POTULANUM, MAMERTINUM, TAUROMENITANUM: THE FIRST DOC
Although the drink was known for several centuries, wine was surely not that which it is today. Wine was often diluted with water, and, at times, sweetened with honey or pieces of fruit. However, their preservation methods were so primitive that the wines were impossible to keep, and quickly turned acidic. According to Varrone (III century B.C.), there were fifty types of table grapes and one hundred eighty-five different vines to testify to the commercial success of this “acidic drink”. Julius Cesar (100–44 BC) loved a particular wine coming from the north-east area of Sicily, around Messina, (between Milazzo town and the Capo di Milazzo peninsula, out into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Named after the “Mamertini”, earlier population arrived in Sicily from Campania in about 310 BC, mercenaries paid by Agathocles, the tyrant king of Syracuse, can be considered the first D.O.C. in history
However, the methods of wine production and preservation became ever more advanced over the years, with much of the refinement due in large part to the Byzantines, who were in Sicily from 535 to 827 A.D., and the ecclesiastic wine culture, which was reserved to the priests.In the convents and churches, wine was drunk in its pure state, and was of optimal quality. Indeed, the wine of the Christian Era assumed a profound religious significance, and was considered the “blood of Christ” during the weekly liturgy.
Malvasia, today’s oldest dessert wine, and still considered elegant and prestigious, came from Greece, Monenvasia in Peloponnesia, to be precise, and enjoyed great success for centuries.