Philosophy in Wine

Riding along the chalk downlands two miles to the south of where the Castle stands, it is easy to distinguish the prehistoric field lynchets and terraces which must have been part of an intensively settled and farmed landscape. Three thousand years later we still farm this part of the estate, although these ancient fields are just grazed by sheep to conserve the visible remains of the past.


There are crop marks, boundaries and platforms where small homes- huts- may have been built. They lie around the monumental remains of the fort on Beacon Hill and hence can be dated from Iron Age times (up to 2,000 BC). Later finds of brooches and coins date to the Roman period, so presumably the invaders cultivated the same south- facing fields with their clean chalk water. It is still a good place to live and thrive.

I always like to think that the terraces may have also grown vines- the soil and position would make it possible and it creates a rose tinted picture, in my imagination, of people feasting under the stars or celebrating the end of building projects, or harvest, or other ritual festivities. It might not have been quite that romantic, with overindulgence, no Anadin Extra (Tylenol/paracetamol etc.) and violent fights. The classical gods of wine, Dionysus and Bacchus, were associated with wine and madness, triumph and disorder. Feasting with wine nevertheless played a central part in Roman life – sometimes to excess- wine was part of their culture. However, at the end of the first century the Roman historian Tactitus declared that Britain’s climate was “objectionable”, and not at all suitable for growing vines. Most of our wine has been imported wine ever since.


Climates change over time: a thousand years later monasteries were able to introduce some vineyards, and now in the twenty first century vineyards are producing wines, including award winning sparkling wines, in southern England.

Thomas Aquinas, Italian priest and theologian wrote that “Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.”  Winston Churchill’s political life may have taken various swerves but his commitment to champagne was unwavering.  Research and knowledge of wines leads to friendship and conversation although the ancient Greeks were right when they suggested everything in moderation or to quote Goethe “Aus Mäßigung entspringt  reines Glück ” (Out of moderation a pure happiness springs).


Whatever they all say I think we shall all celebrate here with champagne and wine when our major Estate office restoration project comes to an end. We are very, very nearly there, and my husband in particular can’t wait…

59 Responses to “Philosophy in Wine”
  1. Barbara Saulsbury says:

    Interesting! I am with Winston Churchill…..always enjoy a bit of champagne.

  2. Lady Carnarvon says:

    We do now have Highclere Castle champagne – it is produced for us by Joseph Perrier, a family business since 1825. They speak and drink to the joy of life!!!

  3. Dianne Wasgatt says:

    I totally agree with Thomas Aquinas. Where can we buy the Highclere Castle champagne in America?

  4. Britta Johansson says:

    Lovely! Green hills, history and as a fan of Winston Churchill I also love a glass or two!
    Though I am aware of Englands early history, I am impressed by your ironage going back to 2000 BC. In Sweden we were introduced to iron around 400 BC – it took some time for us to educate!!

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      We have Bronze Age remains from before…this morning I have just held a little gold coin in my hand from the Atrebates tribe c 100 BC… a horse on one side and flowers on the other. Found not far from Beacon Hill

  5. Gayle Yiotis says:

    So that’s where my grandmother got that saying: “Everything in moderation.” I never knew that was from ancient Greece.

  6. Marilyn Peck says:

    Greetings, Lady Carnarvon …I always enjoy the photos and history that you write about in your blogs! Now, about the wine!! The comment that you made about how “research and knowledge of wines leads to friendship and conversation” brought to my mind the following. Whenever we have the chance, my husband I visit and tour wineries. We enjoy the information, the actual wine tasting, as well as the comradery and wine experiences
    of others present. Conversation among strangers is sparked by our common interest in the wine and presentation. Always makes for a fun afternoon!!!

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      I agree – it is just the pleasure of a sip of vintage…the anticipation and the passion from the families who grow the vines thus creating a wine

  7. Jean says:

    Your history is so fascinating and I love all the jewels you dig up for us to share. I also liked your versions of pain relievers – ha ha.

  8. ann says:

    Sometimes I wish I had learned to drink wine. Alcohol was not part of our home or our family then I married a man of the same. You have presented a perfect persuasion to begin.Would you believe that some daring farmers tend their vineyards here in Colorado? On the western slope where there is less snow and warmer temperatures, vineyards have replaced many of the peach and apple orchards. And I enjoy always learning about the history of England and the castle.

  9. Charlotte Cole says:

    Another wonderful story of history and perhaps, climate adjustment? Sparkling wine from the south of England sounds delicious! And as my father used to say….everything in moderation….even moderation!!
    Thank you!

  10. Cynthia Thompson says:

    What great photos and information! My question is the same as others… will we be able to enjoy Highclere Castle champagne in the states?

  11. Chrissy says:

    We live in Napa Valley where wine rules. There are so many fundraisers,and events all built around wine. Its so nice to meet people from all over the world when they come to visit. I love your history notes and have to say again how handsome your husband is – no worries – I won’t be coming for him – HA! Enjoying your pics and keep up the good works.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      My husband was on the distant horse at the top.
      Luis our Butler and thus Banqueting Manager/ Sommelier is holding the bottle first of port and then wine. He is a rather marvellous and always enthusiastic part of Highclere’s team. He is a keen golfer and there is a regular golf foursome now playing local courses!!! More importantly he has one of the spaniel puppies: SuperTed.

      He is going to judge the best “Carson” at the Vintage Garden party in two weeks time and give the prize!

  12. Carol Powell says:

    I also enjoyed the champagne during afternoon tea at Highclere a couple weeks ago, and wondered if it was from local grapes. Would be interested in ordering some if it was possible to get it in America.

  13. Jeffery Sewell says:

    I believe that Napoleon said:
    “In Victory, you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it.”

    There are indeed many quotes concerning wine. One of my favourites comes courtesy of Robert Louis Stevevenson:
    “Wine is bottled poetry.”

    What a wonderful description!

    And another most interesting blog. Great pics too.
    How enticing is is the sight of cellared bottles of wine. Happy celebrations.

  14. Jan Hammersmith says:

    Champagne has alwys been my ‘go to’ wine for celebrations. Once, after our golf course had finally been completed and open to the public, Robert and I bought a magnum of Dom Perignon to open and celebrate the new family business…with the family! Imagine our shock when, as he exited the car, holding the box (like a little coffin!) and the box flipped open and the magnum fell to the concrete floor of the garage and…shattered!.
    Poor Robert looked like a deer in the headlights as the hiss of champagne bubbles soaked into the floor.
    Hoping to try some of your Highclere vintage some day.

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      Oh my goodness I would have been so devastated and needed restorative bubbles straightaway

  15. Karen Golden says:

    Thomas Aquinas & Winston Churchill…. I knew I liked them. Now I have new reasons why to add to the list. Thanks, as always, for your interesting blog!

  16. Lori says:

    With every blog you post . I find myself intrigued with the castle even more,then when I watched Downton Abbey. Like everyone else has mentioned when will the highclere champagne be ready for American sells?

  17. Lori says:

    With every blog you post . I find myself intrigued with the castle even more,then when I watched Downton Abbey,as with everyone else I must ask when will the champagne be ready for American sells?

  18. Marc says:

    Thank y’all my Lady for in lightening me.

  19. Diane Clavareau says:

    I saw WIltshire on BBC1 today. Same landscapes and traces of more than 1000 years occupation. Area of Stonehenge. I love this. And last year during my visit to the Kent gardens we tasted some wine in the area. Not the best one but promising (sorry but I have a part of family living in the Bordeaux and Blaye regions of France) and on its way to the top. And concerning Chruchill and the Champagne, we visited Chartwell HOuse (I saw the cat!) and I learned that he started his day with a breakfast au champagne! Why not after all! Some of my family members of Russian origin did the same thing. No longer after 1917 of course. But they talked about it with regret. Must be delicious…

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      I have spent some time studying Stonehenge times and poring over maps – I have 30 % written a book about it

  20. Natalie Graham says:

    While my wine knowledge and appreciation is scant, I do enjoy camaraderie over a glass of spirit, whatever it may be. 🙂 My personal favorites are the many varied craft beers that abound here in the States.

    I love the pictures you posted of the fields with their ancient marks, and am imagining myself as another rider across those beautiful hills and terraces.

    I always look forward to opening your latest post, Lady Carnarvon. Another lovely update from your corner of the world is inevitably enjoyable. Thank you! I hope you have a great week ahead, and I am hoping a near-future post will be about the celebration of the Estate office completion!

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      My goodness I cannot wait for the Estate office to be completed. I have just filmed a few 60 second videos to post on this site, one is with some of the joiners up there. I hoped you might find it interesting !

  21. Mary Beth says:

    Good ole Thomas really knew how to relax! For me the horseback ride across the countryside would come first!!


    Mary Beth

  22. “Nothing to excess”…carved on the side of the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece:
    μηδέν άγαν (mēdén ágan = “nothing in excess”)!
    But how wonderful to be able to have some Highclere Castle “sparkling wine” (as “champagne” one understands comes only from Champagne, France ?). Imagine that next to the gift shop there can be a future “cava”, wine cellar with Highclere’s bottled “spirits” for sale! So enjoyed this history of the ancient settlement on the slopes of Highclere, and looking forward to read about the Estate Office completion. Thank you, Lady C. for another fascinating bog!

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      The word “Champagne” can only be used by the French because it was part of the terms in the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War.

  23. Jane Hrabak says:

    I’m sure you have heard the old saying about “any job worth doing, is worth doing right”, so at the close of your project you will no doubt look at it admiringly, and sip on something wonderful to celebrate and commemorate the moment. You have beautiful taste in decorating, and I have no doubt about this undertaking.
    As always, thank you for sending such wonderful photos of your grounds, horses and stories that seem to tie things all together. I always feel as though I’m living the story you are telling. It sounds as though those grounds have many, many more storie to tell.
    Thank you for sharing with us again.

  24. Lady Carnarvon says:

    I find spaces, colour fascinating and am lucky as it is all never ending here! Experience, listening and trying again.
    I love olive trees and my office is a peaceful greeny grey – it is not yet finished but it is getting there.

  25. (I’m writing this sitting under an olive tree in Halkidiki, Greece) …speaking of trees …(a bit off the subject of “spirits” and champagne), we know you have mentioned the beautiful Cedars of Lebanon that are on the grounds at Highclere (during my visit I loooved seeing them). But are there any California Redwoods or Sequoia? Maybe planted in the 1850’s? I am reading “At the Edge of the Orchard” and it tells of Mr.Lobb and other “tree agents” who collected exotic plants and tree seedlings for many owners of large estates in England. I have seen the Redwoods on the road at Notting Hill Gate in London, and was wondering, Lady Carnarvon, if perhaps the Earls at Highclere also planted a seedling or two from California?

  26. David says:

    Alas, the Romans enjoyed wine made from the grapes grown in the rich volcanic soil that is Italy. But the rest of the world has come a long way in cultivating grapes that make excellent wine. We have our own rendition of “Highclere” called Biltmore House in Ashville, NC. Although a few thousand years late arriving on the scene, they are now producing a pretty good wine. And we are now growing olive trees here in Florida. Who would have guessed? My wife and I recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. I would like nothing better to toast that event with a bottle of your champagne.

  27. Brenda Hattie-Longmire says:

    I hope you will also distribute in Canada, as you have many Canadian fans. By the way, I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, which has a thriving wine industry, thanks to climate change. We also have some of the finest microbreweries!


  28. Lorraine Greenfield says:

    Yet again another wonderful blog. I will definitely be buying some Highclere champagne. Thank you for sharing with us.

  29. Patricia Bischof says:

    I agree with Hattie. Canada has some wonderful wines in a number of provinces. Wild grapes grow rampant in our part just outside Toronto and are fairly tasty too. We are facing a losing battle controlling get them so we should make use of them somehow. Of course they won’t be on a par with Highclere’s vintage but all grapes were wild before they became cultivated so perhaps there’s hope. In the meantime would really like to see your wine in our liquor shops. Any chance of that?

  30. Marilyn Lewis says:

    Yes, early bird specials of Highclere Champagne would be welcomed!

    Thanks so much for your blog. I always look forward to read it.

  31. Christine says:

    Please do inform us through your blog when you have confirmed availability of purchase in the US. We fly hot air balloons and still do the traditional champagne toast after each flight. It would be lovely to toast with Highclere Champagne!

  32. Linda Olds says:

    Oscar Wilde said “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” I don’t know if I agree with that, but it’s a clever way of saying “Everything in moderation–even moderation.”

  33. Paul Mc Taggart says:

    What a wonderful read about Wine & the Iron Age & the Roman period this blog Lady C of history is very close to my heart about the landscape around Highclere. The wine cellars have their own history too just look at them wonderful dates, just think if that wine & bottle could talk what wonderful things they have see.. I used to work for a famous London Wine Merchant in London & I used to see the dates on the bottles that were just like the ones about & often wondered if back in Roman times did they make wine, as it was a long way to Rome or France for a bottle of their favorite tipple.. I have walked these fields many times & it gives me a great thrill to know that i’m walking in the same footsteps as people did back in 2,000 BC 🙂

  34. Wine Esquire says:

    What great thoughts to ponder. Even if the Romans weren’t growing grapes there, I’m sure they enjoyed a glass or two while admiring the epic landscape. I’ve been loving the English sparkling wines I’ve had the opportunity to taste and think this is only going to grow in popularity on an international scale. Will definitely have to get my hands on a bottle of the Highclere Bubbly! Cheers! xoxo Regina

    • Lady Carnarvon says:

      I do enjoy your blog Regina – it really makes me appreciate the love and care that has created each sip, each glass we enjoy! Plus I like the photos which inspired my first photo above!

  35. Stella says:

    Hello from Oklahoma. Thanks for another interesting post. I am excited to learn your sparkling wine will be available across the pond one day soon. Please send it close to my area and it really needs to be soon! Oh please also show us photos of the ancient coin. It must be thrilling to walk on such ancient farmlands. We are so modernized and cannot live without air conditioning, convenience foods, and medical care. They had such a hard life and we owe all the ancient people our thankfulness. Love your blog.

  36. Lady Carnarvon says:

    Thank you and i might try to gather the coins together to walk through a few years here…

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