Veni, Vidi, Viticulture - Remains of Roman Vineyards Found in UK

Article excerpt

SCIENTISTS ARE on the trail of best Britannia Nouveau - a pleasant little tipple last enjoyed 1,600 years ago.

Using aerial photographs, ground-penetrating remote sensing equipment, analysis of ancient weeds and apparatus to measure pollen dispersal, archaeologists and palaeobotanists are joining forces to rediscover the lost vineyards of Roman Britain. The team is led by Ian Meadows, of Northamptonshire County Council, and Tony Brown, of Exeter University's School of Geography and Archaeology.

The findings so far indicate that the imperial Italians of the early first millennium AD did not introduce their British subjects only to legionaries, villas and togas, but to the delights of cheap plonk as well.

To date the research has identified the remains of seven Romano- British vineyards - four in Northamptonshire, one in Cambridgeshire, one in Lincolnshire and one in Buckinghamshire.

Most of the wines produced at them were probably fruity, sweet and brownish in colour. The grapes would have been harvested early, before they were fully ripe, in around late September. After the treading, large amounts of honey would have been added for sweetness and to produce an alcohol content of about 10 to 12 per cent.

The wine would have continued to ferment inside storage amphorae or barrels and would have been drunk within six months. Wine from fresh grapes - as opposed to raisins - was thus a drink for winter and spring. …