Wine was first introduced and cultivated in England by the Romans around two thousand years ago, where it was consumed in private villas and farms. Although most of the wine consumed would have been imported from other Roman provinces, such as Gaul, and especially the Bordeaux region we know today. During this time the native English were prohibited from planting vineyards. With the increase of Christianity, churches and monasteries required wine for sacramental purposes and often built vineyards on their land. In 1066 the Norman invasion gave a further boost to English wine production as they required wine for their holy Mass. In 1152 King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitania (Today we know Aquitania as the Bordeaux wine region).
Following the marriage trade links with the region were negotiated, which adversely affected English wine production. A further set back to English wine production came in 1348 with the outbreak of the Black Death which killed off vast numbers of the wine estate workers. Henry VIII’s reformation affected English wine production for the negative, too. During the 3 year period between 1536 and 1539, 300 monasteries and nunneries were dissolved, along with their associated vineyards. English wine production all but ceased in the early 20th century, and it wasn’t until after the Second World War that new vineyards were planted and the challenge of producing English wine was taken up again. Today there are over 500 vineyards in England producing English wine for a new generation of connoisseurs.
A Brief History of Somerby Vineyards
The initial idea of planting a vineyard in our local village came during a driving holiday in Germany. Whilst travelling along the river Rhine, we stayed at a beautiful town called Rhinegarten. We had a room overlooking a local vineyard in a lovely little family run hotel, and it inspired our conversation regarding the similarities between the area we where in and Somerby, our home.
On arriving home we discussed what we had seen and our thoughts with our neighbours, Shaun and Victoria Merrick. Shaun offered the use of some land in his walled garden so we could take up the challenge of producing some wine. So in 2006 we fenced off an acre of land and planted 150 vines. Of the 150 vines planted 100 were red regent and 50 white phoenix. Our success in cultivating these vines led to the rapid expansion of Somerby Vineyards.
So from these humble beginnings we have increased our number of vines by 60 times to over 12000 and are currently growing 4 different varieties of grapes that will enable us to produce a wide range of wines.