Tuscany: Medieval history

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About
If we know more about the wines of medieval Tuscany than we do about the wines of other regions of medieval Italy, it is not because they were better or there were more of them: the reason is the region’s, and particularly Florence’s, economic and political importance.

Viticulture flourished despite the frequent, small-scale civil wars. The region produced more or less equal amounts of oil and wine, but by far the largest crop was wheat. Smallholders were rare in this part of Italy, since the land was mostly owned by monasteries, the local aristocracy, and, increasingly, by merchants in the cities. The system of agriculture was often that known as mezzadria, sharecropping whereby the landowner would provide the working capital and the land in return for half (mezzo, hence the name) the crop. In 1132, for instance, the Badia (Abbey) di Passignano (whose wine is now made and sold by the merchants antinori) leased some of its land to a wealthy cobbler for half his crop of olive oil and wine.