Sweet, juicy grapes grown and hand-picked at Chatsworth are to become the first in England to be launched by a supermarket this week (Sept 22, 2011).
A crop of golden yellow fruit harvested from vines on the Chatsworth estate in Derbyshire go on sale at the John Lewis Foodhall from Waitrose on London's Oxford Street on Thursday, September 22 for a limited period priced at £2.99 per 300g pack. The grapes will also be available at the Chatsworth farmshop in Pilsley for a limited time.
The grapes are the Muscat of Alexandria variety more usually seen in the sunny climes of Spain, France, Chile and South Africa.
They were carefully cultivated on the Duke of Devonshire's estate in a Chatsworth glasshouse where vines were first planted back in 1921. The plump, seeded dessert grapes have an aromatic, honeyed flavour.
Chatsworth’s Head of Gardens and Park Steve Porter said the sweet fruit had to be tended very carefully throughout the year.
"Growing these grapes is a very labour intensive process so we have up to three gardeners at a time tending to them in the glasshouse," he said.
"Chatsworth produces around 500 bunches annually so the Duke of Devonshire and his family are very pleased that delicious Derbyshire grapes will now reach a wider audience."
The grape vines must be painstakingly hand-pruned and any loose bark removed to help them stay healthy and pest-free.
Waitrose fruit buying manager Jocelyn Clarke said: "The English climate is not really suited to growing table grapes so it's a glorious surprise that these delicious fruit are a little piece of England.
"The Muscat of Alexandria is a beautiful variety of dessert grape and the fact that we have a supply lovingly cultivated in Derbyshire is the icing on the cake."
The arrival of English-grown sweet Muscat grapes in stores follows a British wine boom that last year saw vineyards here celebrate record production equal to four million bottles.
Small quantities of sweet dessert grapes have been grown in England for many decades, but not on a commercial scale. The Muscat of Alexandria grapes can only thrive in England if they're kept in heated glasshouses.
Chatsworth house, garden, farmyard and adventure playground are open every day to 23 December 2011. For more information and ticketing options including a 10 percent discount for online booking, visit www.chatsworth.org