Saturday 21 October 2017

Grape expectations

Sweet, juicy grapes grown and hand-picked in England will be launched by a supermarket for the first time. A crop of golden yellow fruit harvested from vines on the Chatsworth estate in Derbyshire will be stocked by Waitrose.
The grapes are the Muscat of Alexandria variety more usually seen in the sunny climes of Spain, France, Chile and South Africa.
They were carefully cultivated on the Duke of Devonshire’s estate that featured in the Pride and Prejudice film starring Keira Knightley.
Waitrose fruit buying manager Jocelyn Clarke said: “The English climate is not really suited to growing table grapes so it’s a glorious surprise that these delicious fruit are a little piece of England.
“The Muscat of Alexandria is a beautiful variety of dessert grape and the fact that we have a supply lovingly cultivated in Derbyshire is the icing on the cake.”
The plump, seeded dessert grapes have an aromatic, honeyed flavour. They were grown in a Chatsworth glasshouse where vines were first planted back in 1921.

Dessert grapes

Small quantities of sweet dessert grapes have been grown in England for many decades, but not on a commercial scale. The Muscat of Alexandria grapes can only thrive in England if they’re kept in heated glasshouses.
Chatsworth’s head of gardens and domain Steve Porter said the sweet fruit had to be tended very carefully throughout the year.
“Growing these grapes is a very labour intensive process so we have up to three gardeners at a time tending to them in the glasshouse,” he said.
“Chatsworth produces around 500 bunches annually so the Duke of Devonshire and his family are very pleased that delicious Derbyshire grapes will now reach a wider audience.”
The grape vines must be painstakingly hand-pruned and any loose bark removed to help them stay healthy and pest-free.
Waitrose’ launch of sweet grapes from Derbyshire is part of a wider trend for more exotic fruit to be grown in Britain.
Orange-fleshed Charentais melons grown in Worcester and Kent go on sale at around 50 branches of the supermarket at the same time.