City home-owner shocked as grapes grow in December

THE gritting lorries are ­salting the roads and drivers are reaching for the ­de-icer.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 3rd December 2014, 12:05 pm
Bunches of white grapes on the vine outside the home of Mike Williamson. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Bunches of white grapes on the vine outside the home of Mike Williamson. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

But as the first frosts of ­winter begin to chill the city one Stockbridge home is still enjoying the fruits of the summer harvest.

Huge bunches of white grapes have endured plummeting temperatures to flourish on a vine on the front wall of Mike and Hil Williamson’s house – home to feted Scottish philospher Thomas Carlyle in the 1820s.

The fruit would not look out of place in the gardens of Greece or Spain, but should have perished before the harsh Edinburgh winter kicks in.

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Stockbridge resident Mike Williamson poses with his grapes. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

The yield was spotted by window cleaner Les ­Glasgow who was working on the house this week.

He said: “It’s mad to think about having grapes in ­December, let alone grapes in Scotland in December.

“You never get them at this time of year unless they are in a greenhouse.”

The 55-year-old, who lives in Corstorphine, said: “They are small – unlike ones you get in a shop – and very sweet.

The Comely Bank home which grows the grapes. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

“I always take notice of these things. In all my years as a window cleaner, I have never seen anything like this.”

The late crop has also baffled owners Mike, 62, and his wife Hil, 64, who planted the vine 15 years ago.

Interior designer Mike said the grapes were visible thanks to recent pruning of the vine as it had grown quickly and was threatening to cover some of the windows.

He said: “We do have grapes on it every year as the wall is south facing and there is good soil so it grows very well.” The unusually warm weather may have contributed to this year’s bumper harvest, according to Edinburgh wine expert Rose Murray Brown, who is Scotland’s only Master of Wine.

Ms Murray Brown, who runs an eponymous wine­tasting business in the New Town, said: “It is quite unusual to have grapes growing at this time, although in other parts of the world they do pick grapes late if they are making sweet wines.

“In Scotland, there is not much of a winemaking record but now the climate is changing, I guess new things are possible.

“We have had quite a warm summer and a mild autumn, and quite dry weather. That is ideal for grapes.” The Capital does not have a history of winemaking as ­Scotland’s first outdoor grape harvest since Roman times took place in Fife only last year. Owner Christopher Trotter hopes to produce Scottish wine from his estate at Upper Largo for very limited bottling next spring.