A vineyard in the Highlands of Northeast Scotland
About the Vineyard
Dalrossach (dale of roses) is a private research vineyard 2 miles west of Glenkindie in the River Don valley of west Aberdeenshire. The latitude is 57N and the altitude is 800ft. The aspect is a south-soutwest facing slope near the base of a glacial valley, with a gradient of around 15%. The soil is a sandy loam 1-3ft deep, unfortunately underlain by a hardpan in some areas. The climate is more continental than in many regions of the UK, sheltered from westerly storm systems by the Cairngorm mountains and far enough from the east coast to be sheltered from cool sea winds. Summers are cool with around 70-90 above 20C and up to 10 days over 30C. Winters can be harsh with temperatures as low as -18 C. The total area planted with vines is around 90 square metres/0.009 hectares. Currently there are approximately 95 vines belonging to 70 different varieties.
The idea of growing grapes this far north followed from a dabble with permaculture, hence the emphasis has been on table grapes although there are some wine grape varieties. Covered growing plays a major role, but there are also 'outdoor' grapes. Rather than pushing the standard UK vineyard model ever northwards for the latter, the approach been to use grape varieties grown along similar longitude. The outdoor vines are therefore Latvian, Lithuanian and Russian instead of the German varieties Rondo, Siegerrebe, and Solaris which have usually been planted in the north of the UK. In addition, American, Russian, and French-hybrid grapes are grown in a greenhouse and polytunnels. The aim there has been to find varities to maximise the length of the table grape cropping season and as well as to find varieties suitable for polytunnel wine production. The common factor which links all is disease resistance as chemical sprays are used only as a last resort.
Top: Looking west along the Don valley. The vineyard is in the 1/3 acre garden of the cottage at right.
Below: Juodupe grapes in the greenhouse, August 2020.