The History of English Wine Making
on October 14th, 2009 in wine making tagged
The history of English wine making is very profound. The Romans introduced wine making to England. However, they were not quite successful at the endeavor of growing grapes in England, since the English climate was too cold and humid for growing grapes in vineyards. At that time, wine was more of an ornament for the Romans to remind them of their homes and civilization.
During the time of the Normans, English wine making was no more a rarity, owing much to the fact that the Normans required wine for Mass. As the Domesday Book mentions, there were over 40 vineyards in England at that time. Wine was also required by churches and monasteries for sacramental purposes, so they often built grapevines on their land.
English wine making suffered its first setback in 1152, when King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitania (a French area now known as Bordeaux). This resulted in the establishment of trade links with Bordeaux and the English market became a major customer of clarets from that region in France. The Black Death, or the Black Plague, of the late 1340s resulted in the death of several wine estate workers, and hence attributed to a further decline in English wine making. In the late 1530s several monasteries were dissolved by King Henry VIII. Therefore, wine production at those monasteries came to a halt.
During the early 1700s, with English wine making being brought to a standstill, the English became a major consumer of fortified wines like port wine and sherry from Spain and Portugal. In the late nineteenth century, as part of the revival of the Cardiff Castle, a vineyard was re-established which continued producing wine up until 1920. Wine production in the UK completely ceased during the period from the end of the First World War to shortly after the end of the Second World War.
English viticulture was revived in the 1970s. Aided by a rising local temperature due to global warming, climatic conditions in many parts of Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and Berkshire, among others, became conducive to growing high quality grapes. English wine making got a boost in the late 90s, owing to the growing popularity of wine in other parts of the world.
According to the Wine Standards Board, there are currently over 350 vineyards producing wine throughout England. The largest of these is the Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey with 265 acres under vine. English wine making has surely come a long way.