Villa dei Misteri
“Where do we start if not from the vine, towards which Italy has an unchallenged supremacy so as to give the impression of having passed, with this single resource, the wealth of any other country, even those that produce perfume?
After all, there is no greater delight in the world then the fragrance of the flowering vine.”
The project is based on the cooperation started in the early ’90s between the Soprintendenza Archeologica of Pompeii and Mastroberardino working for several generations in the wine business, committed to innovation in the same sector and which ranks among the institutes enrolled in the Registry of Research at the Ministry of University and Scientific Research, represented by the President and Cavaliere del Lavoro Dr. Antonio Mastroberardino.
The first idea was born in the early ’70s but only in the ‘90s it comes to life in the form of a research program.
The aim of the project is to investigate methods and techniques of viticulture and winemaking in ancient Pompeii, as well as to reproduce important phases of the ancient process on experimental basis.
The initiative to create conditions of vitality within the ancient city through wine production opens many prospects of study, in relation to native varieties, growing systems, winemaking techniques, customs and habits surrounding the consumption of wine, and wine’s sociocultural and economic role in people’s daily life.
The project shows great historical interest and is useful to better understand elements of today’s viticulture; it is also a tribute to the community of Pompeii, for which the wine played an important role, and a recognition to the deep cultural roots that sink into the soil of the majestic testimony of civilization that the ancient city embodies and spreads over time. Pompeii is a symbol of our history and our civilization and speaks immediately of Italy like few other places in our country: every year more than two and a half million tourists visit its archaeological excavations. “Villa dei Misteri”, the wine made from the vineyards inside the ruins of Pompeii, is the extraordinary messenger of one of our most ancient cultures and traditions.
The cultivation of the vine is one of the aspects of everyday life of ancient Pompeii that was revealed from the excavations begun about 250 years ago, giving us priceless historical and artistic evidences. Walking in the streets of Pompeii means walking in a city of which we can perfectly recognize the urban architecture: the walls, the roads, public and baths buildings, theaters, shops, gardens, and among them orchards and vineyards.
A wine made from the vines grown inside the ruins of Pompeii, exactly where they were grown over two thousand years ago, named Villa dei Misteri, as one of the most beautiful domus that history has given us, is a tribute to the Pompeii value.
Pompei è un simbolo della nostra storia e della nostra civiltà e come pochi altri luoghi del nostro Paese parla immediatamente dell’Italia: ogni anno oltre due milioni e mezzo di turisti visitano gli scavi archeologici. “Villa dei Misteri”, vino prodotto dalle uve dei vigneti del sito pompeiano è lo straordinario messaggero di una delle nostre più antiche culture e tradizioni. Un vino che nasce dalle viti coltivate dentro le Domus di Pompei, proprio laddove venivano coltivate oltre duemila anni fa e che deve il suo nome “Villa dei Misteri” a una delle Domus più belle che la storia ci ha consegnato, rappresenta un tributo al valore di Pompei.
THE VINEYARDS IN POMPEII
The agreement between the Sovrintendenza Archeologica di Pompei and Mastroberardino aims at the study, research and concessions of archaeological sites in relation to the cultivation of Vitis vinifera in ancient Pompeii and the Vesuvian area.
Such collaboration can be divided into five main steps:
- The first step starts off in the early ’90s, when the Laboratory of Applied Researches of the Sovrintendenza studied the presence of vineyards in Region I and II in the area around the amphitheater.
- A protocol concerning the study of grape varieties, cultivation techniques and production processes with reference to iconographic sources and organic remains was formalized and an experimental field was realized in the vineyard Euxinus, a small production unit of about two hundred square meters, situated along the way to Castricio, with dolia basements for storing wine. An ampelographic collection of eight indigenous Campania varieties was planted. These varieties can be found in classical texts as existing in ancient times and still characterizing the classic productions of this territory.
- In light of the findings of the initial data collected, the partners decided to extend the initiative to other areas which were cultivated as vineyards in antiquity and included in the urban area of the ancient city of Pompeii. In 1999 the project concerned the implantation of four vineyards. Consequently a larger-scale convention was made according to this new step of the research. The Soprintendenza Archeologica entrusted the ancient vineyard areas to Mastroberardino family, that agreed to cultivate them in accordance with a strictly defined plan. It was agreed to respect the original characteristics of the areas in question, and continue and amplify the previous research project, the aim being to achieve the production of wines from these sites. Extensive archaelogical and botanical research was carried out before the convention was signed.
- In 2005 a didactical field was created by the Mastroberardino team, reproducing the different ancient training systems used to cultivate the vines (alberata, maritata, a giogo semplice, camerata, jugatio compluviata, alberello, a palo).
- In 2007 ten additional areas of ancient vine cultivation were identified and an extension of the existing agreement was made in December of that year. In the spring of 2009 new vineyards were planted, expanding experimentation on training systems and grapevines; today to the vineyard of Eusino and the one planted in 2000, 10 more small vineyards are added and the further granted area is of about half a hectare. The training system proposed is different from those used for the previous vineyards: it is in fact a additional ancient form of traditional breeding, the “alberello”. Once defined the training system we estimated that the most suitable grape variety for this kind of pruning system was Aglianico to testify the marriage of a Greek grape variety with the typical Hellenic pruning system. In the ten vineyards created in 2009 we have also proposed different systems of the same “alberello”, the one with the aid of wooden stakes, demonstrating the transition from the systems without support to those with tutor and from the long to the short pruning.
THE WINE IN POMPEII
In 2001 we had the first significant harvest with the first vinification and refining of the Villa dei Misteri, produced in just 1,721 bottles that were placed for auction and distributed to passionates all over the world. The proceeds were used to support the restoration of the wine cellar in the site of the Foro Boario. In fact, close to the vineyard of the Foro Boario, the largest one, sited close to the ruins of the amphitheater and the great gym, there is an old wine cellar: a small building with 10 “dolia” underground, large earthenware containers where the wine making process happened.
For the first ten vintages of the Villa dei Misteri the blend consists of a 90% Piedirosso and 10%. From the 2011 vintage, that is still in refinement, following the starting of the production from the last implantations, Villa dei Misteri is obtained as a blend of three different varieties, presenting the following percentages of grapes: approximately Aglianico 40%, Piedirosso 40% and Sciascinoso 20%.
“It is our small tribute to a site that belongs to the world. Here viticulture was born, and here, after two thousand years, we revive the wine of Pompeii.”
“From where we could start if not from the vine, with respect to which Italy has an unchallenged supremacy so as to give the impression of having passed, with this single resource, the richness of any other country, even those that produce perfume?
After all, there is no greater delight in the world then the fragrance of the flowering vine flowering”
Plinio, Naturalis Historia, XIV, 8