Tuscany Wine Region History and Culture
As we've established, wine has been a part of Tuscany for more than three millennia. Some say that when the Etruscans first settled the area, they brought vines from Asia with them. However, others contend that the countryside was already heavily populated with wild grapes long before the Etruscans ever set foot on the soil. Upon finding the wild crop, the Etruscans set about domesticating, and eventually cultivating, the grapes that would someday be today's Sangiovese and Lambrusco varieties [source: Wine Country]. Whether the grapes were brought from Asia or they were a wild crop already living on the land, the cultivation of grape crops became a central part of Etruscan agriculture. When the Greeks arrived, the area was covered in grape vines and present-day Tuscany was part of a larger region that came to be known as Enotris, the "land of wine."
During the Middle Ages, merchants of the Sienese territory began planting vineyards systematically throughout the inland regions. Christianity had also made wine an important part of their rituals. As a result, Bishops, abbots, monks and priests began planting vineyards around churches and monasteries. The Benedictines became so adept at the cultivation of the grape, that they wrote manuals regarding the process, which are still referenced today.
Wine production throughout Tuscany continued to flourish and in 1710, the first flask of local wine crossed the Tuscan borders. It was a huge hit and Tuscany was soon providing wine for a larger market -- one that drank a huge amount [source: Tuscany Wine]. The Sangiovese grapes, which originated in the Sienese hills, gave Tuscany's Chianti a bold, unique flavor. Soon, many people were singing Chianti's praises. According to Medieval history professor Italo Moretti, in 1716, the Grand Duke of Tuscany established a boundary to localize and focus Chianti production [source: Moretti]. By concentrating production to this area, they were hoping to regulate wine trade.
For many, many years, Chianti would continue to be an important agricultural product of Tuscany -- until World War II devastated the region, leaving many people with seemingly insurmountable debts. Many farmers left the country in search of better lives. However, as so often is the case, out of adversity, came advances that would change Tuscany forever. In the 1960s, a law protecting wines was passed, and Vernaccia and Chianti became the first wines to receive a Designation of Origin, or DOC. In a mere 20 years, the quantity of wine being produced was cut in half and a new focus was placed on quality. The result has been world-wide recognition and a reputation for excellence [source: Tuscany Wine].