30 October 2009
Posted in ITALY - FOOD AND WINE
The history of Italian wine is a long, drawn out love story which starts with the ancient Greeks and carries on to the modern day. Wine is very much a part of Italian culture and society, and no meal is complete without it, so to really understand the Italians and Italy, you also have to understand somthing about their national drink.
When the ancient Greeks first settled in Southern Italy and Sicily, they were impressed by how the climate lent itself to the cultivation of grapevines and thus to wine production. So much so, that the country came to be known as Oenatria, the land of vines.
Although the Greeks did produce wines, it was the Romans that refined the technique, so it is fitting that Italy remains the world's largest producer of wines. The wines drunk in Roman times were strong and rather acidic, so they were often mixed with other things to render them more palatable. Often they were mixed with water, maybe even with chalk to neutralise the acid taste, and as the Romans appeared to have had a sweet tooth, honey and spices were also often added.
By the third century B.C. demand for wine had grown exponentially, and even slaves were drinking it. By the 1st century A.D. so many vineyards had sprung up, particularly in coastal areas, that food production began to suffer and some of them had to be destroyed. During this time, Roman law also forbade the production of wine outside of Italy and the exchange of wine for slaves and other goods was intense.
The production in wine in Italy grew more and more refined from that point on. Even in the Dark Ages wine continued to be produced by Roman Catholic monks, keeping the tradition alive.
During the Renaissaince Italian wine was considered to be the best in the world, but later on, in the 19th century cost saving and time saving measures on the part of some producers, and a habit of exporting only poorer quality wines damaged Italy's reputation as a wine producing country. In response, the Italian government introduced strict regulations to improve and guarantee quality.
Nowadays, Italy produces some of the best wines in the world, including the reds, Chianti, Nero d'Avola and Primitivo as well as whites like Soave, Pino Grigio and Falanghina, not forgetting bubbly Prosecco of course! So, if you are a lover of fine wines, then why not visit Italy and sample some of the best bottles in the world?