Wine Windows in Tuscany

“Wine makes blood”, as Florentines often say.

Tuscany is an area rich in vineyards. The production and sale of wine was already strictly regulated in the Middle Ages and a winegrowers’ guild has existed here since 1288.

Appassimento Technique

Therefore, no one but the guild members were allowed to sell wine. There was one small exception, however, for owners of vineyards who made wine on their land for themselves. Namely, non-members of the guild were only allowed to trade in “decanters” (or in Italian “a fiaschi”) and only from a private house.

As a result, in those days many influential Florentine families, such as the Antinori, owned vineyards and produced wine. What was the benefit of selling it privately? It’s simple, wine destined for one’s own cellar was not taxed on entry into the city.

However, it was not such a simple task to organize “distribution points” inside the city walls. Times were turbulent, however, and the entrance to the properties was kept shut even during the day.

As luck would have it, someone among the noble producers came up with the idea of a more convenient and secure way of selling wine – a small decanter-sized window carved into the outer wall of the palace, not far from the main entrance. A win-win situation, as the wine could be stored in a room next to the entrance, and it could be sold by the same servant who was supposed to watch the main gate. In other words, it was a success.

When the plague came to Florence in 1630, the sale of wine through the windows did not stop, although the coins now had to be thrown onto a special tray from where they were immediately sent for disinfection with vinegar.

This was the medieval kilometre zero, from the producer directly to the buyer.

A wine window in the centre of Florence


By the 20th century, the tradition had gradually died out.

But in 2020, at the height of the lockdown, bar and restaurant owners turned to the ancient tradition of “social distance” and began offering not only wine, but also coffee, gelatos and various drinks from those very medieval wine windows.

Such wine windows are widely spread not only in Florence, but in the whole Tuscany.

An interesting tradition, isn’t it?

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