Skip to Content

Ancient Rome and wine

« Back to Glossary Index

**Historical Development of Roman Wine Culture:**
– Influence of Mycenaean Greeks, Etruscans, and Greek colonies on Roman viticulture.
– Impact of Roman winemaking techniques influenced by allies and conquered regions.
– Significance of Greek wine in Rome, Opimian vintage, and first-growth vineyards.
– Pompeii as a major Roman wine center and the impact of Vesuvius eruption on wine trade.
– Domitian’s edict banning new vineyards and subsequent developments near Rome.

**Roman Influence on Wine Regions and Society:**
– Spread of Roman viticulture to France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.
– Roman belief in wine as a daily necessity and its availability to all classes.
– Viticulture and wine production spread across the Roman Empire.
– Roman writers like Cato, Columella, and Pliny contributing to winemaking knowledge.
– Influence of Roman wine consumption habits on modern estimates.

**Modern Winemaking Techniques and Legacy:**
– Use of ancient Roman techniques in modern winemaking.
– Evidence of ancient wine economy in amphorae and writings of Roman authors.
– Influence of Greek wine pressing methods on Italian production.
– Expansion of viticulture by Romans in renowned wine regions globally.
– Impact of Roman wine trade on market economy and competition in exports.

**Viticulture in Roman Provinces:**
– Development of viticulture in regions like Tarraconensis, Baetica, Catalonia, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero.
– Emergence of winemaking regions like Montilla-Moriles and sherry in Spain.
– Introduction of viticulture to Spain by Carthaginians and Phoenicians.
– Roman influence on viticulture post the defeat of Carthage in Spain.
– Impact of Domitian’s edict on vineyard expansion and its eventual repeal by Emperor Probus.

**Archaeological Insights and Preservation of Roman Viticulture:**
– Preservation of Pompeii offering unique insights into Roman winemaking.
– Excavated vineyards revealing ancient planting patterns and production technologies.
– Replanting ancient vineyards with original grape varieties.
– Use of experimental archaeology to recreate Roman wine from excavated vineyards.
– Preservation of Pompeii contributing to understanding Roman viticulture and winemaking techniques.

Ancient Rome played a pivotal role in the history of wine. The earliest influences on the viticulture of the Italian peninsula can be traced to ancient Greeks and the Etruscans. The rise of the Roman Empire saw both technological advances in and burgeoning awareness of winemaking, which spread to all parts of the empire. Rome's influence has had a profound effect on the histories of today's major winemaking regions in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

A Roman statue of Bacchus, god of wine (c. 150 AD, copied from a Hellenistic original, Prado Museum, Madrid).

The Roman belief that wine was a daily necessity made the drink "democratic" and ubiquitous; in various qualities, it was available to slaves, peasants and aristocrats, men and women alike. To ensure the steady supply of wine to Roman soldiers and colonists, viticulture and wine production spread to every part of the empire. The economic opportunities presented by trading in wine drew merchants to do business with tribes native to Gaul and Germania, bringing Roman influences to these regions even before the arrival of the Roman military. Evidence of this trade and the far-reaching ancient wine economy is most often found through amphorae – ceramic jars used to store and transport wine and other commodities.

The works of Roman writers – most notably Cato, Columella, Horace, Catullus, Palladius, Pliny, Varro and Virgil – have provided insight into the role played by wine in Roman culture as well as contemporary understanding of winemaking and viticultural practices. Many of the techniques and principles first developed in ancient Roman times can be found in modern winemaking.

« Back to Glossary Index