House Terroirist

 

Founder: Botwulf of Thanet

Founding date: 1088 AD

House Instrument: Ocarina

House Wine: ‘Frankish Orange’ (Alto-Adige)

Current Chair: River Jordaan

 

House Terroirist was founded in 1088 AD by Botwulf of Thanet, an Anglo-Saxon nobleman and warrior who exiled himself from England following the Norman Conquest.

Botwulf was a native of Saxon England, an aristocrat who traced his lineage back to the Jutes. He controlled a swathe of land on the Isle of Thanet (then separated from the rest of England by the mile-wide Wantsum Channel) and mainland Kent. He was loyal to the Saxon king Harold Godwinson (Harold II) and took part in the Defence of London Bridge against William the Bastard in 1066 AD, pledging his loyalty to Edgar the Ætheling after Harold’s death at the Battle of Hastings. Though the Defence of London Bridge was won by the Anglo-Saxons, causing William to retreat from the southern approaches to the city, the action was ultimately in vain. Williams’s troops crossed the Thames at Wallingford and invaded London from the north-west. William the Bastard was crowned King of England on December 25th, 1066.

Botwulf, along with many other Anglo-Saxon noblemen, departed the shores of England in the years following the Norman Conquest, never to return. Their skill and bravery in battle was legendary (Botwulf himself was recorded as having beheaded a mounted Norman knight and his horse at the Battle of Southwark with one blow of his battle-axe) and they knew there would be a ready market for their service at the Imperial Byzantine Court. Botwulf sailed to Holland in 1068 AD with a retinue of loyal noblemen and they travelled south through the vineyard-filled western provinces of the Kingdoms of Germany and Arles (modern-day Alsace, Lorraine, Burgundy and the Rhone) until they reached Provence. They then travelled east across the Kingdom of Italy, staying at wineries and learning the differences in viticultural techniques as they moved from province to province. The proud culinary and farming heritage of the various regions made a strong impression on Botwulf, himself homesick for the rolling farmlands of Kent.

By spring of 1069, Botwulf and his companions had arrived in the Republic of Venice, then a prosperous city state on the rise and, particularly pleasing to the Anglo-Saxons, a fierce rival of the Normans. In Venice, Botwulf discovered the local Chapter of the Worshipful Institute of the Minstrels of Wine, learning that the Institute’s headquarters were based in Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire and his ultimate destination. Botwulf chartered a galley and sailed to the city that summer, filling the ship’s hold with fine Veneto wine to fund the journey.

The Venetian Chapter of the Minstrels of Wine, impressed by Botwulf’s knowledge of the wine regions through which he had travelled, agreed to send a character reference to the Byzantine Emperor, Romanos Diogenes, himself a senior member of the Minstrels. Botwulf took up a commission in the Varangian Guard, the elite bodyguard of the Emperor, and joined the Minstrels the same year, entering House Vitium, at that time the largest House in the Institute.

Botwulf was nearly a footnote in the annals of the Minstrels. In 1071 AD he marched with the Emperor and 50,000 men into Anatolia to suppress a challenge by the Seljuq Turks under Sultan Alp Arslan. To his dismay, Botwulf was placed in charge of the Emperor’s baggage train, including the wine store, rather than a frontline position. The army was split in two and Botwulf, along with the rest of the Varangian Guard, was placed under the control of General Joseph Tarchaniotes, a drunk and incompetent commander. Tarchaniotes’ detachment was intercepted by Alp Arslan, the Seljuq Sultan, and fought an indecisive battle, marked by the bravery of Botwulf and his Varangian Guard and the cowardice of General Tarchaniotes, who fled the field of battle. The Turks withdrew after a mauling from the Varangian infantry but, without a clear chain of command, the Byzantine army split and most of the soldiers, short-term Frankish mercenaries, deserted. Botwulf took command of the rump of regular troops and marched to Manzikert in an attempt to re-join the Emperor and the other half of the army.

They were too late. The Byzantine army had been routed by the Seljuq Turks at the disastrous Battle of Manzikert, two days earlier, and the Emperor taken prisoner. Botwulf returned to Constantinople with his remaining troops where he was accused of cowardice and forced to resign his commission. The Emperor himself was released by the Sultan after agreeing terms but was deposed in a palace coup shortly afterwards, blinded by his adversaries, and died of an infection caused by his wounds.

Botwulf was disgusted by the death of the Emperor and the corrupt machinations of the Byzantine court. He devoted the rest of his life to the Minstrels of Wine, founding House Terroirist in 1088 to represent the interests of regional, artisanal wine producers, and to defend them against the malevolence of multi-national institutions such as the Byzantine Empire and the Norman Kingdom.

He added a strand of mysticism to the Hellenic culture of the Minstrels, derived (surprisingly for an Anglo-Saxon) from Celtic druidic practice. This included The Ritual of Oak and Mistletoe, still performed on the roof of Minstrel Hall on the sixth day of the new moon following the winter solstice. Botwulf also agitated to move the headquarters of the Minstrels from Constantinople to Venice and was responsible for recruiting Anna Komnene, the historian, Byzantine princess and first female Minstrel since classical times, in 1105. He failed in his attempt to relocate the Institute during his lifetime but succeeded posthumously. The Worshipful Institute moved to the Republic of Venice in 1162 AD, fifty years after his death.

Today, House Terroirist is the favoured home of artisan winemakers and followers of organic and biodynamic viticulture. Though the smallest of the four Extant Houses, it is the fastest growing, attracting new recruits from the ranks of sommeliers and traditional merchants. Historically, House Terroirist has a tense relationship with House Mercantilist, partly due to their dramatically different philosophies but perhaps, in a faint echo from the medieval period, due also to House Mercantilist’s Norman origins (see the History of House Mercantilist).

House Terroirist maintains formal links with the following institutions:

Slow Food International

Real Wine Fair

Chuvash Hop Institute (link not available)

Demeter

The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids

Wild Yeasts of Gansu (link not available)

Kami no Shizuku (link not available)

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© 2020 by Peter Stafford-Bow