In the year 1215 King John of England signed the Magna Carta, a document which for a while held off a civil war with his Barons. As we all know this document is the first example of a written constitution and was used to help create that of the USA. But, what probably very few people know is that after this document was agreed and signed by all at Runnymede on the River Thames, all the attendees drank wine together to “seal the deal” and that the wine was ………… English! We even know where it came from, the village of Purleigh in Essex. I can’t tell you anything about that wine, but I CAN tell you that the terroir in which those grapes were grown is now host to the vines of the New Hall Vineyard . You can’t get more historic than that!
I ordered a mixed case of their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Bacchus Fume wines and it was delivered within 24 hours. This is the second East Anglian vineyard whose wines I am trying, the first was from Winbirri in Norfolk, and now New Hall in Essex. There’s much talk currently about the terroir here being the “best in England” and I’m enjoying the challenge of making comparisons as I taste my way across the different counties. Naturally, visiting these sites is preferable, but I’m finding each vineyard communicative and very responsive over the phone and via email. Hopefully I’m not driving them bonkers with my questions about vine clones and malolactic fermentation! When I do make a visit there is so much history and culture associated with East Anglia to look forward to and in particular here’s some notes from the New Hall website:
1120: The first vineyard in Purleigh, Essex was planted, and according to the local Parish records only 500 yards from where New Hall Vineyard is today. It covered three acres of land on the southern-facing slopes by All Saints Church.
1163: News of the flourishing Purleigh Vineyard reached London. It was then taken over by the Crown and commissioned to supply its wines back to London.
1207: Two barrels of Purleigh wine are ordered by the Crown (at a cost of 18s 6d each, less than 1p per bottle) to be sent to Bury St Edmunds, in readiness for the arrival of King John. In fact, Purleigh wine was drunk during the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215.
In the next few days I will taste the New Hall wines and share the experience here. More tales of Wine with History in my new book available on Amazon site in your own country.