Back in 2001 Simon Akeroyd, then a Senior Gardener in the Fruit Department, proposed that we should plant a vineyard here at Wisley. This we did, and after much careful research into the best grapes to grow, we planted up 756 vines in May 2004.
Our two cultivars are ‘Phönix’ and ‘Orion’. We selected these two because they do well in the UK climate, both show good mildew resistance, and are practical for people to manage. They aren’t, however, known for being used for commercial winemaking.
Just last week we made our third harvest. The Fruit team, headed by Jim Arbury and viticulture specialist Ali Valsecchi, harvested loads of bunches of grapes. Ali had been testing them for their sugar content for a few weeks to determine the optimum harvest time. Once gathered, the grapes were despatched to Plumpton College in Sussex, who are helping the RHS make wine. www.plumpton.ac.uk
So what happened to our first two harvests? The first, in 2006, was used to produce a small amount of wine that we drank in celebration of the opening of the Glasshouse in June 2007. The superior second vintage of 2007 is now ready for drinking.
“The Glasshouse” wine is a clean, dry, aromatic white wine that has a delicate nose of grass, herbs, peaches and pear drops, according to Jonathan Ray, Wine Editor of the Daily Telegraph. If you would like to try some yourself it is available at Wisley from the Gift Shop for £9.95. http://www.rhs.org.uk/news/wisleywine.asp And this coming weekend you can buy it in the Marquee at the Taste of Autumn event. But with only 773 bottles made, you better hurry!
We hope to see you there, for our annual celebration of our harvest, and a whole range of activities for the family.
p.s. for the full details of our grape-growing activities and Plumpton College's winemaking procedures, see the October issue of The Garden magazine http://www.rhs.org.uk/Learning/Publications/pubs_journals_garden.htm