German history: The Wine Trade in the Middle Ages

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Although the quantity of wine harvested in medieval Germany never approached that of France, Italy, or the Iberian peninsula, production on the left bank of the Rhine always exceeded local consumption, so that commerce in wine became an economic necessity. Until the rise of towns, the wine trade was largely in the hands of the Church. Because the best vineyards lay along the Rhine and its tributaries, shipments of wine could pass easily down one of the great arteries of European trade to northern Germany, the Low Countries, Scandinavia, and England. Ease of transport, however, was offset by the numerous tolls which local lords levied on cargoes shipped down the Rhine.