The History of Wine in England

by | Jun 21, 2024

Norwich Wine Week comes to an end soon, but would the original residents of our 16th century Hidden Street have been able to enjoy a wine?

Well, winemaking and consumption in England is a hotly debated topic amongst historians, but the general consensus is that the closer you were to a winemaking region, the more accessible it was for the lower classes. 

You’ll be unsurprised to learn that changing climates and unpredictable weather meant that England’s winemaking capabilities varied throughout the centuries. 

The Romans were the first to introduce winemaking to England, and the climate was generally warm enough to support plenty of vineyards (particularly in the South of England). 

But it didn’t last long: the combination of climate, cultural turbulence and a series of invasions meant that the country’s grape production declined in medieval times. 

Henry VIII was reportedly a huge wine lover and an enthusiastic winemaker, even tending to his own vineyard at Hampton Court Palace. At the same time, the dissolution of the monasteries is said to have stalled a lot of England’s most successful wine production, so it’s hard to know whether his influence was actually beneficial to England’s wine industry or not.

Ultimately, even in England’s more productive centuries, it appears likely that the default tipple of choice for those living in our Hidden Street would’ve been ale. 

And talking of unpredictable weather, the hail, thunder and rains of biblical proportions last weekend didn’t stop Holly and Lisa from enjoying a tipple or two at Norwich Wine Week!