I knew only a little about the history of Tuscany’s wine region until we visited the Museum of the Messadrina yesterday. It wasn’t always Villas , wine tasting and holidays in Tuscany. Since feudal times, the vineyards and farms in Tuscany were run by wealthy land owners who hired farm workers to work the fields paying them only a portion of the food that was harvested. The farm workers were kept in poverty with this system and they owned nothing but their tools and perhaps a cart and a few animals. The old farm houses that people restore into homes these days, were rented shacks on rhe landowners property often without heat or plumbing. The animals lived on the first floor of these homes to keep the people ( sometimes as many as 45 people living in one home) warm at night.
The supervisor kept huge books writing down production details, everyone’s jobs including the children who worked. The mother took care of the children, cooked, worked and raised silk worms to make cloth for their clothing.
Around the 1960’s the workers began to leave the farms and go to the city for better paying jobs and the system broke down. The farm workers took with them the knowledge of farming and many land owners had to sell their farms because they had no workers. The share cropper system ended about 1972 when it was outlawed.
This could have been the end of the Tuscan wine industry, but in the 80’s experts were hired to revamp and professionalize the wine farms.
So next time you drink some Tuscan wine, toast the poor farm workers too.