Friday, May 13, 2016

Marc Soucy's Wine Blog: Wine, The Roman Empire, and well, a Hopefully Not- Forgotten Comedy Troupe

What Have The Romans Ever Done For Us?"

("The Life of Brian"  Monty Python, 1979)

When you spend time reading about and studying wine's history and wine culture, you learn about the huge role the Greeks played in spreading wine--among many other things--across the Mediterranean. In much more recent history, we know about the central role France has played in providing us in the New World with the grape vines and the inspiration and example to make wine wherever the vines will grow.  

Hmmm...something is missing though isn't it?     ... ...  Yes.

(Funny they don't look dangerous.)

The Roman Empire bridged the historical gap (no offense) between the aforementioned Greeks and French, bringing the grape vine to many parts of France Greek settlers had never been to, and exposing the Gauls (a huge pre-French Celtic group conquered by the Romans under Julius Caesar) to wine culture, hooking them on it forever.

Roman wine culture itself was based on that of the Etruscans, the society that inhabited what is today's Tuscany. Rome, once a rural dependency of the Etruscans, adopted many of their cultural habits and institutions. Once they adopted Etruscan wine culture as their own, the Romans continued to spread it wherever they went. Soon, much of Italy would be vine land. Italy is such a natural growing environment for grapevines, the early Greek colonists called southern Italy "Oenotria" or "land of wine". This reality would truly take off in the hands of the Romans.

The Romans tried to Make Wine from Pomegranates at First, but Only Got Frustrated

Wine was such a high priority to the Romans, it was one of the first things they did once a region had been secured under their control: plant vines and get the locals to help them make wine and export it.   
Large scale wine commerce was born. 

Italy was soon the center of the wine world, not just the center of the western world (no great shakes, really...), with large swaths of the empire producing huge amounts of wine as well, from Turkey to Portugal. When the empire began to collapse centuries later, wine culture had such a foothold across the Roman empire, it survived and thrived on its own. Even as the Byzantine and later Ottoman Empires squelched the wine trade in the eastern Mediterranean (for two very different reasons), wine flourished in the West, and Italian wine making comprised a huge percentage of the total output, as well as preserving and developing dozens of interesting grape varieties, some of which we enjoy today and are primarily unique to Italy.

The Romans introduced their subjects to wine, and triggered the events that would--over 1500 years later--result in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay being planted all over the planet by the imperial nations of the day. Today, Italy's wine industry is more vibrant than ever, and produces some of the finest and most original wines in the world. 

..Thanks, Romans.          (Well, we'll have to think of something else, then.....)

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW WSET
Marc Wine Blog


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