Wine lovers who look to Italy, France and Spain to stock their cellars will be surprised to learn Morden is home to a thriving vineyard producing hundreds of bottles every year.
Hidden in the garden of a house set back from an average residential street, Brian Cooper, a retired surveyor, has been quietly pruning and harvesting 300 vines for the past 20 years.
He said: “I was interested in drinking wine and finding out how vines were grown for some time and we had this spare land and wondered what to do with it.
“I thought I would try my hand at growing vines.”
Mr Cooper enrolled on a course at Plumpton agricultural college in East Sussex before planting Merton’s first known vineyard.
He said: “It’s the wrong place to have soil and the wrong subsoil and when this was started global warming was only just becoming evident.
“It’s worked out alright. It doesn’t produce wine every year.
“Last year was a bit difficult, but it was a reasonable crop.”
The vineyard produced enough fruit to fill 500 bottles in 2013, up from 100 bottles in 2012.
Mr Cooper considered planting Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other varieties people know, but chose to grow lesser-known German grape varieties including Dornfelder and Dunkelf, which are more suitable to the British climate.
Wine has been produced in England since Roman times, but has been seen as a hobby industry until recent successes by English wines in international competitions raised the profile of British wine-making.
Mr Cooper does not see any reason why people should not be able to grow vines in Merton.
He said: “Even if you don’t produce wine, the vines are very decorative and it’s nice to see grapes when they are ripe.”
At this time of year, only a small amount of maintenance is required. The real work will start in March, the pruning season, when Mr Cooper gets help from U3A Merton students, a social group for retired people in the borough.
Then at harvest time, it is continuous work for two to three weeks in October.
Mr Cooper does not sell any wine, choosing to give it away to friends and family.