Wine after the fall of the Roman Empire and in the Middle Ages

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Written By wineshop

With the fall of the Roman Empire in 376 A.D. wine production slowed down considerablyofficially, there was a blockage of the economy, if not a severe slowdown, firstly, communication routes became unusable for various reasons, and it became a very detrimental period for the vine plant and wine, fortunately the church, which for spiritual and ecclesiastical reasons continued to cultivating vinesto produce the wine that was used during religious ceremonies.

The Late Empire and Germanic wine

Il tardo Impero consegna al Middle Ages una serie di latifondi coltivati da schiavi, essendo l’economia romana impostata sullo sfruttamento della schiavitù, poi il crollo dello Stato romano avvantaggia la Chiesa nelle proprietà delle viti e i nobili germanici che si sostituirono ai romani e vines were again cultivated by both freemen and slaves.

The only area that maintained a good wine production was the Moselle area and the Rhine river area that reached as far as Koblenz, in the Mediterranean area and Spain vines were banned by the Muslims which prohibited the use of alcoholic beverages for religious reasons, another decisive blow to vine cultivation was dealt with the fall of Constantinople by the Turks 1453 AD. The grapevine was no longer considered a fundamental plant as it had been in the times of Rome, where the culture of wine had now spread to all social classes, even slaves made abundant use of it.

The Barbarians

The barbarian peoples settled in Gaul and Spain (Urgunds, Swabians, Visigoths and Vandals) exploiting the labour of the subjugated and continued cultivation of the vine. Flavius Magnus Aurelius Senator (who later took the name Cassiodorus) who was a Minister of King Goth chiedeva alla corte di Ravenna Bizantina di procurargli un vino passito Acinaticium dato che l’avevano esaurito.

The Church and its relationship with wine

As for the Church, it allowed the use of this drink as long as it was consumed sparingly and soberly, because it was considered an aphrodisiac and stimulant of passions if drunk excessively. Also the famous monk St Benedict of Norcia speaks of wine, and allowed its use in his monastery, imposing precise rules and the quantity to be consumed.

The Carolingians and wine

With the Carolingian era the cultivation ofvine is once again being taken up in a big way. Thanks also to the political stability imposed by theEmperor Charlemagne, we can say that from the 9th century until the 11th century, viticulture revived and small wine trades were established in the monasteries, revitalising the economic value of wine.

Let's say in the Middle Ages the Church was the guardian of the vine and wine production and that the convents were turned into small farms. Religious institutions had many hectares of land that they used for the cultivation of vines, even if it was not a purely economic approach, but it was a form of livelihood for the convents.

During the medieval period, wines were characterised by low alcohol content. Impassable roads and unsuitable containers did the rest, i.e. made the wine undrinkable. In Middle Ages si ha un grande arretramento delle tecniche di vinification. I vini non venivano più invecchiati bensì bevuti subito e quelli che risultavano troppo acidi ed astringenti subivano il trattamento con il miele e spezie.

Italian wines and the Middle Ages

In Italy, the wines that spread in the central-northern part of the country were Trebbiano from Tuscany and Marche, Vernaccia from Liguria and schiava from the Po Valley, which made Italian wines were already the noblest that time.

In the 14th century si verificò una glaciazione ,che fece notevolissimi danni ai raccolti. La carestia e la peste completarono l’opera di distruzione della vite ed un’ ulteriore decadimento della viticoltura.

Discovery of America and vine diseases

america wineThe discovery of America in 1492 caused further damage to the lifee. From this new continent came Oidium, Downy mildew and phylloxera, these three scourges did enormous damage. French viticulture suffered great damage, to combat theOidium sulphur was used, for the Downy mildew copper and lime were used, whereas for the Filoxera the decision was made to graft on aphid-resistant American roots, the aim being to make the whole plant strong.

The first bottles of wine

Towards the end of the 17th century, the first glass bottles were used for storing and transporting wine (fino ad allora le bottiglie venivano usate come caraffe).  Unitamente all’invenzione od all’uso del tappo dal sughero sempre in questa epoca nacque un nuovo tipo di vino (champagne). Fu eliminata l’esclusiva delle botti e il trasporto era molto più facilitato attraverso l’ introduzione delle bottiglie di vino.

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