This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
The prospects of this Grape are improving. We have always maintained that such would be the case, and after a longer experience of it than any grower, except the raiser of it, we will try to represent it without the bias, which some might naturally attach to any opinion of ours; for if this Grape is what some have represented it to be, no good word of ours will save it from being forgotten. We first planted it at Archer-field in 1864, in an old vinery in which Grapes were generally ripened in April. It fruited in 1865, and from that experience of it to the present our opinion of it has not altered; and to all who have any doubt of the noble appearance, the immense berry, and strong-growing free-bearing qualities of this Vine, we can only say, Come and see it, under by no means favourable circumstances, growing in a low semi-pit with Black Hamburgs, and in a border not intended to be permanent. We know of no other white Grape that will thoroughly ripen with Hamburgs, with which we would displace the Golden Champion, either for freeness of fruiting, magnificent appearance, or flavour.
It may also be stated that we saw it in July last, at Keele Hall, on by no means a strong Vine planted in 1870, and its appearance there was quite equal to what is said of it above; it was, indeed, the most conspicuous sample in the same vinery, and the whole were fine for their age. It is also to be seen splendid, as compared to any other Grapes in the same vinery, grafted on a by no means strong Bowood Muscat, at Langlee; here there is a rod about 6 feet long with eleven bunches on it. We hear of its being fine at Sir Henry Seaton Stewart's of Tough, and at Lord Abercromby's, and other places that could be named. Some unfortunate circumstances connected with the plants that were first distributed caused the impression that it is a weak grower, instead of which it is one of the strongest-growing of Vines, whether on its own roots or grafted on other Vines. We would recommend its being grafted on the Muscat of Alexandria as the best stock for it, so far as we can judge; for a few days ago we carefully tasted samples of it from its own roots, from Black Hamburg, and Muscat of Alexandria stocks, and the trace of Muscat flavour was most appreciable from the Muscat stock.
We have just been informed of a very remarkable change effected on this Grape by grafting it on the Black Frontignan, which, it is said, has changed the Golden Champion "into a small oval black Grape, partaking of the peculiar Frontignan flavour." If this be correct, we have never heard of so complete and striking a change before. We may further state that it augurs well for the Grape that, at the last Edinburgh June Show, it took first and second prizes for white Grapes against Buckland's Sweetwater and other well-grown white Grapes; and had there been a third award, the Golden Champion would have secured that also. Mr Turner, of Slough, has, according to the report in the 'Journal of Horticulture,' shown three bunches of it of "large size." The 'Gardeners' Chronicle' says it was affected with spot. It will be remembered against what an adverse tide of opinion the Muscat of Alexandria (or, as it is thought, the Black Muscat reintroduced) has worked its way into such high favour, and we have every reason to expect the same of the Golden Champion; at all events, no favourable experience of ours will save it from what it deserves, either the one way or the other.
From peculiar circumstances, which I will here detail, I am able to corroborate what Mr Simpson of Wortley, as well as the Editor of the 'Gardener,' describes as the treatment as to moisture in the atmosphere this Grape requires. In one of my long span-roofed vineries here there are four plants of the Golden Champion Vine. These houses have an incline of 6 feet in the 200 feet, the lower ends of them bounded by a corridor, from which they spring; the higher ends are exposed to the cold air; and all acquainted with such matters will see at once that the hot air laden with moisture will draw towards the upper ends, and on coming in contact with the cold glass of the ends of the houses a great portion of the moisture will condense, and that the houses will be much damper there than towards the middle and lower end. In fact, the berries on the Vine or two next the upper end are every morning, before air is put on, covered with water, like dew on the grass, while the rest of the fruit is quite dry. Now it so happens that two Vines of the Golden Champion, one on either side, are the second Vines from this damp end, a Muscat being the nearest to the end.
Farther down the house, and where the berries are never covered with dew, are two more Vines of the Golden Champion; on these latter there has not been a spotted or defective berry, while on the two close to the end of the house more than half the berries have been spotted. In the case of the two Muscats next the cold end, many of the berries spotted also, and many shanked, not in the usual way of shanking; the fruit ripened and then the shanks decayed, the fruit sweet, and not acid, as in the case of genuine shanking. Here, then, is a case where all the circumstances as to soil, climate, etc, are identical, with the exception that the moisture is in excess in the one case and not in the other, confirming the conclusions the writers I have referred to have arrived at - namely, that this Grape requires a dry atmosphere - that is, one not saturated with moisture; and, I believe, the same may be said of all Grapes if they are to be produced of the highest quality, as to flavour especially.
On several occasions I have observed that a charge against this Grape and the Madresfield Court Grape was that the berries cracked just as they finished swelling. The Grape-grower who cannot prevent this has few resources. If, when the first berry gives way, the lat-terals on which the bunches are growing are half cut through, either by means of a pair of scissors or a knife, and the laterals that have no fruit on them are allowed to grow, there will be no more cracking of the berries. Wm. Thomson.
Tweed Vineyard, Oct. 13, 1873.