Somerset Grape Vine- Zone 3
Characteristics of the tree
Somerset is a red and seedless grape. It is harvested early, an advantage in cold climates with short seasons, and the fruit is deliciously sweet and flavourful. It is our favourite grape.
The Somerset grape has a full and delightful flavour. Some detect in it a hint of strawberry, and all agree that it is very sweet and delicious, superior in flavour to those that we generally find in the grocery. It also makes excellent juice. When tasted at the end of August, the grape is pinkish in colour with a delicate flavour, turning dark red and developing further flavour until Mid-September. When it is completely ripe, it measures between 19.5 and 20 Brix.
The grape is rather small if we compare it to those we find in the grocery (it generally weighs between 1.5g and 2g), but the clusters of grapes are compact and quite large, weighing on average 150g. The skin of the grape is thin and adherent.
Although the Somerset grape is considered ‘seedless’ in reality if we observe carefully, we realise it does indeed have seeds, but they are tiny and soft, difficult to detect as one eats the grape. The Somerset grape is our favourite of all the grapes we have tasted so far, and if you can only plant one variety of grape, we recommend this one without hesitation.
The Somerset grapevine is disease-resistant, moderately vigorous, and very productive. Very hardy, it does not suffer damage from frosts as cold as -35° C. The vine has a prostrate growth habit, meaning that it grows along the ground, and that it therefore needs support in order to climb.
The Somerset grapevine was born from the work of Elmer Swenson in Wisconsin. Swenson was a pioneer in the cross-breeding of grape varieties for the northern climate, and most of the varieties of table grape that we grow exist thanks to his work. The Somerset grapevine was born from a cross between ES 5-3-64 and Petit Jewel, and its grandparents include the Thompson seedless grapevine.
Like all vines, grape vines are of the nature to climb on a nearby support, gripping onto it by their tendrils. The support you provide will, to a great degree, determine the growth of your grape vine (i.e., it will not grow any taller than its supporting structure). This illustration shows a grape vine growing horizontally along a fence. You could also choose a pergola or another form of support.
Bear in mind also that you should not allow your vine to grow unrestrained as much as it pleases, if you wish to harvest a good amount of fruit. It should be properly pruned each year after it begins to produce.
All our grape vines are sold bare-root, without pots. They have been cultivated directly in our soil. Bare-root trees must be taken out of the ground and shipped during their period of dormancy, which is why we only ship trees in the spring. A big advantage with these kinds of trees is that they take up very little space, and can therefore be easily shipped by mail all over Canada!
This photograph shows a 1-2-foot grape vine, just like one that you might receive. It’s worth noting that grape vines are among the plants that are the latest to open their buds – so don’t panic if your vine seems to take longer than normal to break dormancy after you plant it.
When planning where to plant your grapevines and what kind of supporting structure to use, you might want to consider the possibility of laying down the vines under the snow for the winter. While all the cultivars we offer are hardy to at least zone 4, and therefore should not need extra protection for winter, we prefer to be on the safe side. Therefore, after we have pruned our grapevines in fall, we lay down the branches on the ground so that they will be insulated by the snow during the winter. We designed our fence with this in mind: you can see how we made it here. This might not be necessary in warmer zones, but is something you should consider if you are in zone 4a or colder.