Last updated January 11, 2018 at 10:41 am
Scientists have dated the beginning of modern winemaking techniques from a handful of ancient grape seeds found at a site in Tuscany. The Italian study suggests the change came when the Romans took over from the Etruscans in around 200 BCE.
They built on primitive Etruscan viticulture, and introduced techniques learned from the Greeks and Phoenicians such as planting in rows and pruning.
Soon the modern techniques had spread throughout the continent.
The archaeologists from the University of Naples Federico II, while excavating an ancient wine-growing area in Chianti, found a sudden jump in grape pip size, indicating bigger fruit around the time the Romans took over from the Etruscans.
“Although domestication of the grapevine has been extensively documented, the history of genotype selection and evolution of vineyard management remain relatively neglected fields of study,” the authors note in the study.
They said the increase in grape pip size also indicated the introduction of new varieties.
“Such changes were the consequence of specific entrepreneurial choices made by the Romans in a period of economic investment in grape cultivation and wine making to satisfy the increased trade demand after the conquest of the Central-Western Mediterranean basin,” the researchers say.
The Etruscan civilisation spread between the 9th and 8th centuries BCE primarily along Italy’s upper Tyrrhenian seaboard.
“Here, viticulture for wine making became an important economic activity for the first time. According to historical sources, Etruscans trained grapevines up live trees (so-called lambruscaia), exploiting their characteristic as climbing plants,” the study reports.
The researchers studied 454 pips from a waterlogged grapevine remains. The study was published by PLOS One.