2007: the best wine harvest ever in Pompeii
October 19th, 2007
The ruby-red, full-bodied wine has been named after one of the buried city's most famous attractions, Villa dei Misteri
(Villa of Mysteries) and it has obtained recognition from America's prestigious Food and Wine magazine.
Top sommeliers have described the Pompeiian wine as having a "complex, full-bodied, intense, and long-lasting" bouquet,
"with spicy after-notes." The taste has been billed as "involving, balanced, and of considerable breadth and range."
The wine packs a hefty 13.5% alcohol content and should be served at around 18 degrees Centigrade.
Villa dei Misteri is "the closest we can get to what was drunk in Pompeii's dining rooms and sold in its bars,"
according to Pompeii's superintendent, Pietro Giovanni Guzzo. More than 19 centuries after the volcanic eruption,
a team of scholars combined their knowledge of history and viticulture to produce crops of Piedirosso and Sciascinoso grapes,
both ancient varieties.
The Piedirosso grapes are related to a similar variety that has produced a fruity red wine for centuries.
The Sciascinoso vine still grows in surrounding patches of the Vesuvian plains but the wine disappeared
from production long ago.
Photo Ronald E. Kenat - click to enlarge the image
According to project chief Anna Maria Ciarallo, the earth in Pompeii retained its age-old fertility, yielding a "vital" crop.
The vines are planted each year over one hectare of land near Pompeii's Forum Boarium, in an area used for the same purpose
To determine which plants most closely matched the originals, Ciarallo and others leafed through numerous texts written
in the 1st century AD by Pliny the Younger and Lucius Junius Moderatus, a Roman soldier who preferred farming
to the military life.
The experts also gleaned information from artistic depictions of grape harvests and bunches of the fruit,
which appear in the most famous homes of the city, as well as a reconstruction of an ancient wine press.
The idea was the brainchild of Pietro Mastroberardino's father Antonio, owner of a relatively small wine-making company
in the Avellino area near Naples that bears the family name.
The family had been in the winemaking business for 10 generations in the area.
Antonio, now 77, had always wanted to add to the family's heritage and honour the local culture by creating a new wine
with ancient roots in the region.
"Writers like Pliny are very precise about viniculture," he said.
In his Historia Naturalis (Natural History), Pliny says: "There is no greater delight in the world than the
fragrance of vine in bloom...Where do we start if not from the unrivalled vines of Italy,
which outmatch the richness of those in any other country?"
- 2001 first harvest in Pompeii