About San Marino
According to an ancient legend, the Republic of San Marino was founded in 301 AD, when the noblewoman Donna Felicissima of Rimini gave Mount Titano and the surrounding land to Marino, a Christian stonecutter from Dalmatia who had been forced to flee his native country to escape the cruel persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian
However, archaeological discoveries made locally have shown that San Marino had already been settled many centuries before this date.
The art of vine-growing probably developed in San Marino between 400 and 700 AD, when the tiny community depended mainly on agriculture and livestock for their existence.
The first historical document illustrating the importance of vine-growing in San Marino dates back to the thirteenth century. A contract from 1253 makes specific reference to a plantation of grapevines on a piece of farmland at Castello di Casole, which was sold by Count Taddeo of Montefeltro to Mayor Oddone Scarito.
The official statutes of the republic drawn up in 1352-53 included a series of articles imposing harsh fines for anyone found guilty of damaging grapevines. A later set of statutes, from 1600, gave a precise list of work that was to be carried out regularly on local vine plantations, together with the punishments that could be applied to sellers of watered-down wine.
In 1775, the first official register of agricultural land in the Republic of San Marino was compiled. The republic's vineyards covered a total area of about 600 hectares. Of these, 150 were planted with specialized vines, while the rest was a mixed cultivation of vines and olives.
Several documents of the period show that the most common varieties of vine were Canino white, Biancale, Trebbiano, Moscatello white and red, Vernaccia white and red, Aleatico, Albana and Sangiovese. The vines were cultivated as low bushes, no higher than two spans, or were trained up maple trees.
Olive trees and fruit trees were often grown alongside the vines
The wines produced in the republic were highly prized, and were sold even as far away as Venice.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the quarter of Borgo Maggiore became the principal centre for trade and commerce in the republic.
The caves beneath the quarter were transformed into cool cellars, providing the ideal conditions for the wines of San Marino to be matured to perfection.
Although the main wine produced was the Sangiovese red, there were also several white wines, equally palatable and appreciated.
The renowned 'San Marino Muscatel' was created in the same period by a group of wine-makers from Borgo Maggiore.
The tourists who travelled up to San Marino from Rimini on horseback or by carriage were able to visit the wine-cellars and refresh themselves with this famous local wine, which was also sold in great quantities at fairs and markets.
Official statistics from the turn of the century reveal that the overall production of wine in the tiny republic was around 20,300 soma, a local measure corresponding to 75 litres.
The wines of San Marino gained important awards at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1878, 1889 and 1890, when local wine-makers won silver and bronze medals for their Sangiovese and white wines.
A French magazine dedicated a flattering article to this remarkable agricultural and wine-making achievement, declaring that 'the smallest populace in Europe is perhaps the wisest and the most intelligent.'