Vintage year ahead for Fife’s first vineyard

Christopher Trotter of Buckthorns Farm in Upper Largo is looking forward to a limited edition bottling early in the New Year. Picture: Walter Neilson

Christopher Trotter of Buckthorns Farm in Upper Largo is looking forward to a limited edition bottling early in the New Year. Picture: Walter Neilson

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THE juice from Scotland’s first outdoor grape harvest in 2,000 years is gently fermenting in a vat in Fife.

Vineyard owner Christopher Trotter is keeping a watchful eye on the cuvée from his inaugural harvest at Upper Largo, which he hopes will be ready for a very limited-edition bottling early in the new year.

The entrepreneurial chef and food writer was inspired to plant vines three years ago after a farmer friend suggested global warming would give Fife the climate of the Loire Valley within two decades.

He planted three hardy, ­early-ripening varieties – Solaris, Siegerrebe and Rondo – to fit in with the short Scottish growing season.

Now the first fruit grown on a slope overlooking the Firth of Forth has been picked after months basking in record temperatures.

There were some unexpected results.

“This is the first time since the Romans that a wine has been made in Scotland from grapes grown outside, so that in itself is quite exciting,” said Trotter.

“We thought the solaris, a white grape, would be the most prolific because it was the healthiest-looking vine.

“Then the rondo, which is the red-skinned one, suddenly appeared and was doing well. It has produced the most grapes.”

The first official tasting of Chateau Largo should take place in May or June.

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Trotter is predicting the first vintage will be a light red wine, “probably pinkish in ­colour”.

It will probably have around 10 or 11 per cent alcohol by volume.

“It will be a fresh, young wine that will not improve much in the bottle. It will probably need to be drunk in the first year.

“It won’t have much body but will probably be quite tannic simply because of where we are – the sugar levels will not be high because it is warmth that creates sugars, which creates the alcohol and the richness.

“It will be unique but I just don’t know what to expect.”

While more than 1,600 acres of French vineyards in Bord­eaux and Languedoc-Roussillon were hit by extreme weather conditions this year, Trotter’s Scottish vines were basking in tropical sunshine.

Master of wine Giles Cooke, wine developer for the award-winning Scottish wine importer Alliance Wines, said: “I have to commend Christopher for his bravery and what will poss­ibly be seen as amazing forethought in years to come.

“It is true that many of the world’s great wines are made at the limits of where a particular grape variety will ripen. So Christopher has the potential to be at the vanguard of Scottish quality wine-making.”

But he warned that climate change could also work against Scottish vineyards.

“Christopher will need nerves of steel if he is to succeed as Scotland’s first quality wine producer,” he said.

“As someone who makes wine in one of the warmest regions of the world – the Barossa valley in Australia – I am only too aware of how cruel weather can be.

“Just two weeks ago the Barossa was hit by frost that badly damaged a lot of fruit – and this is an area that sees temperatures up into the 40Cs on regular occasions.

“Closer to home, France has been badly affected by hail for the last two years, destroying large quantities of fruit. So even in established regions the challenges can be formidable.”

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