Wine from fermented grapes was imported to Scotland from France from the 12th century when King David I sought to regulate the trade.
Large quantities of wine were consumed by the royal household, and its use as a pleasant drink and an indicator of social status soon spread to noble families.
In 1608, while living in lodgings in Glasgow, the Earl of Angus had his steward bring wine from local merchants every day. This was necessary as wine did not stay fresh for long.
Mostly the Earl drank French wine. When there were guests there might also be Spanish wine, Malaga wine, Canary wine, Sack, or Candy wine, possibly from Crete.
Waidinesdey ye Last dey of august
Enterit of menschottis — iiii xx
Enterit of aitt bred — iiii xx
Enterit of aill &cost - xvi qrts —Restes xviii sh
Enterit of Frensche wyne -iii poynts — xxxiii sh
Enterit of canerie wyne ane choipin — viii sh
Those who could not afford expensive imported wines might make their own versions. In the Highlands, birch tree wine was fermented from tree trunks.
By the 18th century, the custom of drinking wine had spread beyond the social élite, but it was — and still is — far from being the everyday drink for all.
'The King sits in Dunfermline town,
Drinking the blood-red wine'
— 'The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens', 17th century.
Entries for French wine and Canary wine are included in this extract from the household accounts include of William, 10th Earl of Angus, 1608. [Library reference: MS.2200]