Whenever you think of wine, you think of vineyards and farmers plucking the rich, sumptuous grapes that is converted into the flavorful, alcoholic beverage (with a low alcoholic content) that you know today. We always think of family-owned companies that make the quality wine that we have on the market right now. However, not a lot of people know that wine was made by monks (What?) a lot earlier than these famous winemakers that we know now, like Californian winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards, Heidi Barrett, the famous California winemaker, Diego Planeta, and Italian winemaker, Sandro Boscaini of MASI, to name a few.
The wines that they made were called monastic wines. They were also the first to develop the French vineyards in the 12th century. Yes. Monks. Making alcoholic drinks. In fact, these were promoted by the Dukes of Bourgogne (or the Duke of Burgundy) in France. They didn’t just develop wine, but cheese too (which is a great companion of wine)!
In the Catholic religion, which was very dominant in Europe in the Middle Ages, needed wine for its liturgy. This is the reason why abbots of monasteries and bishops around Europe became wine growers and they also cultivated a lot of vineyards. The monasteries which developed between the 9th and the 13th century consumed a large quantity of wine. It was used for the liturgy but also appeared on the menu of the monastery. While particularly ascetic monasteries prohibited its consumption, wine was generally accepted as a part of the daily diet in the Middle Ages.
There were 109 wine appellations of monastic origin in France alone. There would also be 45 in Germany, 27 in Austria, 17 in Italy, 9 in Portugal, 12 in Switzerland 7 in Spain, 5 in Greece and 4 in Great Britain. This process of winemaking eventually made its way to the New World (now called the Americas) and were first introduced to California in 1779 by Saint Junipero Serra and his Franciscan colleagues, laying the groundwork for the wine industry in California today. In fact, there are still monks in the present day that still have vineyard estates and still manufacture the great, legendary, and one of the most consumed alcoholic drinks today.
What do you think of this? Did this change your perspective in your wine? Did this add to your wine knowledge? Maybe it changed the way you looked at your wine. Trust us, it did. It really did. Maybe the next time you buy your wine you might ask yourself if this was made by your local neighborhood monk. Who knows? You might be right.