Vinum, the Etruscan legacy
Few ancient peoples elicit charm and mystery in equal measure: the legacy of the Etruscans became sedimented in the country’s past, fully complementing Roman history. It should not be forgotten that the demographic influence of the Etruscans which was exerted over monarchic Rome was so powerful that the last three kings were actually Etruscan and that Tarquin the Elder, the first of these, was Greek in origin.
It’s no surprise to discover that the word for our beloved wine had Etruscan and not Latin origins, from Greek influences: vinum appears to be the word in use for the Etruscans to indicate fermented grape juice. Even the drinking of wine was speeded up by the commingling with the Etruscans, which had previously developed rather advanced techniques, probably driven by Greek or Punic influences.
The earliest systems for winemaking – known as “palmenti” – were carved directly into the bare rock, digging and shaping adjacent tanks in the tuff or a similar material. In a first tank the grapes were pressed by foot, the must passed through a narrow hole, depositing in the lower tank, where it was left to ferment. Or it was collected to complete vinification in terracotta containers.
So, Tuscany, without going into delicate and complicated historical matters, was a driving force in disseminating the culture of wine across the peninsula, starting in Rome that the Etruscans ruled for over a century at the height of their power.