“No poem was ever written by a drinker of water,” the great Roman poet, Horace wrote.
People have enjoyed drinking wine for thousands of years ever since its ancient origins in Mesopotamia, near present-day Iran. Italian and French wines are amongst the best and Italy is the largest producer of wine in the world. This makes sense because the Romans made the most contributions to the ancient art of viniculture.
The Greeks, who settled in southern Italy and Sicily, exported the art of wine-growing to Italy. They were so impressed with the mild Italian climate, which was perfect for producing wines, that they called Italy, Oenotria, or the land of trained vines. The Etruscans, who settled in central Italy, also produced wines. The Romans improved the techniques that the Greeks and Etruscans used.
Demand for wine increased greatly with the population explosion in Rome from 300B.C. to the beginning of the Christian era. It increased to over one million people and, as even the slaves drank wine, much more wine had to be produced.
The Romans loved their wine, drinking it with every meal. However, as the alcohol content was stronger than ours, they mixed it with large quantities of water. They preferred sweet wine and strangely enough their most prized wine was white. This came from what they thought was the best wine-growing area in their lands, the Falernian region near Naples.
Unusual flavors were often added to the wine. The Romans liked to mix it with honey to make an aperitif called mulsum. They often added herbs and spices, but were known to mix wine with salt water, too, which must have given it an extremely bitter taste. Even chalk was sometimes mixed with wine to reduce acidity!