A dozen or so years ago my father in law brought back a stick from his land in Sicily. It was about two feet long and the thickness of a bamboo cane and he planted it deep into the soil, drenching it with water.
This vine is now solid and woody. The ‘trunk’ some six feet tall and as thick as my wrist, and the vines growing all around the garden. We prune it back hard each January and every spring it explodes, throwing off new long green arms that now cover most of the back of the house, and which have spread into the neighbours’ gardens on each side of ours. And we get grapes. In the first years these were the size of peas and all pip and skin, which even the birds didn’t bother with. They’re now just about the size of eating grapes, dark, dark red, and the whole growth needs to be netted to stop the pigeons stripping the vines bare.
These are wine grapes; in the past we’ve juiced them, turned that into granita, tried (unsuccessfully) to dry them off as raisins, but this year we finally signed up for the Urban Wine Co.
We’d heard about this outfit about five or six years ago, a local collective who’d got together the produce from their wines and handed it over to a commercial wine maker.
It’s grown somewhat since then, and in early September I took our harvest – 18kg no less – to the collection point off Lavender Hill. According to Paul of Urban Wine there were two and half tonnes of grapes brought in that day from over 120 people, and they turned away some 40 more as they were over capacity. Of course the grapes are all kinds of varieties, both red and white, so the wine – the gloriously named ‘Chateau Tooting’ – is rose. Past vintages are reasonably well regarded (and available at selected outlets in SW17 and online).
Come April next year I’ll be taking delivery of nine bottles of the 2018 vintage, bathing in the smug knowledge that just under 1% of the bottle is my harvest. I’ll report back on whether the stuff is drinkable.