Wine was a very important drink in Ancient Rome.
It was drank with all three meals of the day: their breakfast,“ientaculum”; their lunch, “prandium”; and their dinner, “cena.” Because of this, the production of wine was an important part of the Roman economy, and employed many people.
According to historians, it’s not possible to determine precisely when farmers began to deliberately plant grapevines and make wine. However, we do know that wild grapevines grew in Italy since prehistoric times (meaning that they grew there before people began to record history in writing.)
Historians believe that the Italians may have picked up on the habit of winemaking from the Ancient Greeks in the north. The Ancient Greeks viewed wine as a staple drink for most members of society, and it’s likely that this belief spread all the way to the south of Italy (where most Italian wine was produced.)
In fact, this may have been why Greek wine was so important in Ancient Rome. Though plenty of wine was made in Italy, it sold for a much lower price than what was made in Greece.
At the highest point in the Roman empire’s history of wine, it’s estimated that 47 million gallons of wine were consumed each year, which roughly equals about a bottle of wine every day for each citizen.
One of the most important wine centres of the Roman Empire was the city of Pompeii. Pompeii was a city located near a volcano, Mount Vesuvius.
Because of this, the soil in the region was very fertile, and the area was home to a huge number of vineyards.
This made Pompeii an important trade centre of the Roman Empire, was the main supplier of wine to the city of Rome itself! However, when Mount Vesuvius erupted in the year 79AD, the wine supply of Italy was almost completely wiped out.
All available wine shot up in price because of how precious it became, and the crops growing around the city of Rome were dug up to make room for brand-new vineyards. The amount of damage this did to the Italian economy shows how important wine trade was to the country.
The process of winemaking in ancient Rome began straight after the grapes were harvested from the vineyards. The first step in the process was the stomping of the grapes.
The slaves working in the vineyard would stomp the grapes in a giant wooden pot, crushing them with their feet. The juice produced was kept separate from the juice that would come from the later stages of the process, as it was the most highly prized!
But stomping the grapes was tiring work – the slaves would often be stomping grapes for hours, and there was no rail around the pot to catch them if they slipped in the grape juice.
After the stomping, the remaining grapes would be crushed by a machine called a grape press. The two juices would be combined in the final stage of the process, and sealed in jars for several weeks, months, or even years to let the newly made wine ferment.
Fermentation was the process of leaving the wine to sit in jars for an extended period of time to allow the flavour to fully develop.
Wine also played an important part in the religious worship of Ancient Rome. Wine was a very common offering to the Roman gods, and lots of wine was drank at religious festivals.
The Roman god of wine, Bacchus, was very important to the Italian people, and the festivals of Bacchus were where some of the biggest parties of Ancient Rome were held!