Could wine be the new whisky as Scotland feels the heat?


Trotter has planted 100 vines in the garden of his Fife home

A SCOT is on course to produce the nation’s first home-grown wine for sale within three years.

Chateau Largo is the dream of award-winning food writer Christopher Trotter, who plans to put the first bottles on the shelves by 2014.

Trotter has planted 100 vines in the garden of his home in Upper Largo, Fife, an area famous for its fertile farming land.

Given enough care and sunshine over the next three years, the vines could produce as many as 1,200 bottles of dry white.

The 53-year-old has enough land for 6,000 vines, which could produce around 70,000 bottles annually, worth in the region of 750,000.

Trotter is banking on predictions that climate change could transform the area into a Loire Valley on the northern shores of the Forth.

Wine experts have backed Trotter’s bold plan, predicting Chateau Largo will sell well on the novelty value of Scottish wine alone.

And they point out that England’s wine industry, after a ropey start, is now producing some eminently quaffable bottles.

Trotter, who is also a food consultant, said the idea took root a decade ago following light-hearted conversation with a friend.

He said:

“I was having a chat with a farmer friend who thought that in the next 20 years the East Neuk of Fife would be as good as the Loire valley in France for vineyards. “

Three years ago he put his scheme into action by planting trees to create a wind barrier.

The vines are picked for their resistance to cold

Soil experts were called in to give advice before he prepared the land by adding nutrients and organic compost.

All the weeds were removed this year and a two-and-a-half foot deep furrow ploughed to let the vines take proper root.

Finally, Trotter bought three different varieties of vines from a vineyard in Yorkshire and planted them in May.

The vine types – rondo, solaris, and siegerrebe – were chosen as they are disease-resistant, known for early ripening, and capable of withstanding colder climates.Trotter said the plants were perfectly capable of surviving the harsh Scottish winter.

He said: “The vines are dormant over winter so the weather can do what it likes.

“In Germany you get sub-zero temperatures and it doesn’t matter what happens as the vines go completely to sleep,’ he said.

“They start shooting in May so we’ll just have to make sure that all’s well there, that there is no disease, and allow the growth to continue. “

Surprisingly, Trotter says the vines cannot get too much rain and has even installed a sprinkler system just in case the East Neuk has a dry summer.

What may be more of an issue is sunshine. Trotter is hoping for around 100 sunny days a year in Fife over the next three years.

The statistics are not particularly encouraging: the Loire Valley enjoys an average of 1,418 hours of sunshine annually compared with 1,221 in Fife.

But Trotter points to predictions of climate change.

Just two years ago, French climatologist Jean-Pierre Chaban suggested there could be vineyards in Scotland if global temperatures rose by more than 2% before the end of the century.

So what does Trotter hope the first bottles of Chateau Largo will taste like?

He said:

“The first English wines were revolting and now some have become quite successful.

“We have tasted wine produced by the Ryedale vineyard [Yorkshire], where the vines come from and that’s the closest we’ll get to knowing what ours will taste like.

“It’s quite a dry wine but not as dry as you get from the Loire Valley and with the edition of the siegerrebe grape it makes it quite aromatic. So I just hope we can make something as good as theirs. “

He added: “The action plan is if we get a decent bottle of wine after three years we will then probably look for investors who would make it possible to plant the whole area.

“We could probably market it ourselves to be quite honest with you because, the only Scottish wine, it’s going to sell like hotcakes. “

Last year, the Ardeonaig Hotel, Perthshire, announced it was to create Scotland’s first wine.

However, after hotel owner Pete Gottgens cut his ties with the establishment, the state of the project is unclear.

Wine experts said last night that the time was right for Scotland to start producing its own vintages.

Lorenzo Magnani, general manager and sommelier at Divino winebar and restaurant, Edinburgh, said:

“They are making wine everywhere nowadays so why not in Scotland?

“It is a good idea. It depends on how it tastes of course but I would certainly be happy to sell it here.

“I think it would do well because it is a Scottish wine and customers would be proud to have it. I wish Mr Trotter luck. “

Oliver Richardson is competitions secretary of the Mercian Vineyards Association, which represents vineyards and wine enthusiasts in the UK.

He said:

“Nobody ever thought once they would produce it in Yorkshire, but there are four vineyards there now.

“And all the Yorkshire wines are perfectly drinkable. I don’t see why he shouldn’t be able to produce wine if it’s a sheltered enough site.

“And if you’re producing something which gives kudos to the area people will buy it. “

But Matt Thomasson, manager of the Great Grog wine merchants, Edinburgh, sounded a sceptical note.

He said:

“I think with the current climate in Scotland it is a bit of a waste of time to try and make wine here.

“Too much rain will cause dilution. The grapes get a lot of their flavour from the soil they are grown in, they get a lot of their character and if there is too much water in the soil it becomes diluted and you could end up with a pretty tasteless wine. “

He added:

“I wish him all the best. With climate change I could be ruing my words in the next 10 years, but right now I don’t think it will work. “