The history of the Vintners' Company is a fascinating story of trade, charity, politics and companionship. Although the medieval, possibly even Saxon, origins of the London guilds remains somewhat unknown, there is absolutely no doubt that in medieval London the livery companies, including the Vintners', exercised immense power in economic, social, political and religious spheres.
The origins of the Vintners' Company, like most Livery Companies, are rather obscure. Before the Norman Conquest, neighbourhood groups would meet in their local church in the case of the Vintners', St. Martin in the Vintry. In medieval London, persons of similar trade lived in the same area and so these local groups soon took on an economic element - the word 'guild' comes from the Anglo-Saxon gidan meaning 'to pay'. There are twelfth century references to 'lawful merchants of London' fixing the price of wine - one of the earliest indications of an official group governing trade. The Vintners' first charter (15th July, 1363) was in fact a grant of monopoly for trade with Gascony. It gave far-reaching powers, including duties of search throughout England and the right to buy herrings and cloths to sell to the Gascons. The wine trade was of immense importance to the medieval economy - between 1446 and 1448, wine made up nearly one-third of England's entire import trade. Since their first charter in 1363, it was the Vintners' who presided over this trade.