The wine, named Villa dei Misteri (House of Mysteries) after one of Pompeii’s top attractions, is made from vines planted in ancient vineyards set aside for experimentation seven years ago.
The Campania sites were discovered by archaeologists while working in the shadow of Vesuvius. The famous volcano erupted in AD 79, destroying Pompeii in the process.
Pompeii wine superintendent Pietro Giovanni Guzzo asked local grower Piero Mastroberardino to take up the challenge in 1996. He planted the first vines on the site in 2000 years, and the 2001 vintage, an IGT Pompeii, is now ready for sale. . .
The type of grape cultivated in the 1st century AD. C. was identified from casts of vine roots preserved by the lava flow during the 79 AD eruption. c.
Ancient texts were also consulted for detailed information on grape varieties and ancient viticultural practices. “Writers like Plinio in his Historia Naturalis are precise about viticulture”, says Mastroberardino.
Campania is well known for its dry white wines, but the local red grape varieties Piedirosso and Sciascinoso were selected for the task. Most of Pompeii’s historic frescoes, including those in the Villa dei Misteri, depict the drinking and serving of red wine (see above).
Mastroberardino followed “to the letter” the Roman cultivation and winemaking methods described by Pliny, avoiding modern winemaking techniques and planting at a density of 8,000 vines per hectare. “Interestingly, after 2,000 years, winemaking techniques continue to be based on the principle of temperature control,” he says.
“Although we have descriptions of the wine, we cannot know for sure what it tasted like,” says Professor Guzzo. “But this is as close as we can get to the wine that was drunk in the dining rooms of Pompeii.”
Government agricultural regulations prevented scientists from genetically breeding vines from seed remains found in the Pompeii ruins, although researchers were able to study wine residue found in amphorae at the site.
Six bottles of Villa Dei Misteri 2001 will be presented to Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, while the remaining 1,715 bottles will be auctioned at the Cavalieri Hilton Hotel in Rome on April 29. The proceeds will be used to help restore Pompeii wine history cellars.
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