Anne's Blog

From Vineyard to Wine Press to the Boccale

Date: October 16, 2020 - categories: , , , - Leave your thoughts

Although now nearly extinct in the wild, grapes (vitis vinifera) grew throughout the Mediterranean world and in Italy, grapes were cultivated both in northern and central Italy by the Etruscans and in the south (Magna Grecia) by the Greeks.

The  grapevines often intertwined in trellises as in this Roman mosaic of Cherchell, Algeria (3rd- 4th-c. A.D.):

In the early years of the Republic, the production of wine was less important to the Romans, fighting to expand their domination of the peninsula. By the middle of the 2nd-c. B.C., with the defeat of the Samnites, Greeks, and Carthaginians, Rome dominated the Mediterranean.  Wealth and new markets for wine sparked an investment in vineyards, though the pruning of vines and vineyard tasks were usually done by slaves – as in this Algeria mosaic:

The earliest treatises on agriculture were written in Punic and  translated into Latin in about the 2nd-c. B.C.   The first treatise of Roman viticulture (and the first prose work in Latin),  De Agri Cultura, was written by the Roman agronomist Catone (Cato)  who had pushed for the destruction of Carthage in the Punic wars.

The huge horizontal 17th-18th-c. wine press from Gubbio in the Museo del Vino in Torgiano, Umbria is called the “Catone” after Cato.

Last used in 1973, the massive press was operated by just two men:  by turning the horizontal bar at the base of a large wooden screw, leverage was applied to the oak beam. The oak beam – about 40 ft long – was lowered slowly, wooden wedges preventing a sudden drop of the beam.

As the beam was slowly lowered, it pressed the grapes in the wooden keg (made of vertical slats) below it. Il mosto (“the must”), flowed out of the openings between the slats and flowed into the space beneath,  where it was then collected and poured into barrels.

For the storage of wine, the Romans would have used olle, large terraacotta jugs – as you can see pictured in the photo above, to the right of the press.

In this view of the same press here below, the huge terracotta olla is to the left of the press:

Near the Catone press in the Wine Museum of Torgiano, you’ll also see a vertical press, called ” il Plinio,” as it was first described by Pliny the Elder in the 1st c. A.D.

Both types of wine presses have been found in the archaeological excavations of Pompeii and also in Roman Cosa (Ansedonia, Latium).

This  18th-c  vertical press is the  type of press widely preferred  as it requires more limited space for its use – and the Wine Museum vertical press is similar to the ones that most of our rural neighbors have in their wine cellars:


On the horizontal bar of this vertical press, the date 1750 flanks  IHS, the 3rd-c. A.D. Christogram,  the letters standing for “Iesus Hominum Salvator” (“Jesus, Savior of Mankind”).

IHS was carved into  the wooden plaque which a follower of St. Francis of Assisi,  San Bernardino da Siena, held up as he preached throughout Umbria in the 15th c.

The IHS appears all over Assisi near doorways, above windows:


..and in the Wine Museum, too, on a 15th-c Roman terracotta wine boccale (wine pitcher):

And as i looked at that boccale in the Museo del Vino, I wondered how many feasting friends  must have enjoyed sharing the wine poured from that pitcher over the years…..

In a way, a blessed wine.

Read about wine in the art of  ancient Rome

Read about ancient uses of wine

Read about the Assisi-to-Montefalco Sagrantino wine quest

Click here for rural wine lore

Read about that “holy wine,” vin santo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address

Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)