Chapter 4: Italy
Edited by Kym Anderson
Alessandro Corsi, Eugenio Pomarici and Roberta Sardone Wine-growing and winemaking have deep historical roots in Italy. Although ancient Greek settlers in southern Italy undoubtedly brought wine-growing with them, it is likely that the technology was already known by former populations. In the early Roman period, wine was not in much favour, except for religious purposes. However, the enlarging conquests led to greater grain imports, which reduced the price of wheat, and to more slaves, which reduced the cost of growing labour-intensive crops. This caused farmers in Italy to shift from wheat-growing to more profitable crops, including wine grapes, which utilized the skills of the many Greek and Asian slaves brought to Italy. At the same time, wine became more fashionable in Rome, and for the first time women were allowed to drink it.1 Italian wines also started to be exported to France, Spain, western Africa and the Danubian area. The eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 ruined vineyards near Naples (at that time the Bordeaux of the wine world), which caused a large rise in the price of wine, stimulating a rush of new plantings throughout the empire. So massive was that investment that at the end of the first century AD, emperor Domitianus promulgated an edict banning new plantings of vineyards in Italy and ordering the grubbing up of half the vineyards in the rest of the empire. After the dark periods of the High Middle Ages, wine flourished again in Italy. Communes and signories often issued laws to...
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