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Nectar of the gods

The ornament of a Theban grave of the dynasty XVII  (1552 – 1305 BC) reproduces a true ‘movie’. The sequence represents two peasants who are picking grapes, another four workers are proceeding to pressing them in a big vat and one of their companion, bent under the tap, is collecting the must just obtained. Above an orderly row of amphorae is shown; the latter being used once fermentation is complete, then the wine is poured into them.

This is an authentic testimony of the very antique origins of this drink which, for several consecutive periods in history, the antique Greeks called ‘nectar of the gods’. But the story of the wine begins even earlier and its origins can be traced back in legends: grapes would actually be the true forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve, while the inventor of wine would be Noah who salvaged the Grapevine on his Ark.


Some maintain that the first grapevine is born in India and has first developed through Asia before reaching the Mediterranean land (starting from the third millennium before Christ).


In the Greek world the wine is linked to the name of Dionysus who was the first to plant grapevines, getting high on the mood resulting from drinking this beverage and becoming the ‘official’ god of this reinvigorating drink.


In Rome the wine benefits from an era of splendor: Plinio talks about 80 qualities of wine. The most appreciated was the Falerno, but Horace also sings the Caleno and the Cecuco, produced near Fondi and Marziale l’Albano, all under the protection of the god Bacchus.


The Romans knew the germicide properties of the wine and they used to bring it along during their campaigns as a drink for legionaries.


After the ‘obscurantist’ break due to the emergence of Christianity – which originally considered  wine as being an ephemeral pleasure despite the fundamentally ritual role it holds – and the spread of Islamism – which forbade the growing of grape vines – the culture of wine throve again during the Renaissance and eventually became a subject of interest to science.


In 1866 Louis Pasteur writes about wine in his book Etudes “wine is the healthiest of all drinks”.

Wine and seawater


During the Roman empire the habit of adding seawater – or at least salted regular water – to wine was commonplace, , because this was thought to make the wine sweeter and prevent hangovers.

Another common practice was to expose the amphorae to heat and smoke by keeping them in places called ‘apotheca’ and ‘fumarium’. Depending on the season wine was drunk hot or cooled down with snow, besides being sweetened with honey and flavored with saffron, cedar, pansy flowers and roses.

A toast to love


Ancient Romans always made a toast to the woman they loved by drinking as many wine glasses in a row as the number of letters in the name of their loved one.

Thus Martial said: ‘Seven wine glasses to Giustina, for Levina you have six of them, four to Lida and three to Ida. With the Falerno that you pour you will name every female friend, none of them will come; so, oh sleepiness, come to me’.

Wine and Poets

Vino pazzo che suole spingere anche l’uomo molto saggio a intonare una canzone,
e a ridere di gusto, e lo manda su a danzare,
e lascia sfuggire qualche parola che era meglio tacere.

Il bronzo è lo specchio del volto,
il vino quello della mente.
Aeschylus (525 a.C. – 456 a.C.)

The plant of grapevine

Grapevine (from the Latin “vite”, deriving from the Indo-European “viere” meaning curve, interwine) is a type of vine, common in areas around the world comprised between 20° & 50° degrees north latitude and between 20° & 40° degrees south latitude.

It’s a very resistant plant, able to resist temperatures down to 15°C below zero (Celsius) in winter, but it prefers temperatures included between 8°C and 13°C during the budding phase, between 16°C and 20°C during the blooming phase and then between 18°C and 23°C during the ripening phase.
Grapevines favor limestone soils, preferring it well-drained, and exposure to the sun. They dislike atmospheric adversity, especially hails and frost during the budding and blooming phases given that buds and flowers get destroyed, thus impeding the formation of fruits and sometimes even damaging the next year harvest.
Among the various species, the most grown grapevine for wine production purposes is the European vine – also called vitis vinifera.

Vine Varieties and grapes

Grapevines have been grown in hundreds of different varieties, the latter produce as many other varieties of grapes, thus producing a variety of different wines.

Ampelography (from the Greek ἂμπελος (ampelos)= vine + γραφὶα (writing)= description) is the discipline which studies, identifies and categorizes the varieties of grapevines depending on the description of the characteristics of the various plant’s organs during the different phases of growth. The terminology and the way in which it is used are established at the international level.


Grapes are the fruits of grapevines or, better, they are an infructescence, that is to say an ensemble of fruits forming a cluster. The cluster formed by grapes is made of a stalk, and of a number of small-sized and light-colored beads in the case of white grapes, or darker colored (pink, purple) in the case of black grapes.


The wine

Calculations state that over 10.000 type of grapevines are grown on 8 million hectares of soil. Therefore those different types of grapevines have the potential to produce just as many different types on wines.

Generally typologies of wines can be divided into red wines, white wines, rosé wines, sparkling wines, straw wines and fortified wines and vino novello (Italian for “young wine”).



Links for professionals


Vinification – also called winemaking – is a biochemical process transforming grapes into wine.

Different types of winemaking exist. The two main ones are the vinification in red and the vinification in white.
The fundamental phases of winemaking are the following:



Wine around the world

The consumption of wine in the world is increasing.

281 million hectoliters

the quantity of wine produced in the world in 2013
The first 10 countries producing wine represent 85% of the world production





The main countries importing wine are the following:

Italy is the first European country in terms of importations of wine in the USA, with a turnover reaching 462 millions of euros (+4,6%).



Il Vino nel Mondo-Uno sguardo ai dati di mercato

Giancarlo Gramatica

Client Service Director

Vinitaly_ Verona_ 7 Aprile 2014


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