnel/greenhouse.

No Dead Sheep?

Should the recommended dead animal not be available, dig a hole 60cm deep and at least twice as wide as the root ball. Keep the dug soil and mix half of it with an equal amount of compost.

Tease out the roots and place onto the manure, filling in with the soil/compost mix. Firm well, using as much soil as you can fit into the space. Cover the base of the plant with a good layer of compost as mulch.

Initially it’ll be important to stake the vine (for the first year), allowing it to grow and become established. It can be supported inside the tunnel on an end brace or a specially erected pole.

Vines create a lot of shade and are best in full sun. Tomatoes don’t make good bedfellows with vines because of their height, and the evaporation from the tomato creates an atmosphere that tends to promote fungal infections.

Training

There are dozens of systems for growing grapes, and some rather complicated books on the subject, beyond the scope of the space we have available here. Readers should try Successful Grape Growing for Eating and Wine-making by Alan Rowe.

Perhaps the commonest and easiest method, worth explaining here, is the cordon system. Training your vine at a little higher than head height, tied to firm supports will produce a strong vine. You will need to consider erecting something more than just the hoops of the polytunnel, which are usually too far apart as an effective support. You will have something like a system of wires at 30cm intervals. Each of these wires will support a lateral, which will bear fruit. The ‘leader’ will run at 90° to these wires.

In the first two years don’t allow any fruit to form on the plant. You’re simply building the structure of the plant. In year one, choose the leader branch and tie/support it until it reaches the wires. Any sub laterals should be plucked out entirely.

In the winter, collect the fallen leaves, and cut the leader back to where it’s at least as thick as a pencil, cutting just after a bud.

Repeat this in the second year, then from the third year you can train a lateral for each of the wires. Remember, grapes appear only on new wood, so each year you need to prune the lateral ‘cordon’ canes back to about 10 buds (or you can use more short 3-bud spurs).

Problems

People allow too much fruit to develop and then wonder why they are all covered with Botrytis. The keyword is ventilation. Cut out bunches of grapes that fall near each other, leaving plenty of space for air to remove humidity. Fungal infections thrive when the humidity and temperature is high.

Mildew and Botrytis are controlled with copper-based fungicide. Bordeaux Mixture was invented 150 years ago by monks to treat vines in France, and has been on the organic list for many years. Not now strictly thought of as organic, many gardeners still use it.

An alternative is to grow one of the less susceptible varieties and keep the humidity low and the grapes widely spaced – at least no more than 18 bunches to a mature plant.

Jargon Buster

  • LEADER (also known as a ‘rod’) is the main stem of the plant. Water shoots come off the leader, low down the stock. Remove these.
  • LATERALS grow from the leader’s nodes. 
  • SUB LATERALS grow from the laterals.

Some Common Varieties

These varieties are easily available and grown in the UK. You can grow almost any variety under cover, although it’s best to choose the late-ripening ones. There are scores more!

  • BACCHUS - A German white variety that gives excellent juice.
  • SIEGERREBE - A very early maturing variety, bred from Gewürtztraminer, producing delicious brownish grapes.
  • SCHÖNBURGER - Grown particularly in Kent, a good flavoured grape with lots of sugar.
  • SEYVAL BLANC - Grown a lot in the USA, small white fruit, heavy cropping, now used mainly for sparkling wine.
  • MADELEINE ANGEVINE - A citrus flavour, ideal for cool climates, early ripening and a very reliable cropper.
  • BLACK HAMBURGH - The original gardener’s grape – fantastic for lots of good fruit, if grown under cover.
  • TRIOMPHE D’ALSACE - Like blackcurrants, good sweetness and very reliable, slightly foxy flavour.
  • PINOT NOIR - Just to show you can grow one of the classic varieties. Susceptibility to Botrytis can be a problem.

This article first appeared in the June 2007 edition of Grow It magazine. To download a pdf copy of the original article click on the image below...Image of the magazine article 'Not So So Sour Grapes'


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Grape Vine 'Black Hamburgh'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Large, thin-skinned, black fruits have a gorgeously sweet flavour. Suitable for outdoor growing in the South, protected further North. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised vine (non grafted) approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Cabernet Sauvignon'

Grape Vine 'Cabernet Sauvignon'

Wine Grape. One of the classic claret grape varieties, producing small black grapes with an intense flavour. Recommended for protected growing only. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Chardonnay'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Gorgeously sweet golden grapes suitable for eating and wine-making. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Chasselas Doré De Fontainebleau'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Sublimely flavoured sweet golden fruits. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Chasselas Rosé Royale'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Sublimely sweet rosy red fruits are perfect for both wine making and eating. Suitable for outdoor and protected cropping. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised vine (non grafted) approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Chenin Blanc'

Grape Vine 'Chenin Blanc'

Wine Grape. Smallish green fruits are perfect for crisp dry whites. Recommended for protected growing only. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Divico'

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Wine Grape. Almost black grapes are perfect for wine-making. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Gamay'

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Wine Grape. Purple black fruits are perfect for making juice and light fruity red wines. Recommended for protected growing only. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Gewürztraminer'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Pinky-red grapes have a delicious spicy flavour. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Grenache'

Grape Vine 'Grenache'

Wine Grape. Great for those making their own wine as the blue-black grape has a high sugar and alcohol content. Often used to make Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Huxelrebe'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Large yellow fruits are packed full of sugar and have a delicate muscat flavour. Early to ripen. For outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Isabella'

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Wine / Juice / Eating variety with a dark purple skin and green/yellow flesh. Good at withstanding hot climates (as well as cool).
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Müller-Thurgau'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Golden grapes are overloaded with sweet sugary flavours. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Macabeo'

Grape Vine 'Macabeo'

Wine Grape. This large white grape is often used to make Rioja and Cava. High-yielding with fairly neutral acidity, best grown under protection. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Merlot'

Grape Vine 'Merlot'

Wine Grape. Purple-blue grapes have a soft, plummy flavour. Recommended for protected growing only. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Muscat Saint-Vallier'

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Eating Grape. Large green fruits have a subtle muscat flavour. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Parellada'

Grape Vine 'Parellada'

Wine Grape. White fruits with a fresh apple/nectarine flavour. One of the main grapes used to make Cava. Likes a long growing season. We suggest protected growing.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Phoenix'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Large green fruits and good disease resistance. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Pinot Blanc'

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Wine Grape. White form of the classic Pinot Noir - need we say more? Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Pinot Gris'

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Wine Grape. Grey-blue fruits. Perfect for crisp, dry, everyday white wines. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised vine (non grafted) approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Pinot Meunier'

Grape Vine 'Pinot Meunier'

Eating / Wine Grape. Rich purple-black fruits suitable for wine and eating. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Reichensteiner'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Golden fruits become extremely sweet as they ripen. Excellent for cooler parts of the country. For outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised vine (non grafted) approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Riesling'

Grape Vine 'Riesling'

Eating / Wine Grape. The classic wine grape of Germany. Sweet golden yellow fruits. Recommended for protected growing only. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Saint Laurent'

Grape Vine 'Saint Laurent'

Eating / Wine Grape. Almost-black grapes are perfect for eating and wine-making. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Sauvignon Blanc'

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Wine Grape. Large green fruits are perfect for making a wide variety of wine styles. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Schonburger'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Gorgeously sweet plum-coloured fruits. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Seyval Blanc'

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Eating / Wine Grape. A reliable white grape with good disease resistance, highly recommended. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Siegerrebe'

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Eating / Wine Grape. An intensely sweet and aromatic variety producing delicious plum-coloured grapes. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Syrah'

Grape Vine 'Syrah'

Black Wine Grape. Also known as Shiraz (particularly in Australia), flavour changes depending on climatic conditions. Produces grapes with thick skins.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Tempranillo'

Grape Vine 'Tempranillo'

Wine Grape. A popular variety grown in the north of Spain, producing deep blue-black grapes with seeds. Can be grown with or without protection.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Vanessa'

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Seedless Eating Grape. A delightful early-ripening red grape. Excellent for growing in cooler climates. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Venus'

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Seedless Eating / Juice Grape. A lovely blue-black seedless grape that is extremely versatile. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Verdejo'

Grape Vine 'Verdejo'

Wine Grape. A white variety that likes the high altitudes of Spain and is usually harvested at night. Produces wine with a full-bodied honeyed, nutty flavour.
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Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Champagne Grape Collection

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A truly novel gift! Two of the classic Champagne grape varieties and the all important recipe to make a fine quality sparkling wines. Can be grown outside. Self fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as bare root grafted vines approximately 2 feet (60 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Bacchus'

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Eating / Wine Grape. A fine quality white grape with a distinct flavour and good habit. Suitable for outdoor and protected cropping. Self Fertile. Origin, Germany.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Bianca'

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Wine Grape. A hardy white variety originally from Hungry which grows well in cooler climates with short seasons. Produces lots of small white grapes.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Dornfelder'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Heavy cropping, producing large bunches of rich black fruits. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a containerised grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including pot.

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Grape Vine 'Kentish Claret'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Almost black grapes are perfect for eating, wine or jams. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Lakemont'

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Seedless Eating Grape. Large bunches of medium-sized golden yellow grapes have an almost honey taste. Suitable for protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Madeleine Angevine'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Sweet citrus-flavoured golden-white fruits. Well suited to the northern climate. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Muscat D'Alexandria'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Gorgeous golden fruits have a sweet muscat flavour and scent. Recommended for protected growing only. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Picurka'

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Seedless Eating Grape. A lovely golden yellow seedless grape which develops freckles on its skin as it ripens. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Pinot Noir'

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Eating / Wine Grape. The noble grape of Burgundy and Champagne; eats well too. Rich black fruits. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Regent'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Deep red fruits ripen early. Popular wine grape but also excellent for eating. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Rhea'

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Seedless Eating Grape. Beautiful, large, pink oval fruits are sweet and juicy. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Semillon'

Grape Vine 'Semillon'

Wine Grape. Small, bright green grapes are packed full of juice. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Suffolk Red'

Grape Vine 'Suffolk Red'

Seedless Eating Grape. Bright purple-red fruits. With good Winter hardiness this is an excellent grape for Northern gardeners. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Grape Vine 'Triomphe d'Alsace'

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Eating / Wine Grape. Early, hardy and disease-resistant. Perfect for northern gardeners. Suitable for outdoor and protected growing. Self Fertile.
Currently Not Available To Purchase - Available from late February NEXT YEAR
Supplied as a bare root grafted vine approximately 12" - 18" (30 - 45 cm) tall including roots.

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Plant Passport Registration Number: GB-34265