When It Comes to Wine, Do As The Romans Did

There is a renewed interest in the wine-making procedures of the ancient Romans. Historians in Italy have been studying Roman texts dating back at least 2,000 years in order to discover how the ancient Romans made their wine. They cultivated their vines without the use of modern pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers (apart from natural ones, of course). So basically, Roman wine was organic.

These historians are using ancient tools such as the ‘stork’, which was basically a wooden cross with a lead weight on a piece of twine, which they used to find out if holes dug for planting vines were of the optimal depth.They used wood from brooms and strips of cane instead of twine or string to tie their vines to poles.

Roman wine was stored in terracotta pots or amphorae, rather than in barrels, as it is today. These terracotta pots were buried in the ground, up to their necks, and lined with beeswax to ensure that they are impermeable. They were left open to encourage fermentation. Later they were sealed with resin or clay.

The modern historians use unusual grape varieties, such as Nerello Mascalese, Visparola, Racinedda and Muscatedda, and produce seven red wines and one white. Their vineyard is situated in Sicily, close to Catania. The Roman poet, Virgil, and Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella, are the sources they draw on for their viticulture methods. Columella was a Roman soldier before he turned to wine production. He was the foremost Roman writer of texts on agriculture. Before writing his twelve-volume tome on agriculture, he was a tribune in Syria in the first century AD.

It seems that many of the ancient Roman farming methods were still in use in Italy up until the end of the Second World War in 1945. The tools used up until that date were also similar to those used in the Roman Empire. Now, of course, chemicals are used in wine-making and wine production has been mechanised.

Roman wine could be bitter, so it tended to be flavoured with honey. The cheaper wine, minus honey, was for the peasants, while the smoother wine (with honey) was for the aristocrats. Of course, in Britain, mead was the alcoholic drink that was sweetened with honey.

From archaeological evidence, we know that honey mead was drunk on the Asian continent between 6500 and 7000 B.C. Ancient Greeks thought that mead was the drink of the gods. Why not try some and see if you agree?