Grape vines, like the ones we have at the Villa of Thea Didius, are grown everywhere it is possible around the Empire. Wine was often expensive and rare during the early Republic, however by the time Cicero was alive, Romans were investigating wine-making, and by the time of Augustus, Italian wines were equalling the standards of imported wine from Greece and the East.
We use elm trees to support the vines here, however other Villas also use poles or trellises to do the same.
|We have grapes here both for eating and for making wine. The slaves pick and load the grapes, usually about September, into baskets, and then take them to a stone trough. The time tends to vary around the Empire according to soil and climate. They then tread the grapes to crush them. The juice then can have a number of things done with it.
It can be left as Mustum, which is just grape juice. This, then, can be stored in sealed jars that are smeared with pitch, and immersed in cold water or buried in moist sand for several weeks. We also boil some of it to preserve it, sometimes reducing it to a jelly, which is the basis for several other beveages.
||Vinum, or fermented wine, is also made here. The juice is stored in open amphorae, for about 9 days. They are then partially buried in the cellars. The cheaper wine will then be served straight from the amphorae, but the more expensive wine that we make will be divided into smaller jars and clarified. Any wine that spoils will be either used as acetum (vinegar) in the kitchen, or rationed to the slaves.|
The wines that are made can be of a variety of different types - sweet, dry or honeyed. They are often strong or heavy, and so are usually mixed with water, in a mixing bowl called a cratera, before it is drunk.