A Glimpse Into the History of Roman Wine

Have you ever wondered about the history of wine and where it started? Since winemaking has been around since before 4000 BC, there’s quite a bit of information out there. Wine has been enjoyed by civilizations worldwide, but it’s no secret that Ancient Rome took it to another level. From the many places they spread wine and grapes, to the extravagant settings in which they drank wine, the Romans truly lived up to their reputation as an indulgent civilization, and the history of Roman wine deserves a closer look.

Roman Drinks

Romans used to drink both white and red wine. In their culture it was common to blend the wine with with water to lower the alcohol level. In addition to wine Ancient Romans drank other alcoholic beverages, including hydromel, mead, beer, and posca.

People from the privileged classes used to drink the highest quality of wine and considered it a heavenly beverage. On the other hand, individuals who belong to the lower class used to drink poor-quality wine.

roman wine

Roman Legends About Wine

The Roman god of wine was Bacchus. The Ancient Greeks had a similar god called Dionysus that Bacchus was based on. According to Roman folklore, Bacchus taught humans how to grow grapevines and make wine. Many historical paintings and sculptures devoted to Bacchus have been discovered from this time. He is most often depicted as a moderately aged man with a beard[1] and a head covered with a complicated headpiece of grapes and leaves. Typically, he is depicted holding a glass of wine.

Understanding the Influence of the Greeks

Before the rise of the Romans the Ancient Greeks dominated the Mediterranean. The wines at that time were costly, and much of the wine came from Greece. At the time, oxidized wine was popular. Many wines were also blended spices and honey with wine making it somewhat similar to a modern Sherry. The Romans copied many of the Greeks’ wine styles. This propensity made many wines unquestionably sweet or extremely serious, so they were often watered down to make them attractive.

Greek wine was pricey, whereas Roman wines were cheap at the time. However, the second century BC began the ‘golden age’ in the history of Roman winemaking. The Romans began spreading wine as they began conquering more regions, leading to new wines and new wine styles.

Did You Know: In Ancient Rome wine was considered a dietary staple, and was part of the diet of all Romans, including the lowest classes and slaves.

Also read:

On This Day

  • 2nd Century BC: During this time, people saw the rise of the ‘golden age of wine’
  • 92 AD: During this age, a new rule was imposed banning several new vineyards.
  • 146 BC: During this time, the oldest work on horticulture and wine was written using Punic language. After the annihilation of Carthage, the Senate declared that this composition needed to be converted into Latin.
  • 154 BC: According to Pliny, during this time, the winemaking process and production of wine in Italy were unsurpassed.[2]

Want to read more? Try these books

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea- Why the Greeks Matter (The Hinges of History) The Wine of Roman Babylon


[1] R. Phillips A Short History of Wine pp. 35–45 Harper Collins 2000 ISBN 0-06-621282-0

2 Dodd, Emlyn (April 2014). “From Hispania to the Chalkidiki: A Detailed Study of Transport Amphorae from the Macquarie University Museum of Ancient Cultures”. Chronika.

3 DODD, EMLYN K. (2020). ROMAN AND LATE ANTIQUE WINE PRODUCTION IN THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN : a comparative … archaeological study at antiochia ad cragum. [Place of publication not identified]: ARCHAEOPRESS. ISBN 978-1-78969-403-1. OCLC 1139263254.

4 Gall, Darren. 2018. “Natural History Part 3. The Opimian Falernian, One Wine to Rule Them All.” Vindochine. July 8, 2018. https://www.vindochine.com/2018/07/08/natural-history-part-3-opimian-falernian-one-wine-rule/.

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , , By Published On: September 1, 2022Last Updated: February 27, 2024

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