Last week, we took a closer look at the wines from the Middle Ages. We found that they may not have been quite as delectable as you imagine. Back then, wine was seen as much as a status symbol as it was something for people to enjoy. It was the reserve of the nobility of the clergy. Plus, the different production methods used during that era means that it barely resembled the wines that we know today.
This week, we’re going to fast forward a little bit and look at an era that likely had much more influence on the modern Italian wines that we know today.
We’re talking, of course, about the Renaissance. One of the most culturally significant eras, particularly in Europe, the Renaissance gave us some of the most stunning art and architecture that the world has ever known. It also gave rise to the Italian wine industry and was a crucial building block for what we know today.
When Was the Renaissance?
The Renaissance took up a not-insignificant amount of time. It got its started in the 14thcentury, with Florence generally agreed upon as the place where it started. The Renaissance lasted from 1300 to about 1600.
The period gets its name from the French word meaning “rebirth”. It was during this period that people began to take more of an interest in the arts and learning. That’s why it was such an important era culturally. As well as the art and architecture that comes from this period, the Renaissance gave birth to some of the most influential thinkers and inventors of the modern era.
It also led to the term “Renaissance Man”, which describes a learned individual who has proficiency in several areas.
Perhaps the most famous of these Renaissance Men is Leonardo Da Vinci. Known the world over for his amazing art, Da Vinci was also a prolific inventor who came up with many ideas that were a long way ahead of their time.
Many others joined him in his exploits during these periods and the Renaissance gave us a better understanding of the world around us and where we fit into the universe. It provided the foundation for much of the scientific knowledge that we’ve built on in the centuries since.
It also provided us with the birth of the Italian wine industry in terms of it becoming more than a domestic pursuit. A smattering of Italy’s most famous wine companies can trace their roots back to this period, with the most famous being the Antinori family. Based in Florence, the Antinoris were extremely influential in politics and several industries for many years. However, it was in 1385 that the family began focusing on its wine business, giving birth to perhaps the most famous Italian wine dynasty ever.
Changes in Wine During This Period
Looking outside of Italy, we can see a change in the way that people perceived wine during this period.
For example, in 1330 a law was passed that made it a legal requirement to make wine affordable to common people. In one fell swoop, wine was no longer the reserve of the privileged. It was something that everybody could enjoy. A similar law was passed in France in 1350.
Interestingly, these laws also led to a period of English dominance in the wine trade. While Italy’s wines may have been of a better quality, England’s wines were more accessible and easier to trade. Scotland also took the interesting step of making any adulteration of either wine or beer a crime that was punishable by death. That seems a little harsh to us, though there may be a few fervent wine lovers among you who think otherwise.
The point is that the Renaissance wasn’t just limited to Italy, though the country is perhaps the one most closely associated with the name. Attitudes towards learning, living, and wine were changing all over Europe.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the wines of the era. Through that, you’ll understand how influential the Renaissance was to the modern industry.
The Wines of the Renaissance
We’ll start with a look at Italy’s most popular modern-day wine – Prosecco.
It was in the late-1500s that Prosecco first received the name that it’s known by today. Of course, it had existed for many years before then. In fact, the wine had been celebrated by Pliny the Elder centuries before. But it was during the Renaissance that the wine began to earn its reputation as one of the best to come out of Italy.
Of course, other wines came to prominence during this time too. Chianti began to make waves, thanks in no small part to the Antinori family. Again, it has since become a staple of the Italian wine industry.
Interestingly, we also have some information about how people drank wine during this period. Most believed that everything they consumed was made up of four properties: hot, cold, wet, and dry. Achieving the right balance between these properties was essential to achieving good health.
This gave rise to the idea of choosing the right wine to complement a meal. You had to strike the balance between these four things in your body, which made selecting the right wine a crucial aspect of eating a meal. While thinking has advanced massively since then and we now pair wine and food based on taste and texture, it’s important to note that the Renaissance, as well as making wine more accessible, also gave birth to the idea that certain types of wine match with certain types of food.
The Final Word
The Renaissance was one of the most important periods in European history for a number of reasons. It gave us artistic and intellectual advances that form a crucial part of our culture to this day.
It also gave us some of the more prominent wines of the modern era. The Renaissance saw wine become more accessible to the masses, which built the foundation for the huge industry that we know today.
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