It’s thought that vineyards were first established in Britain in Roman times, and then revived after the Norman Conquest, when most wine-making was run by Benedictine monasteries, ostensibly for religious ceremonies. The dissolution of the monasteries and the onset of the Little Ice Age were factors in the decline in viticulture, which is now enjoying a boom.
The reliability of wine-producing as a climate proxy is not clear, but global warming sceptics often point to the benign temperatures of the Middle Ages when arguing that climate change is nothing new. But interestingly, the number of commercial vineyards in the UK is now 174, compared to 42 recorded in the Domesday Book in 1085. Most surprisingly, four of them are in Scotland, including one in Orkney. What’s more, the growing season is becoming shorter, and red grape cultivation is taking hold in the south. The speciality of British producers is sparkling white wine.