Historical period from 496 B.C. till Roman empire fall 476 A.D.
This historical period goes over the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. It is important to the wine industry, because the Romans introduced wine growing all over the conquered Mediterranean and European lands. The following map shows the Roman Empire around 200 A.D. Leaving aside Greece, Turkey and the wine originating territories, the Romans spread the cultivation of grapes for wine making in many countries.
In Germany along the rivers Rhine, the Moselle, the Main and the Neckar, which are still today the regions of the most famous German Wines.
In France they spread viticulture in areas which are the well known regions of Marseille, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne, Languedoc, Loire Valley and the Rhone. (where they introduced the variery Cardonna, now known as Chardonnay)
Along the Danube toward east in the Raetia area, with wine that was known to the Romans as Rhaeticum, from today's Austria towards Hungary and further East, in Romania and Bulgaria.
In the Iberic Peninsula in the area of Catalonia, Valencia (Saguntum), Rioja, Ribeira del Duero, Galicia and in Hispania Baetica, which included Andalucia and the Cadiz region, giving the birth of the very important productions today of Spain and Portugal.
Frontiers of the Roman Empire in the middle of II century A.D.
At the beginning of the Roman history, the wine from the Colli Albani, was for sure one of the few known and appreciated by the Romans. The wine was called "Albanum" from the Alban Hills, Alba Longa and Lacus Albanus, which is the whole area on the volcanic Hills south East of Rome which face the City. Marcus Porcius Cato (Tusculum 234 B.C. - 149 B.C.), from gens Portia, is one of the leading persons connected with the Frascati Wine History. He has written De Agri Cultura, a work which has survived the ages, a manual more than a literary work, where grapes cultivation techniques are described and where many tricks on wine making and wine conservation are documented, some of them are used still today. Cato was also an excellent lawyer, the writer Cornelius Nepo says: "Nam et agricola sollers et peritus iuris consultus", which translates to "he was an excellent farmer and lawyer". He was growing his own wine on the area where today the Frascati protected area DOCG is, and can be for sure given the honor to be one the very first known producer of Frascati wine.
From the Agricultura, Cato ranked the vineyard the first cultivation to try on a newly purchased land, "de omnibus agris optimoque loco iugera agri centum, vinea est prima, vel si vino multo est; secundo loco hortus irriguus; tertio salictum; quarto oletum; quinto pratum; sexto campus frumentarius; septimo silva caedua; octavo arbustum; nono glandaria silva" which translates to: "If you get a terrain of one hundred acres, in the best place the first thing you should plant is the vineyard, it will give you a lot of wine. Second a vegetable garden. Third willow trees. Fourth Olive Trees. Fifth herbs. Sixth cereals. Seventh trees with falling leaves. Eighth bushes. Ninth a wood of oaks.
Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder
It is amazing to discover the ingenuity that the Romans used to cultivate the grapes, to make wine ("Uvae in olla in vinaceis conduntur; eadem in sapa, in musto, in lora recte conduntur"), to avoid the wine turning into vinegar, to keep the wine over the summer months, to use smoke to maintain grapes longer. In paragraph 11, describes the tools used for cultivation, in par 18 there are detailed istructions on how to build a wine press, which were followed at that time as found in Pompei and many later drawings and known as the Cato Wine Press. There are described techniques for propagation, pruning. Even techniques to find out if water was added to the wine, showing that wine fraud was as old as wine itself. Cato explains also how to make a wine which will last until summer, it was very rare at that times, to maintain the wine for over one year, and this is in line with Frascati which has to be drunk "young", where young refers to the age of the wine not the drinker's one. Cato lived 85 years, and his longevity may be an indirect testimony of the wine therapeutic properties in an historical period where the average life expectation was less than half that.
There are few other documents mentioning Tusculum in those ancient times.
Strabo, Geography in book V.3 writes that "It is on this ridge that Tusculum is situated, a city which is not wanting in adornment, being entirely surrounded by ornamental plantations, vineyards and edifices, particularly that part of it which looks towards Rome. For, on this side, Tusculum presents a fertile hill, well irrigated, and with numerous gentle slopes embellished with majestic palaces...Moreover the land was full of water springs" (Strabo lib VII). Iuvenalis mention that "Around Tusculum there were fruitfull vineyards, producing "suave" delicacy wines, equally famous to those mentioned by Horace, Pliny and Martialis.
Pliny the elder in Boook XVI says:"Est in suburbano Tusculani agri colle, qui Corne appellatur, lucus antiqua religione Dianae sacratus a Latio, velut arte tonsili coma fagei nemoris. in hoc arborem eximiam aetate nostra amavit Passienus Crispus bis cos., orator, Agrippinae matrimonio et Nerone privigno clarior postea, osculari conplectique eam solitus, non modo cubare sub ea vinumque illi adfundere. vicina luco est ilex, et ipsa nobilis XXXIV pedum ambitu caudicis, decem arbores emittens singulas magnitudinis visendae silvamque sola faciens." which traslates to "Beneath Tusculum a area ... where Passienus Cripsus ... used to make wine. Close there are increadibly strong trees, so luxuriant that make alone a wood". This is important because Frascati established on the rests of the villa of Passienus.
Tusculum was also land of important people for the Rome community. In 54 BC, in his Orationes Pro Cn. Plancio, Marcus Tullius Cicero said: "You are from the most ancient municipium of Tusculum, from which so many consular families are originating, among which even the gens Iuventia-all other municipia (together) do not have so many (consular families) coming from them".
Frascati, Town Hall, Inscription with words of Cicero celebrating Tusculum
Citations of wine in Latin Literature and wine celebrations
Wine celebration fests were the Vinalia in honour of Jupiter and Venus, divided into Vinalia Priora April 23rd to bless and sample the new wine from last harvesting, and Vinalia rustica on August 19 to ask the gods for a good coming harvest. Wine is mentioned in many writer's works, by Plinius (Historia naturalia librum 14 et 17), Varro (De re rustica), Martialis, Columella, Oratius, Palladius (Opus Agriculturae), Vergilius (Georgics book 2) and others.
Wine types in Rome
From the paintings we know that both red and white wines were produced. Wine was not treated, and was a bit muddy, sometimes was filtered with a "colum" (strainer). The most appreciated wines were Massicum and Falernum from around Naples, Albanum from the Alban Hills, Caecubum, Sabinum and Setinum. Horace, from satira VIII, 16, "Hic herus, Albanum, Mecenas, sive Falernum, te magis apposivit electa, habemus utrumque", which translates to "Here is the Albanum (Frascati) wine, Mecenas, but if you prefer the Falernum, we have both".
Lower quality wines were considered those from north of Rome (Etruscans) and those from Gallia narbonensis (South of France), because they were smoked to survive the long trip. To maintain the wines, a bark resin was added, but leading to a lower quality. Columella native of Gades(Cadiz), Spain, in the De Rustica II 8.5 quotes "For there is no doubt that, of all the vines that the earth sustains, those of the Massic, Surrentine, Alban, and Caecuban lands hold first place in the excellence of their wine", ranking thus Frascati as first class.
On the amphors used to transport wine, there was a label to determine the origin, as the labels in today's bottles, to prevent fraud.
There were different types of wines. The consumption of the good wines was limited to wealthy people, and medical treatments, and at the beginning of the Roman Republic, women were excluded from drinking. Then there were some lower quality drinks for the workers, the slaves like Posca (water + vinegar), Lora (water + pomace). Moreover there were special preparations like Defrutum (boiled wine), Sapa (cooked must), and various combinations made vith wine, must, water and honey.
At one point in time the price (in Roman Denari for 0.54 liters , sestiarium) were: 30 for Falernum and Albanum, down to 8 Denari for the lower quality ones. Some wines were aromatized with the addition of saffron, cinnamon and other herbs. Adding honey to the wine, the mix was used in medicine (Mulsum)
Wine brands at Roman times
From Martialis (40 - 102/103 A.D.) in Liber XIII and other sources the Romans mention about 70 different wine types some locals, other coming from Italy and some from the other regions of the Roman Empire (Martialis commented the wine after the name):
Wines from around Rome
Albanum, Frascati and wines from the Alban Hills
Passum. Sweet wine made with grapes "passe", corresponds to today's Cannellino "Gnosia Minoae genuit vindemia Cretae hoc tibi, quod mulsum pauperis esse solet"
Caecubum. From the ponds south of Tusculum "Caecuba Fundanis generosa cocuntur Amyclis, vitis et in media nata palude viret."
Picatum. Haec de vitifera venisse picata Vienna ne dubites, misit Romulus ipse mihi.
Wines from South
Signinum. "Potabis liquidum Signina morantia ventrem? Ne nimium sistas, sit tibi parca sitis."
Surrentinum. "Surrentina bibis? Nec murrina picta nec aurum sume: dabunt calices haec tibi vina suos."
Falernum, from Capua Region, between Naples and Rome "De Sinuessanis venerunt Massica prelis: condita quo quaeris consule? Nullus erat."
Setinum, again from Naples region. "Pendula Pomptinos quae spectat Setia campos,exigua vetulos misit ab urbe cados."
Tarraconense. "Tarraco, Campano tantum cessura Lyaeo haec genuit Tuscis aemula vina cadis."
Tarentinum. "Nobilis et lanis et felix vitibus Aulon det pretiosa tibi vellera, vina mihi."
Calenum from Capua.
Wines from North of Rome
Caeretanum. Caeretana Nepos ponat, Setina putabis. Non ponit turbae, cum tribus illa bibit.
Fundanum. Haec Fundana tulit felix autumnus Opimi. Expressit mustum consul et ipse bibit.
Trifolinum. Non sum de primo, fateor, trifolina Lyaeo, inter vina tamen septima vitis ero.
Nomentanum. Nomentana meum tibi dat vindemia Bacchum: si te Quintus amat, commodia bibes.
Spoletinum. De Spoletinis quae sunt cariosa lagonis malueris quam si musta Falerna bibas.
Paelignum. Marsica Paeligni mittunt turbata coloni: non tu, libertus sed bibat illa tuus.
Mosellum. "vitibus producentibus vinum suavem" from Ausonius , Bordeaux (309 A.D.), mosella , written in Trier Treviri
Rhaeticum, from northern Italy and from Raetia.
Mulsum. (A mix of wine and honey) "Attica nectareum turbatis mella Falernum. Misceri decet hoc a Ganymede merum."
Massilitanum. "Cum tua centenos expunget sportula civis, fumea Massiliae ponere vina potes."
Other uses of wine
Wine was used in medicine as well, and Varro in book XXIII says: "Surrentinum veteres maxime probavere, sequens aetas Albanum aut Falernum" making a list of the most usable wines for each therapy.
Iuvenalis, Satira V
"cardiaco numquam cyathum missurus amico cras bibet Albanis aliquid de montibus aut de Setinis, cuius patriam titulumque senectus deleuit multa ueteris fuligine testae, quale coronati Thrasea Heluidiusque bibebant Brutorum et Cassi natalibus."
Iuvenalis, Satira VI
"sed tibi communem calicem facit uxor et illis cum quibus Albanum Surrentinumque recuset flaua ruinosi lupa degustare sepulchri."
The Roman Villas in Tusculum
As the power of Rome was increasing, rich familes built villas in the area of Tusculum and beneath. These villas were to be as much as possible autosufficient, and they included cultivated land for olives, grapes, fruits and vegetables. The patrizi villas sometimes were large enough to include a bakery, and a winery, further made of rooms for handling the harvested grapes, fermenting and storing in amphors in the wine cellar. We do not have direct traces in the Frascati area, but he tragic events that lead to the destruction of Pompei, have left to us some very important memories of the Roman Wine culture and how the villas were organized. Villa of Mysteries with wine making portion and Villa Regina at Boscoreale near Pompei. Pompei in fact was one of the first area where the Romans exported the wine cultivation and was in full production when it was destroyed by the Vesuv eruption in 79 A.D.
In Tusculum we have rests and notices of Roman Villas by Marcus Tullius Cicero(106 - 43 B.C.), Octavius Mamilius, Marcus Furius Camillus(? - 365 B.C.),Lucius Licinius Lucullus(117 - 57 B.C.), Tiberius, Carlus Passienus Crispo (? - 44 B.C.), Marcus Porcius Cato, Marcus Decumius, Marcus Fulvius Nobiliore, Opita Oppio, Quintus Celius Latiniense, Publius Quirinus Sulpicio, Claudius Nero, Domitianus. From an historical source "In 45 B.C. Cicero wrote a series of books in his Roman villa in Tusculum, the Tusculanae Quaestiones. In his times there were eighteen owners of villas there. Much of the territory (including Cicero's villa), but not the (Tusculum)town itself, which lies far too high, was supplied with water by the Aqua Crabra." In particular the villa of Carlus Passienus Crispo is important because many historicals document that the Frascati town, was built ont top of the Passienus villa, which was as large as a town territory at that time. (As Villa Adriana in Tivoli demonstrate and also Villa Romana at Boscoreale near Pompei and Villa del Casale Piazza Armerina in Sicily).
Why are the villas relevant to the wine? First these high ranked people wanted the best possible quality from everything, including wine, and therefore they made planting vineyards in the area. They had probably the possibility to produce the wine right within their villas, for sure to store it.
Grapes and wine scenes are painted all over the pompei houses and shops.
Grapes decorations at Villa of Cicero, Pompei
Grapes Decorations, Domus Viridarii, Pompei
Furthermore there are scenes of grape harvesting (vindimmia) as in the following old postcard with a photography of a painting in good conditions. This is very important because it points out that the grapes were grown high up and were trailed on living trees. In the middle of the painting there is a wine pressing machine build after the Cato indications. Another important thing is the moving of the machine in the field, to make juice and wine must right in place, a philosophy known today as KM 0. These technique had many advantages, as it was treating the grapes gently, and prevented the outcome of too early fermentation processes.
Cupids wine making in the house of Vettii
In the villas, Calcatorium was the room where the grapes were gently pressed with the feet, Torcularium was the name given to a special room, where the grapes were strongly pressed and the juice was flowing into the next room with a big container (dolia) for the fermentation process to take place. After becoming wine, it was stored in the cellars, in containers (dolia) embedded into the ground to keep the temperature constant. These was necessary in Pompei's flat land, in Tusculum and Frascati the volcanic soil and the slopes mad possible the creation of caves to store more conveniently the wine.
Torcularium at Pompei
Reconstructed Wine Press Machine
Ram's head particular of Wine Press Machine
Dolia embedded into ground
Entrance of wine cellar
Wine was sold in shops, and was one of the ingredients of the "happy" life. We see how shops were organized, with labels and prices. We know from Pompei inscriptions that the mostly priced wines costed about four times the "regular" ones, as all wines were more or less good and there was no marketing at that time, the wine price "spread" was much reduced!
A wine shop in Pompei. Particular of the shop with amphora et dolia
From here the wine was sold and transported, and brought into the houses triclinia wher they would enjoy it. Finally, today the vineyard at one of the pompei's villas has been reconstructed with what is believed was the grape variety at that time
Boys Transporting Wine from the Shop to the House
Wine drinking in a pompeian house
The reconstruction of a pompeian vineyard
The wine produced in the Tusculum area, was subject to regulations. In fact the Vinalia fest in Rome, celebrated the beginning of the new wine year period and Marcus Terentius Varro (116 - 27 B.C.), Lingua Latina Liber VI writes: "In Tusculanis portis est scriptum: Vinum novum ne vehatur in urbem ante quam Vinalia kalentur.", which translates to "On a Tusculan port there is written: It is forbidden to carry the new wine to Rome before the Vinalia start date".
The first regulatory act in wine making, which can be compared with the todays DOC and DOCG rules to protect wine, came from Domitian, which in 92 A.D. banned to plant new wineyards in the Roman area, and limited the production in favor of maintaining the quality. This edict lasted in place until 280 A.D. by Probus.