The culture of wine has always been part of man’s history, firstly with the exploitation of wild vines and then with the cultivation of domestic vines and the enhancement of viticulture and winemaking techniques.
Iconographic sources, commercial documents, treatises, as well as material finds, the discoveries of kilns for ceramic production and shipwrecks loaded with wine amphorae are but some of the elements showing the importance of this agricultural production in historical times: a specialised production intended not only for self-consumption, but above all for trade exchanges.
Vines and wine along the course of the Cecina River
The studies show that already during the Etruscan age the landscape of the Lower Cecina Valley was presumably characterised by viticulture: as for Montescudaio, that is proven by the famous cinerary urn with a banquet scene depicted on it and the miniature wine billhooks discovered in the grave goods of other sites in the area.
In the late Roman period, the production of wine in this district was probably organised on different levels: a “minor” one for self-consumption, managed by the hinterland farms, as we can infer from the discovery of fragments of wine amphorae during the territorial surveys and the excavations of the Montescudaio Abbey; and a specialised and more articulate production managed by the countryside villas. The latter were mostly situated on the coast, equipped with artisan quarters for the manufacture of amphorae and for the management of winemaking, storage and subsequent distribution processes.
The discoveries of stacks of ceramic materials, consisting of scraps of stamped amphorae, ceramics and bricks, like those of the site in La Mazzanta, are a testimony to the productive liveliness of these artisan centres, located in the coastal stretch between the mouths of the Cecina and Fine Rivers in order to exploit the local resources, such as water, clay and wood quarries, and the proximity of ports and river docks.
Commercial landings and stopovers
The wine produced in the Cecina and Volterra area reached Rome and northern Etruria and penetrated as far away as Gaul and the Reno valley, thanks to the system of landings and stopovers found in the stretch between the mouth of the Cecina River and Vada Volaterrana: here, a port district was excavated in the locality of San Gaetano. Built at the beginning of the 1st century AD, it was divided into commercial structures, cisterns and warehouses. The goods in transit stopped at the horrea, some ready to be loaded onto the departing ships, others destined for sale and distribution in the Volterra territory. The thriving market of Volterra wine experienced a gradual contraction starting from the end of the 2nd century AD, and later shrank on the threshold of the late ancient period, when kilns and production centres in the Montescudaio area, too, were by then abandoned.
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