Paleontological studies have shown that vine was already widespread before humans appeared on earth. There is no doubt that vine induced people to abandon their nomadic life, inviting them to settle down on pleasant hills to follow the whole cycle of growing before grapes ripen and were ready to be pressed and transformed into must and then into wine. In the past Italy was called “Enotria”, meaning “land of wine”, so it is obvious that vine has always been present in our country, particularly in Tuscany. According to famous scholar Giovanni Dal Masso, vine was present in Tuscany before the Etruscans occupied the region.
Therefore, Phoenician navigators were not the ones who brought the plant with them to Tuscany since it was already there: proof of it would be some travertine finds which appeared in San Vivaldo area, on which scientists found evident fossil marks of “vitis vinifera”, our vine’s ancestor, which was not yet cultivated. During the Middles Ages, wine was considered according to its main liturgical, therapeutic and amusing aspects, along with the nutritional ones.
The importance of wine for Christian religion is commonly known, as it gained from this its mystic-sacred character (wine was considered to be “the blood of Christ“). This fact contributed to emphasize its social value and to enhance grape growing even in infertile areas of the world. Wine maturation begun in the 18th century, when the invention of cork together with the appearance of glass bottles, which had already been in use for a few centuries, allowed wine preservation. Before that time, wine was protected by a light layer of oil and the top of its containers was covered with a cloth or with greaseproof paper, but these methods were not enough to guarantee its correct preservation.
Traditional grape growing was carried out until the second half of the 20th century, when the first pests appeared on our lands. Research to eliminate such grape diseases got excellent results and led to a revolution in grape growing techniques, showing that grape growing could no longer be based on experience handed down from father to son, but on scientific progress. High quality grapes were from that moment picked separately. Some of the bunches were laid on wattles or hanged to the ceiling to have raisin for preparing an excellent vinsanto. The word “vinsanto” was coined in 1439 in Florence, during the Council for the reunification of the Eastern Church. Famous Giovanni Bessarione, while drinking this delicious wine, exclaimed: “This wine is Xantos” (hinting at the Greek island). People who did not know Greek understood “santo” instead of “Xantos” and that name has been passed up to our times.