If during the democratic and imperial era wine was widely produced and consumed, things changed with the end of the Roman Empire.
The crisis of viticulture
With the collapse of Rome and the resulting socio-political problems, wine production declined drastically.
The Late Antiquity age was a period of invasions, looting and general impoverishment of the population; the countryside was no longer a safe place and the inhabitants took refuge in the cities or near them. Consequently, many crops were abandoned and new fields came near the city walls, the only salvation in case of incursions or raids. Obviously, in such an uncertain and difficult situation, only cultivation of primary importance for the sustenance of families were available and vines, as it is easy to imagine, were not among them.
Wine and religion
However, an element in particular has kept the vine tradition alive: religion. Wine is part of the Christian liturgy that in these difficult years began to expand throughout Europe until it reached its borders. As a result, more wine was needed to celebrate Mass.
Inside the walls of the monasteries, therefore, vines were cultivated and wine was produced, aboth for liturgical and personal use; the monks, then, kept alive traditions and techniques that would otherwise have been lost.
The new political stability and the rebirth of wine
Between the 7th and 9th centuries, once the political situation was stabilized, a new sense of security spread among the population and so the viticulture resumed. The major production centers spread around cities or convents, especially close to the main commercial poles, so that the sale and transportation were easier.
Charlemagne also contributed to this productive recovery by enacting laws, some of which were very strict; among them, a law stipulates that wine growers may report the sale of wine to the passers-by putting a band over the entrance of their cellar.
Obviously, most of the wine production was still in the hands of the monastic vaults.
Typologies of wine in the Middle Ages
In the medieval period white wine was considered a noble and pure wine, as the production technique was very elaborate and provided for a rigorous selection of grapes; Red wine, on the other hand, had a more symbolic value as it was linked to the Christian liturgy.
With the increase in wine production, different qualities of wine have evolved: pure wine – both red and white -, exclusive of the richest classes, and then gradually more and more water based wine. The quality obviously went down and the wines were made by squeezing the marc and adding water; these wines were consumed by the poorest part of the population.