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8-10-2015, 17:00

Wine production and selling (H5-11)

Literary sources provide a little information about Pompeian wine production (H5), and pioneering excavations by Jashemski since the 1960s have uncovered some commercial vineyards within the town. Most of our archaeological evidence, however, relates to the selling and consumption of wine. It is possible to deduce the origin of an amphora from its shape, material and labels, and this information reveals how diverse the orgins were of the wine drunk in the town. A case study of the amphorae found on the premises of a wine dealer adds more detail to this picture of diversity by tracing the geographical distribution of one wine-seller’s suppliers. Graffiti and paintings cast further light upon aspects of the everyday consumption of wine and of the choice available to the drinker.

Types of vine (H5)

Columella, On Agriculture 3.2.27, also mentions the Horconian and ‘Pompeian’ Murgentine vines. It is possible that ‘Horconian’ is a manuscript variant for ‘Holconian’, and that this type of vine may have been named after the Pompeian family of the Holconii (see D51, D53-55, F89).

H5 Pliny the Elder, Natural History 14.35

For around Vesuvius is the Murgentine vine, a very strong species from Sicily, which some call Pompeian, productive only in fertile soil, like the Horconian variety, which is grown only in Campania.

Information from pottery storage and transport vessels (amphorae) (H6—8)

In lireramre, we hear of wine-jars labelled with the name of the wine and the consular year in which it was produced. In fact, only a few consular dates have been found (CIL IV 2552—61) and often labels simply say ‘Red’ or ‘Vintage Red’ (rarely white). (Compare A25 for Oscan practice.) Somewhat more frequently, the names of the wines are found. Not surprisingly, the majority of these are local, from Vesuvius, Sorrento (H6), Capua, Cumae, Telesia, Trifolinus (near Naples) and Falernus in Campania. The last two were well known in Rome, Falernian being a byword for good wine in literature and a graffito in a bar (H12). Faustinum wine (H7) was a very good type of Falernian according to the Elder Pliny. Also renowned was wine from Setia (40 miles south-east of Rome, but 100 miles from Pompeii), found at Pompeii. Perhaps more surprising are the amphorae labelled as containing wine from Tauromenium (modern Taormina) in East Sicily, which are as numerous as those from any named local vineyard. It is possible, however, that at least some local wines were moved around in skins or in barrels rather than in the pottery containers suitable for sea travel. Several amphorae from the Greek island of Cos have also been found (H8 seemingly imported to Rome first), and individual examples from Crete and from Cnidos (south-west Asia Minor/Turkey).