The History of Wine in Italy


It’s undeniable that Italy’s culture has been defined by its people’s love for wine. As several publications have pointed out, Italian dinners are never complete without wine and bread. Since we love drinking Tuscans, prosecco, and Chianti, it’s only fitting that we learn more about the country’s wine history.

Who Introduced Grapes to Italy?

It is widely believed that the Greeks were the first to recognize Italy’s potential for wine production. After they settled in present-day Sicily, they were amazed with how fertile the land was. As such, they imported grape vines and decided to call the place Oenotria, which means ‘land of wine.’

Of course, we will not forget to mention the Etruscans. Around 700 BCE, this group of people founded the wine industry in Tuscany. The cultivated the grapevines brought by the Greeks, transforming it into highly desirable wine. They brought innovations in wine production, including using temperature-controlled fermentation. Indeed, the Etruscans was ahead of their time in terms of wine making.

How the Roman’s Contributed to the Influence of Italian Wine

The demand for wine grew as the Roman Empire widened its reach. Since wine became an integral part of the society, production kept up with the demand. However, we shouldn’t confuse wine from the Roman Empire with the typical Barolo or Chianti that we know today. Often, Romans would mix water into wine to decrease its alcohol content. Moreover, they preferred sweeter variants that came from the region of Falerian. Moreover, they sometimes add other flavors to their wine, including spices, herbs, honey, and even salt. These days, Italians are considered ‘wine purists’ and wouldn’t do the same.

It’s undeniable that Romans had strange ways of serving wine. However, they still deserve to be credited for their contributions to wine production. For instance, they enhanced the Greek wine presses, allowing them to extract more juice. Moreover, they studied how grapes survived and flourished in particular climates. Consequently, this led to bigger yields and higher quality wines.
Unfortunately, as the Roman Empire lost its glory, the demand for wine also decreased. During the Dark Ages, Roman Catholic monks were instrumental in keeping the art of Italian wine production alive. Consequently, wine gained back its popularity during the Renaissance period.

Italian Wine in the Recent Centuries

Over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, people criticized Italian wine for its poor quality. As such, the government established the Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which imposed stricter regulations on the quality of wine production. With this, the reputation and taste of Italian wine improved.

To this day, Italian culture still embrace the things that embodied the popularity of indulgent, wild Etruscans. It is not uncommon for Italians to have good food and excellent wine on their tables. If you come over for dinner and your Italian friend notices that you only took a sip, they would think that you aren’t drinking enough. For them, as with food and wine, life is meant to be enjoyed.
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