A History of Wine Production in England and Wales

55BC - Romans arrive in British Isles. Evidence of grape growing before this period. Romans drank plenty of wine but most of it was imported from Italy.

410AD - Saxons arrive and increased wine trade from Europe.

596AD - St Augustine arrives to spread Christianity. The increasing monastic orders created a need for more wine for communion so started to plant vineyards for wine production.

1066 - The Norman Conquest sees William the Conqueror bring with him French religious orders who founded more monasteries and consequently more vineyards.

1086 - The Doomsday Book records vineyards in 42 locations including Leeds Castle in Kent where the vineyard still remains to this day.

1152 - King Henry II marries Eleanor of Aquitaine so wine imported from France increases considerably seeing a sharp decline in English Wine production.  

1348 - The Black Death peeks in Europe and reduces the population and viticulture.

1536 - The Dissolution of the Monasteries commences under Henry VIII with the closure of three thousand religious houses putting wine production in decline even further.

1603 - King James I  has a vineyard at Oatlands Park in Surrey and this creates a fashion of planting vines amongst the nobles and land gentry.

1738 - The Hon. Charles Hamilton plants a vineyard at Painshill Park in Surrey. The vineyard was replanted after it fell into disrepair at the end of the 17th century. 

1873 - The Marquis of Bute planted a vineyard on his estate at Castell Coch outside Cardiff. He sent his gardener Andrew Pettigrew to France to learn about viticultiure and winemaking and to purchase the vines. The vineyard remained in operation commercially until it was grubbed up after the first world war.

1945 - Sees a new breed of wine enthusiasts determined to produce wine in England. Ray Barrington Brock experimented with different varietals over a 25 year period at his research station in Surrey. 

1951 - This is considered to be a seminal year in the history of English wine when a vineyard in Hambledon in Hampshire was planted by Sir Guy Salisbury Jones. This was the first commercial vineyard to be planted for more than 75 years. Great interest was shown when the first wine was produced. Other vineyards during this time included Beaulieu Estate owned by Lord Montague.

1975 - An estimated 196 ha of vines recorded in England and Wales

1984 - Wickham Vineyard planted by John and Caroline Charnley

1985 - An estimated 488 ha of vines recorded in England and Wales

1993 - English Wine production at its highest with 479 vineyards cultivating 1065 ha of vines.

Today - Production has decreased slightly with a total of 383 vineyards recorded in England and Wales.

Source - 'A guide to the wines of England and Wales'