Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Genoa, north-west Italian port and the principal city of the liguria region. After the fall of Ancient rome and the barbarian invasions, Genoa was occupied by the Lombards, a Germanic tribe, in 642. Under the Lombards, the region disintegrated economically, and the old Roman highways across the Apennines and along the coast were not maintained. It took Genoa until the early 11th century fully to recover from the effects of Lombard rule.

Genoa was therefore initially at a grave disadvantage compared with the city that was to become its deadly rival, venice. The Genoese navy had fought to protect its ships from Saracen sea power in the two centuries before the Crusades, together with Amalfi, Pisa, and Venice, and Genoa had established trading posts in the Byzantine empire, although it was nowhere near as successful in this as Venice. Nevertheless, Genoa’s rise, like Venice’s, was at first based on its eastern trade, and by the time of the Crusades it was battling with Venice, and occasionally Pisa, for economic control of the eastern Mediterranean. The Latin kings of Jerusalem were dependent on Venetian, Genoese, and Pisan naval power for their protection, and so they granted these cities trading areas in their ports. Whereas Venice continued to trade mostly with Constantinople and the Near East, Genoa’s interests centred largely on Palestine and Syria. Along with sugar, glass, and textiles, it shipped wine from vineyards there, many of which had been planted by Christian settlers, to Italy, where these strong, sweet wines were accounted a luxury and bought by rich merchants for their own consumption.