I haven’t been there yet, but it is a destination on the list of must dos … the ancient city of Pompeii.
This ancient city was preserved for centuries, when in 79AD Mount Vesuvius erupted, capturing daily life in fascinating detail. An horrific event that has provided us with a unique window into Roman history. Not only is it a fascinating snapshot of the sophistication of ancient Romans’ lifestyles, it also validates to me how enduring the art of winemaking is.
On the fertile soils at the base of Mt Vesuvius was this vibrant, productive, cosmopolitan city. It is believed agriculture was a key contributor to the wealth of Pompeii, with evidence of a variety of agricultural pursuits.
It seems there were “wineries” on the outskirts of Pompeii, with evidence of buildings with large rooms containing wine presses and storage facilities, with separate rooms that would have served the purpose of entertaining, as opposed to domestic living. Large stores of ceramic vessels submerged in the earth have been discovered in these buildings, similar to how we would store wine today in a temperature controlled environment. The vessels themselves also have unique markings, indicating their origins. Within the city itself, it appears there were numerous Inns that also had their own small vineyards within their allotment, with evidence of their own “labels” with specific markings on the ceramic vessels used for wine storage.
It also appears the people of Pompeii had a discerning palate for wine, as it seems not only was the locally produced wine enjoyed, but also wine from other wine growing regions and countries including Sicily, Crete and Turkey. Quite the cosmopolitan crowd with a wine list worthy of a fine dining restaurant.
Viticultural and winemaking techniques have not changed that dramatically, with the exception of the introduction of modern technology, and it is apparent the same challenges were faced as winemakers do today. Oxidation presented the biggest challenge, as it still does today. Winemakers of Pompeii used additives such as honey and spices to enhance the flavours of the wine; whereas today, winemakers are more likely to use other types of additives for this purpose when the flavours aren’t favourable.
The ancient wines of Pompeii are being brought back to life, as the actual grape varieties grown in Ancient Rome have been identified, some of which were still being grown in the diverse winegrowing regions of Italy. Vineyards have been re-established within Pompeii itself, and these wines are commercially available today.
It is not surprising to me that the intrigue and enjoyment of wine dates back to these ancient times. The enjoyment of socialising, good food and wine creates a strong connection between ourselves and the ancient folk of Pompeii.