Monasteries: The Cradle of Modern Viticulture

Reading about the Vatican’s prominence in the world of wine this week reminds us here at the Ideal Wine Company of the role religion has played in the wine trade for centuries. That’s why we wanted to explore the role of monasteries in modern viticulture.

It’s no secret that wine was a staple of the ancient world. Civilisations from the Egyptians to the Babylonians to the Assyrians to the Persians, Greeks and Romans all counted wine as a part of their daily lives. This led to the infamous inclusion of wine as part of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion.

This is where the monastic wine tradition originates from; through the inclusion of wine in a ceremony (communion) designed to mimic the Last Supper. In order to have a constant supply on hand for ceremonies it was practical for monasteries to get involved in the wine trade.

It was all very practical but viticulture faced dangerous times after the fall of the Roman Empire, as did many other vestiges of the former super power. Indeed in the western world of the time, these practises only survived the dark ages due to their involvement from the monastic community.

This meant that not only did monks become the most prolific winemakers in Christendom; they also were the ones who wrote great literature, who produced great art, who became philosophers and appreciators of the classics. Ancient culture survived to influence the intellectuals of the enlightenment period largely in part because of the efforts of the monastic community.

This dedication has meant that the monastic community became responsible for spreading viticulture throughout the new world. When the Spanish began colonising the America’s, for example, the monks planted vineyards so that they would have a supply of communion wine. This was the birth of the California wine trade.

This period also saw the community contribute heavily to one of the worlds most beloved wine traditions; that enjoyed by France, the most famous maker of wine internationally. Monks had key roles in the creation of famous French products including most notably Champagne and Cognac.

The monastic tradition was in large part responsible for many of the luxury wines that we feature on the Ideal Wine Company product list today. This is why we always have to remember that innovation and creation in this most diverse industry comes from the most unusual places. It really is a match made in heaven.

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