Roman Empire
Wine Regions in History

Wine was a part of daily life in Ancient Rome. As the Romans conquered the lands around them, they planted vineyards and cultivated wine regions. The modern word wine comes from the Roman word for that drink, vinum. The historic beginning of Rome was in 753BC, when Romulus founded the city of Rome. The city grew over the centuries. By 509BC it became a republic, and in 73BC the slave revolt led by Spartacus took place. It took until the 500AD era for outer forces and plagues to weaken the empire.

During these 1000+ years, the Roman powerhouse took over land from England to Africa, and built their infrastructure in each location. This certainly included vineyards!

Glassware and Storage

The Greeks had been treasuring wine since before 2000BC, and looked down on any culture that had not developed fine winemaking skills.

The Romans took on this philosophy with a vengeance. At the time, wine was stored in clay amphorae, or large pottery vats. Wine was poured out into clay cups for drinking, or wine skins for transport. The Romans were masters of invention, and one of their great contributions to human culture was glassblowing. Glass could hold wine without changing its flavor at all, and would let the consumer clearly see the color and characteristics of the wine.

On the down side, while clay pots could be made to exact volume standards, glassblowing is a hand crafted art. Problems sprung up with dishonest merchants creating glassware that was smaller than it should be. To combat this, laws were made that required wine to be measured out before the consumer, into the consumer's own container. This would be similar to a modern day consumer going into a butcher shop to ask for a pound of roast beef, and watching as the butcher measured out the amount and gave the proper amount to the consumer.

France, Italy and More

The ancient Romans loved their wine, and planted vineyards whereever they could. What wine regions sprung up as a result? First, of course, the Romans made sure vines were planted all over Italy. Excavations in Pompeii, the famous Roman town destroyed by a volcano, find vineyards in practically every back yard, along with several large vineyards. One vineyard with walls around it held over 2,000 vines. Just about every Roman adult drunk wine with each meal as a matter of course. It was safer than water, and milk was only drunk by children. The vineyards right around Rome were the best, as many were owned by wealthy Roman families in their country estates.

In fact, so many vines had been planted by the year 51 that when Emperor Domitian took control, he forbid the planting of new vines.

He was concerned that not enough land remained to grow crops on! This rule was enforced for almost 200 years before it was rescinded. The reason it finally got lifted was that Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus (232-282) needed to supply his troops with their rations of wine - and there wasn't enough to meet the need. The Greeks had brought some vines to France, but when the Romans took over this area, they planted vineyards in large quantities. They began with Rhone valley vineyards, and then spread across the rest of France. The wines from France soon took on a reputation of quality.

Spain had an even longer history of vines. They had been growing grapes since 4,000 BC, but it was when the Romans took over, and Roman elite demanded better and better wines for their tables, that viticulture in this area truly took off. Spain's wines had a reputation of being cheap and easy drinking, although the Terraconensis wines are singled out as being very good.

The Germans had also been growing grapes for thousands of years, but again the Romans brought quality vines and techniques to the area. Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus set down the rules, and at the time, red wines were as planted as well as whites. He even had his troops involved in vine planting. The Rhine valley was the location for most of the vines.

The Wine Varieties of the Romans
Wine Regions in History

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.