This section is from the book "The Fruit Manual: Containing The Descriptions And Synonyms Of The Fruits And Fruit Trees Of Great Britain", by Robert Hogg. Also available from Amazon: The Fruit Manual.
I have not been able to ascertain the original name of this grape, but it was called Black Damascus by Speechly, who was the first to describe it, from having been introduced to this country from Damascus by Edward, ninth Duke of Norfolk, and cultivated at Welbeck many years prior to his decease in 1777.
Bunches, pretty large, cylindrical, somewhat loose, and occasionally shouldered. Berries, small, round, and unequal in size. Skin, thin, blue-black, and covered with blue bloom. Flesh, firm, red, and juicy, with a rich vinous and musky flavour.
Ripens against a wall in favourable situations and in warm seasons, but is generally grown in a vinery.
Bunches, large, broadly shouldered, conical, and well set. Berries, roundish oval. Skin, thin, but membranous, deep blue-black, covered with blue bloom. Flesh, rather firm, but tender, very juicy, rich, sugary, and highly flavoured. This highly popular grape succeeds under every form of vine culture. It ripens against a wall, in favourable situations, in the open air; it succeeds well in a cool vinery; and it is equally well adapted for forcing. The vine is a free bearer; and the fruit will hang, under good management, until January and February. The leaves die yellow.
The Frankenthal, or, as it is sometimes called, Victoria Hamburgh, is now very frequently met with in gardens under the name of Black Hamburgh, from which it is distinguished by its much larger bunches, round hammered berries, which have a thicker skin, and the more robust growth of the vine.
I have been considerably puzzled by an examination of the distinguishing characteristics of the two grapes called Black Hamburgh and Frankenthal. At one time I have thought I detected distinctions which were at once well defined and fixed, and at another these seemed to disappear; and the two were so similar as to suggest a suspicion that they were identical; and this has arisen with the same vines after a succession of several years' fruiting. The Black Hamburgh, and indeed all grapes, are very easily affected, both in form and flavour, by the soil in which they are grown and the treatment to which they are subjected; and I think those slight distinctions which we often see are not permanent. I have watched this subject with some care, and I have remarked that the same vine will in one year produce berries which are perfectly round, and in another they will be distinctly oval. This is also frequently observed in the White Muscat of Alexandria. In one year the berries are roundish oval, and in another they are long oval, and frequently with a contraction at the stalk end, giving it a pear shape.
But I do not think the varieties of form in the Black Hamburgh are altogether due to soil and cultivation. It is one of those fruits which, like the Peach Apricot and Green Gage Plum, reproduce themselves occasionally from the seed with slight variations, and some of the different forms may arise in that way. There is no doubt that the Victoria Hamburgh, which has of late years been identified with frankenthal, is one of these, and a very superior one.
The Black Hamburgh was imported from Hamburgh by John Warner, a London merchant who lived at Rotherhithe, and cultivated a large garden, in which was a vineyard, in the early part of last century. It is from this circumstance that it takes its name of Hamburgh and Warner's Hamburgh. A fanciful story has been published about its having been brought direct from the Alhambra in Spain, and that the name now adopted is a corruption of that. I doubt very much if it is a Spanish grape. I am rather inclined to think that it has come from the East, as I can trace it by its synonyms through Hungary and the whole of Germany; and my esteemed friend, the late Comte Odart, remarks that it is met with from Strasburg to Vienna and Pesth, and that it may be called the national grape of the Germans, the Belgians, and the Dutch. He might have included the English also. On looking at the synonyms one is struck with the prevalence of German and Hungarian names over the very few of French, Spanish, or Portuguese, and this tends to show that it is more known in the East than in the West. In fact, it is hardly known at all in France except under its English and German names of Black Hamburgh and Frankenthal. It is very difficult to ascertain of what country it is a native.
The largest hunch of Black Hamburgh ever grown was that shown at Belfast, in 1874, by Mr. Hunter, gardener to the Earl of Durham at Lambton Castle, which weighed 21 lbs. l2 oz.; and he again exhibited a bunch at Manchester, in 1875, which weighed 13 lbs. 2 oz.