All of the varieties listed below are grown at Shires;
You may wonder why so many different varieties, well initially it was to understand which would work best in our location. All have good years and bad years, its generally down to the weather. So looking at the collection now, for the amateur, I would suggest more than one variety at least and you should be able to look forward to a crop of some sort each year. Plus the other benefit is that if you decide to blend as we do then you will have a different wine each year. The descriptions are our findings from our vines. Varieties will perform differently in other locations and soil types. All our varieties are grown on their own stock and not grafted. Grafting can also alter the performance of a variety.
Seyval Blanc (Seibel 5656 x Seibel 4986)
This hybrid variety has been very popular in recent years as it produces high yields. It is described as disease resistant, however, I would always be cautious of descriptions of this nature. It would be more realistic to say ‘less susceptible’ or ‘tolerant of’. The grapes have a light flavour which can be lost in processing. It retains relatively high acid levels therefore needs careful wine making. Ripening takes place in mid to late October when the grapes take on a light straw colour. Seyval Blanc makes a good sparkling wine with light Lemon and Almond flavours. Generally we use this variety as the bulk of the juice to support the flavours of other lower volume varieties.
Bud burst is mid to late in comparison with the other varieties, growth is strong but steady. side shoots and tendrils can be a problem and growth tends not to slow even in the driest years so you will be trimming back right up to picking.
Siegerrebe (Madeleine Angervine x Gewurztraminer)
A beautiful grape when ripe, producing shades of Salmon through to brick red. This variety is one of the earliest to ripen from the beginning of September. The flavour is strong and spicy with overtones of Grapefruit, some say its wine is too strong on its own and is best blended. It is capable of producing high sugar values. During flowering, this variety benefits from some shelter to help pollination, ours are in the middle row. With the early ripening, comes the perennial problem of wasps, they can strip a vine in a few days!
Bud burst is a little later than Seyval Blanc and growth is more reserved. The habit is neat with short side shoots, however Siegerrebe is susceptible to Powdery Mildew which shows first on these side shoots.
Madeleine Angevine (origin uncertain)
This variety is probably the most reliable grape we grow. It produces large bunches of small grapes turning golden when ripe. The flavour is similar to a Muscat variety and blends well but also stands well on its own but needs time to develop to its best potential. It is capable of setting and ripening fruit even in the poorest years (as is the case this year 2012).
The buds burst earlier than Seyval Blanc and has a strong habit with large leaves. It does require constant attention to keep the growth under control. Powdery Mildew can be a problem throughout the season.
Kanzler (Muller-Thurgau x Silvaner)
Probably my favourite variety. This German variety works well here in a good season, but is troublesome in poor ones when you may not get any fruit. The grapes ripen to a deep straw colour and have an intense fruit flavour, well worth waiting for!. Sugars are moderate to high and the grapes ripen in early October.
Bud burst is very early which then poses a risk of frost damage. Growth is vigorous and wood ripening is said to be moderate to poor, I have not had any issues with this. This variety is susceptible to Downy Mildew and less so of Powdery mildew. Overall, it is challenging but worth working for.
Solaris (Merzling x Saperavi Servanyi) ?
A fairy recent introduction, again from Germany. This hybrid produces small bunches of tiny grapes. The flavour is nutty with tones of Banana. Sugars are extremely high over 100°Ο. It blends well with other varieties supporting overall sugar values and adds body to the wine.
Buds burst mid to late, later than Seyval Blanc. The growth is very strong but slows considerably by late August, its leaves are huge, which can cause a problem in windy conditions.