England: History

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Perhaps the Romans introduced viticulture to England, but, whether they did or not, they cannot be held responsible for introducing the grapevine itself, because archaeologists have found prehistoric remains of the pollen of vinifera vines at Marks Tey in Essex, as well as seed at Hoxne in Suffolk (see palaeoethnobotany).

Both these finds go back to the Hoxnian Interglacial, i.e. the period between the Second and Third Ice Ages, when summers were warmer than they are now. Grape seeds dating from the Hoxnian have also been found in the netherlands, north germany, Denmark, and Poland. Since the British Isles were still part of continental Europe at the time (they did not become separated until after the Fourth Ice Age), this shows that Vitis Vinifera had spread to regions of northern Europe which are now too cold for grapes. The seeds and pollen found in East Anglia are not accompanied by remains of cereals or other signs of agriculture. A more recent find at a Roman site at Wollaston in the Nene Valley near Wellingborough in the south Midlands is of what appear to be planting holes together with grape pollen, suggesting that this was the site of a vineyard.