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History of Winemaking in the UK | Norman Britain

The history of the English and Welsh wine industry following the arrival of the Normans

The Normans

History_Normans.jpg1066 marked the start of an era of viticultural activity that would not be matched until the current revival which began some 900 years later. With William the Conqueror came French Abbots and their monks who were experienced in winegrowing, along with soldiers and courtiers for whom wine was a daily requirement.

The Domesday Book (1085-6) records vineyards in forty-two definite locations.
Interestingly enough only twelve of the Domesday vineyards were attached to monasteries. Most belonged to nobles and were undoubtedly cultivated to provide them with wine for their dining tables and altars.

There were two main areas of monastic viticulture: the coastal areas of the South East, and the area covering Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Many sources point out that the climate improved for a period of 300 years starting from about the time of the Norman invasion and citing this as a reason why so many vineyards were planted.

The wines made at this time were probably all consumed during the cooler weather of the winter and spring following the harvest and in any event, well before the weather warmed up which would have caused the wine to oxidize, spoil and turn to vinegar. Imported wines, of which there appeared to be no shortage, also suffered from the same problems - at least home produced wine did not have to travel far and probably suffered less than imported wines from oxidation, thus partially explaining its apparent popularity.