Tuesday, September 15, 2015

ANCIENT ROME

The Romans much like the Greeks enjoyed drinking parties where philosophical debates and poetry readings took place. The difference in these parties was that the Romans tended to get very drunk and dancing girls and orgies were also a standard part of the night. The master of ceremonies would choose the type of wine or the blend of wines, how much water should be mixed with the wine and call out the toasts so in short he had the best job going at the party. The people who attended these parties were the rich but the poor got their fair share of wine also. At the theatre and at the games a drink called muslum which consisted of cheap wine mixed with honey. This was provided by politicians that needed support for the next election if only our MP did the same! Wine wasn’t just for merriment it also had an important role in religion. Wit was consumed a lot at the graveside funeral feasts at theses feasts wine was poured down specially designed orifices in the tombs so that the dead could share wine with the living. Wine continued to play a significant role in the Catholic religion.

No one can actually say what the Roman wine tasted like but as with the Greeks. we can get a pretty good idea by the taste of wine made from the surviving varieties of grapes then take the resins and pitches that lined the amphorae and what that would do to the taste and if we’re feeling brave we can try adding lemon or honey or even sea water to the wine like they did. Personally I'd rather leave the mystery of the flavour of Roman as just that a mystery. The other great contribution that Romans gave to winemaking was that every province they conquered, so most of Western Europe they established a wine industry. As the empire grew the wine in their province started to rival the wines being made in Rome especially Portugal which was famous for its wine and the so the Romans gave it the honor of naming it Lusitania after their god of wine Lyssa (Bacchus). The amount of wine being produced was so great that in 92 AD Emperor Domitian decreed that half of the grape vines outside of Rome were to be uprooted. Wine is still an important part of Italian culture and is taken very seriously which I think this Italian proverb shows quite nicely “One barrel of wine can work more miracles than a church full of saints”. When the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD the entire of Western Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages and winemaking was only kept alive by the Roman Catholic Church.


Monks (particularly Benedictine monks) spread the knowledge of wine even further as wine was required for Holy Communion. The Church transported it all across Europe, spreading the “Good news” as it were.  Although the wine they distributed was heavily watered down as the Church didn’t take kindly to drunkenness (spoilsports). Eventually, the French aristocracy took on the task of winemaking alongside the church. By 1725, Bordeaux had already classified the finest red wines it produced but official an official classification based on prices wasn’t created until as late as 1855. This classification divided the wines of areas into up to 5 classes or crus. This all came to an abrupt end at the start of the French revolution in 1789 by the end of which in 1799 the power was with people but more importantly so were the vineyards. The newly founded French Republic removed all feudal privileges that the Catholic Clergy and the noble’s possessed and any nobles who didn’t manage to flee also lost their heads. All of the church’s and noble’s’ land were repossessed the vineyards were now in the peasant's hands. This was a crucial for the development of wine as now vineyards were in competition and now the owners entire lively hoods depended on the vineyards success unlike the nobles and the church who were already rich enough to be not completely driven to succeed.

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