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The Later Trade with Gaul


"A vine has been discovered that of itself produces a flavor of pitch in the wine; this vine gives celebrity to the territory of Vienna by the varieties of Monte Taburno...." (Pliny, Natural History XIV.18)

The vines that Mediterranean peoples took with them into temperate Europe were not hardy, but they survived long enough to cross-pollinate with indiginous wild varieties. Out of the resulting jumble came wild seedlings which combined many of the good qualities of each parent: self-pollinating plants that had hybrid vigor and could provide a range of new wine aromas and flavors. The wild [="savage"] component of this hybridization is reflected in the names of many French popular grapes such as the Sauvignon.

The prolific Allobrogica vine that was native to its local woodlands assured the eventual success of viticulture around Vienna (Vienne), with Roman physicians extolling its value for curing stomach ailments. Meanwhile, the strategic importance of the nearby Roman colony of Lugdunum (Lyons) ensured that wines from its stretch of the Rhone valley went both northward to Rhineland frontiers and down-river to the Mediterranean ports of southern Gaul and thence to Rome.