What is the history of Wine in Tuscany?

When people think of Tuscany a glass of wine and vast green vineyards on rolling misty hills also come to mind and that’s because Tuscany has a rich history in winemaking which is still relevant today

Tuscan wines are some of the most popular produced in Italy, and unarguably some of the very best! An epitome of a perfect wine countryside, Tuscany reverberates with endless rows of vines. In fact, the passion, zeal, and delightful flavours of the Tuscan wine are heartily associated with this beautiful land that lays testimony to a rich history of winemaking. Read on to unveil the historical truth behind the evolution of wine in Tuscany.

History of Wine in Tuscany

Wine has been a part of Tuscany for more than 3,000 years making it one of the regions longest-standing drinks and traditions, and heavily impacting Tuscan culture.

The Etruscans 

The origin of winemaking in Tuscany dates back to Etruscan times when the ancient Etruscan civilization first came to settle in the present-day region of Tuscany in the 8th century BC and brought vines from Asia with them. Progressively, the Etruscans made the cultivation of grapevines a central part of their agriculture. As the grapevines grew wild and stronger, the Etruscan merchants sold them to markets beyond the sea. Others say that the Etruscans stumbled across the prosperous grape land and set about domesticating it, rather than being the ones to cultivate it. Whether the grapes were brought from Asia or were a wild crop already living on the land, the cultivation of grape crops became a central part of Etruscan agriculture. This is perhaps why the Romans kept the Etruscans name of Tuscany for the region, rather than renaming it.

Roman Empire 

Before the Romans came, however, it was the Greeks. They arrived after the Etruscans when the region was all covered in grapevines and the present-day region of Tuscany was part of a larger area called ‘Enotris’ or ‘the land of wine’. They succumbed to the Romans in the 1st century leading the region and country to adopt many of the manner and customs of the Greeks and Romans. Soon after absorbing Etruria, Rome established the cities of Lucca, Pisa, Siena and Florence, cementing their power and endowing the area with new technologies and developments. These included the extension of existing roads, introduction of aqueducts, sewers and the construction of many buildings.

Middle Ages 

It wasn’t until after the decline of the Roman Empire, during the middle ages, that merchants of the Sienese territory began planting vineyards systematically throughout the inland regions. The rise of Christianity also encouraged and maintained the importance of wine, using it as a sacred mean of worship. Subsequently, the church fathers, monks and priests began cultivating vineyards systematically around the churches, convents, monasteries, and throughout the inland regions. In fact, the Benedictine monks became so proficient at the grape cultivation that they began compiling manuals on grape cultivation, which are still referenced today.

Renaissance Period 

Predictably, the wine production in Tuscany kept growing, and in 1710, the first bottle of local wine was shipped across the Tuscan borders. It was an instant hit and Tuscany was soon supplying over 14,000,000 litres of wine to a much larger market. With the rise of wine trade emerged Tuscany’s indigenous Chianti wine that was processed from the Sangiovese grapes, which originated in the Sienese hills. In 1716, the Grand Duke of Tuscany established a boundary to localise and focus Chianti production in one main area. This gave it legal protection, highlighting the significance Tuscan wine had reached at this point. Soon after, this unique, bold-flavoured Chianti became the region’s best-selling wine that won praises from different nooks and corners of Italy. For many years, Chianti wine continued to be important agricultural produce of Tuscany – until World War II destroyed the region, leaving farmers with insurmountable debts. Many farmers left the country in search of better lives.

However, in the face of adversity, came laws and advances that changed the wine scene in Tuscany forever! In the 1960s, Chianti and Vernaccia became the first wines to be given a Designation of Origin, or DOC. As per the law, the wine production was sliced to half and a new focus was placed on quality. The result? Chianti earned worldwide recognition and a reputation for excellence!

Finally, we hope you found this brief history of Tuscan wine as fascinating as we did. What aspect of history did you find most interesting? Have you still got questions about Tuscany and it’s winemaking history? Well, why not direct them to one of our wine experts on our Half Day Chianti Wine Tour?! You’ll get to explore some of the greatest wine estates, see how they produce their wine, and even get to taste some of their wine as you admire the medieval architecture and incredible scenery.

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