Winegrowers Supplies  -  Some thoughts on Choosing Vine Varieties

With a commercial vineyard (a quarter acre or more, which has to be registered with the Wine Standards Branch of DEFRA) I usually suggest 2 or 3 varieties. It is easier to sell 2 or 3 different wines rather than just one, also if a variety is sensitive in flowering and hence varies in yield from year to year there is a measure of 'insurance' from having more than one variety.

Nowdays red wines sell much more easily than white, and fetch a higher price. However, bear in mind that white winemaking is a science, red winemaking is an art.

You may wish to have a French style dry white, in which case Orion or Reichensteiner are good choices, or a Germanic medium-dry white such as Bacchus, Kernling, Schönburger, Phoenix produce; these varieties have grape flavours that usually need some sweetening just prior to bottling.

The newer hybrid varieties, such as Rondo, Regent, Orion, Phoenix and Solaris, are now well proven and have the great advantage that they need little or no spraying.

If wasps are a serious problem then avoid Siegerrebe, also Rondo and Madeleine Angevine, which can be attacked in a 'bad year' for wasps.

Red grapes are always more attractive to birds, and usually require netting (if a small area) or use of 'bird scaring devices' on larger areas.

Chardonnay is very late ripening for England and Wales, but it crops consistently and just about ripens, in limestone soil it can make superb Sparkling Wine at grape ripeness below 50 °Oeschle (providing you can handle the de-acidification).

Some varieties ripen too late in the open vineyard (Ehrenfelser, Elbling, Kerner, Riesling, Scheurebe), some are very sensitive to poor weather at flowering time (Siegerrebe) others are too prone to disease (Optima), some make poor wine (Cascade).

Varieties which I planted and later removed because they ripened too late are: Riesling, Ehrenfelser, Kerner, Abondant, Hölder, Kettern-riesling.