Farmers Markets : Caroline Wright, October 9, 2010

A THOUSAND years ago the Saxons had their own name for October – they called it Wyn Monath (wine month) because it was the season of wine making.

Any landowner worthy of the name would have his own vineyard and October was the time he would have had serfs tread the year’s grapes.

There was a huge growth in the number of English vineyards around the time of the Norman invasion, to cater for the tastes of the new rulers. But this attempt to establish a significant English wine industry was to prove short-lived. English wine was of poor quality, and from the 1150s fine imported wines from Bordeaux and La Rochelle put the English winemakers out of business.

It may have taken the best part of 860 years but English wines are now firmly re-establishing themselves as rivals to their more illustrious French neighbours.

Any recent visitor to a Worcestershire farmers’ market will have seen the Rose Bank Vineyard stall – or, I should say, the award-winning Rose Bank Vineyard stall – and will have tasted some quality wines produced right here in the county.

For the past seven years, Richard and Rita Tomkinson have been growing grapes at their vineyard at Fernhill Heath, near Worcester. The grapes are turned into wine by those clever people at Three Choirs Vineyard, Newent, Gloucestershire. Each of Rose Bank’s four entries won a medal at this year’s United Kingdom Vineyard Asoociation awards, judged by an independent team of Masters of Wine.

Mr and Mrs Tomkinson managed to collect two of the 65 silver medals and two of the 92 bronze medals on offer.

Mr Tomkinson, who was just heading out to start picking this year’s grapes, said: “The awards are in recognition of a quality product, of which we are very proud.”

The silver medal winners were the Madeleine Angevin 2009 and the Reichensteiner 2009, while the bronze medals were awarded to the Phoenix 2009 and the Regent Rosé 2009.

Today’s farmers’ market is in High Street, Bromsgrove, from 9am until 5pm. Next weekend’s markets are in Abbey Road, Malvern, from 9am until 2pm on Saturday, October 16, and in Angel Place, Worcester, from 9am until 3pm on Sunday, October 17.

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