*** Italian Wine Industry: Rome

Italian Wine Industry: Rome

Roman wine industry
Figure 1.-- The Romann mosaic in from the well-preservedv Mausoleum of Constance (a daughter of the Emperor Constantine) in Rome (4th century AD). It shows the grape harvest and treading which continued to be used by small-sale Italian farmers into the 1960s.

Viticulture slowly expanded over time and was an important activity as Rome grew from an unimportant village to a powerful republic. It was Roman victories in the Punic Wars (264-146 BC) that heralded Rome's emergence as a great power. The Punic Wars led to large numbers of slaves being introduced to Italy. One of many impacts was the appearance of large-scale plantations appearing in coastal areas. Slaves provided much of the work force. Growing grapes and creating wine is something that can more easily be done on plantations than small family farms. This enhanced the wine making tradition inherited from the Etruscans in central Italy. The increased production of wine led to wine becoming such a central part of everyday life. Wine like beer would become later in northern Europe had health benefits. Unlike water, the alcohol prevented the transmission of water-born diseases. Demand for wine increased throughout the Mediterranean world. And it proved more profitable than most other countries. Emperor Domitian ordered the destruction of many vineyards to create more land for food production (92 AD). The wine the Romans drank was stronger than the beverage we enjoy today. The Romans diluted it with water. Sweet wines were popular. And the Romans liked to flavoring their wine, including such ingredients as honey, many herbs, salt and some rather strange substances like chalk. Over centuries of Roman history, nearly a millennium, he Romans worked at not only wine making, but flavoring their wine. The Romans developed many advances in the art and technology of wine making. They used props and trellises for their grapes. They adopted the Greek presses needed for extracting juice. It was the Romans that discovered that aging fermented grape juice could enhance the taste which is why the Romans were the first to store it in wooden barrels. They also were the first to study wine making in detail and record their findings. They classified the grapes used and studied both climate and land characteristics like soil types affecting grape harvests. Rome as it expanded prohibited wine making beyond the Italian Peninsula. (We are not sure about Greece.) This helped prevent competition and created a very valuable product Romans could export to obtain grain, gold ivory, metals, spices, slaves and other goods. Much of Roman trade was within the Empire, but not all of it. Very little wine making took place outside of the Empire. Eventually the prohibition on wine making were relaxed, an vineyards began to appear throughout the Empire, although the Italian peninsula remained a vital center for wines production and marketing. With Caesar's conquest of Gaul the foundation of the French wine industry was laid (58 to 50 BC).


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Created: 6:24 PM 12/3/2023
Last updated: 6:24 PM 12/3/2023