A Brief History
of Wine in Italy

A Brief History
of Wine in Italy

Italian wine is not a new fad. Unlike places like Australia, where vineyards are just starting to gain notoriety, Italian vineyards have been producing many of the world's best wines for more than four centuries. Grapes grow easily here, and wine production is natural. In fact, according to some historical accounts, by the time the ancient Greeks arrived in Italy, the wine was so prevalent in society and custom that they first named the land "Oenotria" meaning, "land of wine."

Early References of Wine in Italy

The earliest references to wine in Italian culture connect to early leaders taking a great interest in winemaking. First, the Etruscans and later the Romans would show keen interest and particular ability in harvesting and fermenting grapes. The wine was so influential over the Romans that they even celebrated a god named Bacchus. Festivals held in his name ultimately became so rowdy that that Roman state had to ban them!

Catholicism and Wine in Italy

Wine continued to dig deep roots in Italian culture with the rise of Catholicism. In this religion, wine was a sacrament, directly communicating with God through consumption. The Church provided that blessed wine signified the blood of Christ, and consuming holy wine had the power to pardon the faithful from their sins.

The Great Wine Blight of the 1800s in Italy

In the second half of the 19th century, the vineyards of Northern Europe would fall victim to a wine louse from the New World. During the 15 years of blight, wine production in France fell almost 75%. While not as heavily affected, the infestation in Italy destroyed fields and threatened to change the country's entrenched relationship with wine. Concerned with losing the economical windfall wine had long provided, replanting efforts focused on the size of a vineyard instead of the quality of grape it produced. These more extensive vineyards led to some of the more affordable, low-cost table wines now readily available.

Eventually, in the 1960s, the government would step in to try and correct the quality issues with Italy's vineyards in an effort to restore them to their former prestige. Laws and regulations passed, marking what is known as Italy's modern winemaking movement. Since that time, the variety and quality of Italian wines surged, once again making wines from this country among the most desired in the world. In fact, many types of grapes used to make specific wines are grown only in Italy.

As you can see, wine has deep roots in Italian culture and history and is a bright star in their economic future. Wine is a central offering to Italians, and experiencing wine in Italy is akin to having a beer in Germany.