When you hear the word “Tuscany”, what do you think of?
Perhaps your mind goes to the wonderful Chianti, which is one of the most prestigious Italian red wines. Maybe you think of the Antinori family and their deep and rich history. You might even think about the Super Tuscan era, which highlighted Tuscany as a region where wine rebels go to experiment and try new things.
Simply put, you thought about Italian wine in some capacity.
And it makes sense.
There is perhaps no other region in the country that is as readily associated with wine ahead of anything else than Tuscany. It is simply the standout in a country that’s filled with amazing regions making stunning Italian wines.
Tuscany is also one of the earliest innovators in the Italian wine industry. So much of what we have today exists because the earliest Italian winemakers called Tuscany their home.
It’s a historic and important region…
And that history may extend back even further than you think.
You see, Tuscany’s involvement with wine of all types began long before they region had its name. It began long before families like the Antinori’s made their own names on the back of being some of the Italy’s trailblazers in wine.
The truth is that Tuscany has a deep history with wine that extends beyond the culture we’re most familiar with.
3000 Years in the Making
Tuscany’s importance to the global wine industry began over three millennia ago. Yes, before the birth of Christ himself, there were people in Tuscany making wines.
It was during the era of the Etruscans that the region we know today as Tuscany first came to prominence. You can think of the Etruscans as something of a bridging point between the Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman empires. Heavily influenced by the Greeks, the Etruscans adopted the love of wine that the Ancient Greeks had. They inhabited much of Tuscany, alongside several other regions in western Italy.
They arrived in Tuscany in the 8th century BC. But interestingly, the vines that they brought into the region did not come from the Greeks who had such a heavy influence on them. Instead, they came from Asia, which may come as a surprise to those who think wine as a concept originated in Europe.
Over time, the cultivation of these vines began to form the backbone of the Etruscan economy. An agricultural people already, the production of wine helped the civilization’s merchants carve out a living for themselves amongst the many other European tribes of the time.
However, there are some who dispute this series of events. While most will tell you that the Etruscans introduced the vine to Tuscany, others claim that the region already had plenty of wild vines. All the Etruscans did was to tame those wild vines and turn them into something profitable.
Whichever version of events holds water, the fact remains that the Tuscan wine industry would not be what it is today were it not for the Etruscans establishing their early form of viticulture in the region.
Interestingly, it was also the Etruscans who gave the region its name. Unfortunately for them, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the literal fruits of their labour for long.
The Rise of the Roman Empire
It’s a falsehood to claim that the Romans arrived in Tuscany and simply eradicated the Etruscans.
The fact is that the Ancient Greeks, who’d acted as such powerful inspirations for Etruscan culture, arrived in the Tuscany region long before the Romans got there. At that point, the Etruscans had practically covered the region in vines but had also almost all but disappeared.
The Greeks took over Tuscany and spent some time benefitting from what they dubbed the land of wine.
That lasted until the 1st century AD, which is when the Roman Empire finally made its claim on Tuscany. Driving off the ancient Greeks, the Romans restored the name of Tuscany, perhaps as tribute to the Etruscans who came before them. They also set about creating much of what we know of Tuscany today. During the Roman occupation, they established the cities that became Florence, Pisa, Lucca, and Sienna.
These cities became the Roman’s power base in the region and played a large part in helping the empire to retain control. And of course, we also know how deep the Roman love of wines was. It’s no surprise that the Roman occupiers of Tuscany continued to tend the vines that the Etruscans has so lovingly introduced (or domesticated) so many centuries before.
It was during this period that Tuscany began to pull away from other regions thanks to its winemaking reputation. The Romans installed roads, introduced new technologies, and even created aqueducts and a sewerage system.
Tuscany evolved from a small wine region to one of the most powerful in all of the Italy.
We’re skipping over a little bit of history to get to the modern day. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the fate of Tuscany was very much tied into the successes and failures of the leaders of Florence. It was during these Middle Ages that the Antinori family came to prominence and began playing their part in establishing the Tuscany that we have today.
But without the influence of the Etruscans so many centuries before, Tuscany may not have been seen as such an important region. It was the introduction of so many vines by this ancient civilization that ultimately led to Florence being one of the most powerful cities in early Italian culture.
Today, Florence and the Tuscany region still hold onto much of that power. Tuscany is seen as the most prominent wine region in Italy by many people, with Florence being on the country’s most historically important cities.
Who knows what might have happened if the Etruscans hadn’t called Tuscany their home.
Would we still have the vines? Would Tuscany even have a wine industry?
All we know is that we’re thankful for what Tuscany is now. And we’re delighted to offer many great Tuscan wines in the Xtrawine store.