Home > History of Wine > Two Scenes of Winemaking From the 14th and 15th Century

Two Scenes of Winemaking From the 14th and 15th Century


Today’s post begins with  a detailed illustration of winemaking from a 14th century Flemish illuminated manuscript.[1]  In the bottom far-left corner of the left-hand column, a man uses a pruning knife to harvest clusters of grapes.  These are in turn carried by two men with woven baskets on their backs who steady themselves with walking sticks.  The grapes are presumably dumped into a wooden vat where they are foot-trodden by two men.  The vat is held together by two courses of hoops made from caning (or rope, I don’t know) with the staves reaching just above waist level.

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts.  Bodleian Library. Oxford University.

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. Bodleian Library. Oxford University.

In the right-hand column there is a man sampling the wine and another man emptying the vat using a bowl.  The bowl is then poured into a large funnel which empties into an elongated barrel.  A potentially interesting detail is that the head of the barrel features a brace.  It is difficult to tell but the man stomping the grapes on the right appears to be the same as the one who is filling the barrel.  Likewise the man support the large grape cluster in the middle appears to be the one sampling the wine.  The clothing and indeed the shoes are different which could indicate the passing of time.  What do you think?

Image from Book of Hours, Use of Rome ('The Dunois Hours') c. 1440- c.1450. France, Central (Paris). British Library.

Image from Book of Hours, Use of Rome (‘The Dunois Hours’) c. 1440- c.1450. France, Central (Paris). British Library.

A French image from nearly one century later is virtually identical in terms of the winemaking.[2]  In this image a pitcher is used to pour the wine into a triangular funnel placed on top of a barrel.  Whereas these barrels have four courses of “hoops” they still have the cross-brace on the head.  For an excellent collection of medieval winemaking images please visit Wine in the Middle Ages at Wine Terroirs.


[1] The Romance of Alexander. Scenes of medieval life. Flemish. 1338-1344. Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. Bodleian Library. Oxford University. URL: http://bodley30.bodley.ox.ac.uk:8180/luna/servlet/s/51s8c3
[2] Book of Hours, Use of Rome (‘The Dunois Hours’) c. 1440- c.1450. France, Central (Paris). British Library. URL: http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=5839

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