Here on the track between Warren Field and Long Field, where more of our vines are growing, pause briefly to think about the journey of grapevine from its original home in Eastern Europe to this corner of London.
The earliest evidence we have of winemaking dates from 8,000 years ago, from Georgia, in eastern Europe, where fragments of large pottery jars have revealed chemical traces of wine. Other archaeological evidence supports an early history of winemaking in what is now Iran, Armenia, and Italy.
The species of grapevine that is used to make wine, Vitis vinifera, is native to Europe. It’s believed that it was brought to Britain by the Romans. It was certainly growing in the country by the Middle Ages, and by the 1660s, not long after Forty Hall itself was built, there was a famous vineyard at Hatfield House, and even one at Walthamstow!
After a long period of decline, English wine is now booming. There are now more than 700 vineyards in the country producing around 10 million bottles of wine a year. That’s small compared to most wine producing countries, but the industry is growing rapidly in terms of volume, popularity and reputation; our Forty Hall Brut 2018 won a gold medal in the Independent English Wine Awards in 2022 and our wines are served in some of London’s finest restaurants.
Wine expert Oz Clarke wrote evocatively about our lane following a visit to Forty Hall Vineyard for his book English Wine:
“I can’t be in Enfield, I just can’t be. I’ve paused in a dusty country lane, silent except for the drone of bees, cooled by the overhanging boughs of the trees on this sunniest of summer’s day. I’ve stopped because the odour of the nettles that crowd in on both sides of the track is so powerful I could be back in childhood. And a vole scampers across in front of me.”
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