By Jeremy Pemberton-Pigott
When the famous Kippen “Big Vine” was finally cut in 1964 by Selby Buchanan, over a century of village heritage was resigned to the history books only to be read about by future generations. Some people in the village tried to preserve the “Big Vine” by taking cuttings to grow the vine for themselves in their own greenhouses. After living in the village for 12 years, I was interested in getting a hold of cutting for myself and tracked down one of the many recipients of the original cuttings Fiona and Lindsay Macdonald that had the vine flourishing in their greenhouse. I took a number of cuttings but only 3 survived. I planted 2 in my own greenhouse and the other was given to Gartmore House to cultivate in their large greenhouses. Five years later I was interested to see if it would be possible to make wine from these grapes that were now producing a healthy crop of grape bunches.
Grapes still green mid-summer
The grape variety that the cutting was taken from is the Gros Colman variety, the vine which most famously produced nearly 4,000 bunches from one vine in the original Kippen Vine. They were originally produced in Kippen as eating grapes. I researched on the internet to see if there was any history of wine production using this grape variety. There was very little mention of wine production with the Gros Colman apart from in the late 1800’s in India. Some hybrid varieties of the Gros Colman had gone on to be used for wine production in France but again, very little information was to be found.
Turning red in the Autumn
“Hey, well why not give it a go!” I said. My vines had not expanded enough to produce enough grape bunches to make a significant volume of wine, so I combined crops with my original donor Fiona Macdonald and set about harvesting the grapes in October 2014 when most of the grapes had turned from green to dark red and as the leaves were falling off the vine.
Bunches “a plenty” Grapes being harvested
After cutting the grape bunches from the vines, I picked the individual grapes off the stems and placed them in a plastic VAT. It was tempting to employ local “Kippen ladies” to press the vines in the traditional manner with their feet, but instead decided to crush the vines using a potato masher.
The finished product has a similar colour to a dark Rose. It has a naturally sharp flavour which can be softened by adding sweetener when bottling. I wait to see what it will taste like once it has fully matured. Perhaps a tipple in the summer of 2017 is the time to try!
Bottled and ready for drinking
If you are looking to produce your own home made wine, I can recommend Stirling Health Food Store on Dumbarton Road in Stirling who provided excellent advice to novice winemakers and brewers and sell all of the equipment needed for any form of home brewing. I also made some Bramble Wine which uses a similar process.