Just like the country, the wine of Italy has a rich and complex history. From the ancient Greeks to the Romans, from the Etruscans to the medieval monks, the wines of Italy have been shaped by a variety of cultures and traditions. Take this moment with me, and let us go on a journey through time to explore the fascinating history of Italian wine.
The history of wine in Italy can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks. Wine was so popular at the time, that the Greeks called the country Oenotria, “the land of trained vines,” when they arrived in 8th century BC. They brought with them the true art of viniculture, and the techniques to help it flourish along the Italian peninsula. The Etruscans, who lived in the central region of Italy, also played a significant role in the development of this fine tradition.
The Roman Era
During the Roman era, wine reached whole new heights of production and consumption. The Romans were known for their love of wine, and they spread grape cultivation throughout their expansive empire. However, their wine was stronger than what we’re used to today and usually diluted with water, not mention adding interesting flavours and spices to play with flavours. They also left their share of improved techniques, such as props and trellises, presses, and even discovered better flavours from ageing it in wooden barrels.
In the Middle Ages, the monastic orders of Italy played a crucial role in the production and preservation of wine. Monks established vineyards and wineries, developed new grape varieties from careful cultivation, and learning about climate and terroir, and then sharing that knowledge with local communities.
During the Renaissance, wine-making experienced a rebirth of creativity and innovation. New grape varieties were introduced from travellers, and wine production became more sophisticated and refined. The Italian Renaissance also saw the development of wine trade, with Italian wines becoming highly sought after by wealthy patrons across Europe, and the industry flourished in response.
Now we reach the modern era, and Italian wine has continued to evolve and adapt to changing tastes and trends. There was even the development of the first system of classification of wines, consisting of four basic categories, ranging from Vini (so-called ‘generic wines’) to Vini DOP (wines with protected designation of Origin). All these rules and regulations protect and denote the status and quality. Making Italy one of the largest wine-producing countries in the world, with a diverse range of styles and grape varieties, and wine has also become an important part of Italian culture, with it playing a significant role in daily life and celebrations.
As we can see, the history of Italian wine is a fascinating journey through time, shaped by a variety of cultures, traditions, and innovations. As appreciators of Italian wine it’s important for us to understand this rich and complex history that makes Italy one of the best desisitions in the world for wine.
Think, all this history leading right up until this very moment, and this fine drop waiting for me.