There are a few contenders for the most popular variety of various fruits, but there is little competition about the most versatile. Grape vines provide us with fresh grapes, dried fruits, oils, juice and, best of all, wine!  But the most exciting thing about grapes is how easy they are to grow at your place.  For summer shade, winter sun and a bounty of fruit from February onwards, these deciduous perennial vines are a perfect planting in your patch.

Grape vines are fairly easy-going when it comes to soil types and seem to tolerate a range of sub-soils, from clay to more free-draining. Grapes grown in nutrient poor soils will need a bit of a supplementary feed, so look at compost and organic matter to give them a hand.  Grapes prefer a neutral to slightly acid soil, so if possible do a pH check before planting your grape vine.  Position them in a nice sunny spot with plenty of support in the form of a tough trellis or sturdy fence – grapes grow up to be big and strong, and are certainly capable of yanking down a dodgy dwelling or flimsy fence line!

The best time of year to plant them is when they are dormant, you will find a large variety of vines available and below is a list of table and wine grapes. Some even have the ability to be both!

Black Muscat:  Table or wine grape. Round, dark reddish skin with bloom, compact bunches, strongMuscat flavour. Vigorous and reliable vine. Spur or cane prune.

Late Summer: Red table grape, drying for raisins & redMuscat type wine. Suitable for growing over a pergola. Self-fertile.

Cabernet Sauvignon:  Cool region, wine grape.  Mid season.  Makes an excellent red wine of good colour, tannin and varietal character. Suitable for growing over a pergola. Self-fertile.

Cardinal: Popular table grape. Very sweet, large round red grapes. Bunches need thinning. Grapes may split with rain. Cane prune. Fruits very early in the season.  Suitable to grow over a pergola. Self-fertile.

Chardonnay:   Wine grape with green skin. Spur prune. Medium vigour. Early season. High quality wine with distinctive character. Self-fertile.

Italia: Table grape. Large, golden-skinned, seeded grapes with whiteMuscat flavour. Virus free. Reliable and heavy bearing. Tolerates wet conditions. Spur prune. Mid to late season maturity. May be grown over a pergola.

Pinot Noir:  Black wine grapes of relatively low vigour. Suits cool regions. Spur prune. Early season. Makes an excellent red wine of varietal character. Suitable to grow over a pergola. Self-fertile.

Rhine Riesling: Green-yellow, small wine grape of moderate vigour. Suits cool regions. Spur prune. Mid season. Produces an excellent white wine with varietal character. Suitable to grow over a pergola.  Self-fertile.

Sultana:  Popular table grape. Long bunches of medium-sized, oval, seedless, yellow-green to copper skinned, sweetly flavoured grapes. Needs warm, dry conditions. Cane prune. Mid season.  Can be dried as sultanas. Also used as a ‘filler’ in wines. Suitable to grow over a pergola. Self-fertile.

Waltham Cross:  Table grape. Loose, conical bunches of large, oval grapes. Yellow–green to golden skin.  Crisp flesh with very good flavour and single seed. Vigorous vine. Spur prune. Late summer to early autumn.  Can be dried as raisins. Suitable for growing over a pergola. Self-fertile.

White Muscatel: Popular table grape. Large yellow-green, seeded grapes. Firm, very sweet flesh and strong Muscat flavour. Not vigorous, but bears heavily. Requires warm climate. Spur or cane prune. Mid to late season. Can be dried as raisins or used to produce white Muscat wine.

Now, here’s the exciting news, grapes LOVE much of our country’s climate!  In order for them to be productive they require a cool winter, wet-ish spring and a long, dry summer which covers a great deal of this country.  Grapes are currently grown successfully and productively in many areas, including the Sunraysia and the Murray Valley in Victoria, the Riverina in New South Wales and Stanthorpe in South-eastern Queensland. Other commercial growing regions include Carnarvon, the Swan Valley and South West of Western Australia, central New South Wales, the Riverland in South Australia and even central Northern Territory.  If you live in an area that gets late frosts, you may want to consider covering your grapes’ new foliage to prevent them being bashed-about by the cold.