During the medieval period, monks performed many different jobs in and out of monasteries. Monasteries were often centers for learning and served as primitive hospitals, and in some cases held courts to judge crimes for nearby villages. Monasteries also produced a wide variety of agricultural products, including wine and liqueurs.
Much of a monastery's income came from donations, but eventually every monastic order needed to support itself through other financial means. Many monasteries owned large tracts of land, renting it out to tenant farmers. Others established mills on their grounds, allowing farmers to mill their grain for a fee. When a monastery supported itself solely through these passive income methods, the individual monks spent their time in study or providing religious services to villages. Some monasteries took advantage of their rich lands and produced wine, cheese and other agricultural products.
Monasteries were less likely than privately held lands to be attacked and pillaged during conflicts. This allowed monks the stability to develop and cultivate unique varieties of grapes and other crops, and to develop cheese and wine making techniques over time. Many distinct varieties of both wine and cheese originated in monasteries before being adopted by other regional agricultural producers.