Today we enjoy drinking the Super Tuscan wines of Italy. The area we now know as Tuscany was the home of the Etruscan civilization in ancient Italy. The civilization had its own language and dates back to at least 700 BC based on the earliest Etruscan inscriptions carved in stone. By the late 4th century BC, the Etruscans were at war with the Romans. They were defeated and gradually assimilated into the Roman Republic.
Recent archaeological discoveries document an ancient beekeeping system developed by the Etruscans to manufacture honey, beeswax, and other products in a workshop that had burned down between 510 BC and 495 BC. The researchers were able to conduct chemical and pollen analyses of the melted remains of honey, honeycombs, and bees to determine the composition of the honey and the plants producing pollen 2,500 years ago. The results show that bees were foraging from along rivers from plants, including water lilies and the flowers of wild grapevines that grew along the river shorelines. Unfortunately, this “grapevine honey” is no longer produced today.
The famous writer, Pliny the Elder, who is known for his writing on natural history during the first century AD, writes about the nomadic form of beekeeping where the hives were moved about on boats. This new archaeological evidence confirms his narrative. Lorenzo Castellano of New York University, who has written about this archaeological discovery, believes that the Etruscans maintained beehives on boats that moved along rivers. The harvested honeycombs were then taken back to their workshops to extract the honey and beeswax for the production of commercial products. The question remains – what wines were paired with grapevine honey? Stay tuned!