ORIGINS

WINE

Wine was not a common food in ancient times but a true divine food, full of symbols and allegorical meanings; it is not by chance that it was consumed mainly during the symposia, the moments of social life during which members of the same caste gathered to exchange ideas on current events, politics, customs, and business. Already at that time we had the selection of some grape varieties typical of central Italy, which we are able to find also nowadays: Trebbiano, Montepulciano and Sangiovese. The Greek colonists who settled in southern Italy in the eighth century BC did not import their vineyard culture but rather a different view of wine. When Greece, starting in BC 146 became a province of Rome, the Italian viticulture began to grow, laying the foundations of the first great wines and starting a production technique that, as we shall see further on, would last until the eighteenth century. The Romans, since at the beginning were not sure of their wine, focused on the quantity and this allowed to expand the consumption of the drink even to the most humble urban social classes and even to slaves; the aristocracy, however, continued to consume wines imported from Greece and Aegean because they were considered more refined. Pliny (AD 23-97) notes that only from the second half of the first century BC the Roman wines began to enjoy some fame and to be preferred to the Greeks ones above all for the great variety offered. We cannot know how large this variety was: Pliny the Elder himself in his Naturalis Historia lists well 182 species of wine, 50 of which races, 38 ultramarines, 18 sweet, 64 adulterated, 12 prodigious. Cato (BC 234-149) states instead to know of about 8 varieties of wine, Brown describes 10, Virgil (BC 70-19) 15, Columella (AD 40-70) 58. Certainly we know that at that time the most renowned wines were those of Campania, especially Falerno wine widely cited in literature, then there were the wines Peligni and Petruziani of Abruzzo, the Preci and Raetico in Veneto and the Aigleucos, a sort of sparkling wines of Greek origin that, to prevent fermentation, the Romans kept immersed in ice water. In the territories at present due to Calabria, wine was present and in precious kinds (aminea, byblinos, lagaritano the reghinon). The people consumed wine mainly in tabernae, a sort of taverns and wine shops Wine (in Ostia and Pompeii we find many remains attributable to these environments).The Tabernae were generally located on the outskirts of the city on the busiest streets or around places where there were public spectators and inside there was a counter, usually in a "L" shape, with shelves to support cups and glasses, in winter near the counter there was a fire to heat the water in which the wine was mixed with to create a hot drink. The consumption of the drink in the homes of the rich people was different. The wine to drink before lunch was the mulsum, practically must cooked combined with honey, whilst during the different courses these were served together with food. Before being served at the table, the wine underwent a specific treatment: in addition to adding water, it was filtered in cane baskets or bags of linen soaked in aromatic oils: they had the function to filter both the wastes or to correct its flavour, as they contained at the bottom sand or chalk powder, honey and sediments of good wines. In convivium, the equivalent of the Greek symposium, wine was poured by the slaves, while the amount of water to mix with the wine was determined by one of the guests referred to as arbiter. Wine was served in large cups (so the deposit could go at the bottom) which could contain up to half a litre, each toast could require that the cup was completely emptied in one swig; toasts could be repeated as many times were the letters in the name of the person who filed it. In the first century A. D. wine is produced abundantly throughout Italy and in many other regions of the Empire: its spread was so great that the emperor Domitian (AD 51-96 AD), convinced that the wheat production was neglected, prohibited to plant new vines in Italy and ordered to cut at least half of the vineyards in the provinces.