Thanks to regular reader Hector Hill for pointing me to a great article from the LA times about the early history of my second profession: wine geek. Apparently the early Greeks were the early geeks, and had all sorts of arguments and discussions about the merits of various vintages, wine growing regions, and more. They even wrote tasting notes in the fifth century BC. This one is absolutely priceless:
"Sweet generous Magnesian, and Thasian over which the scent of apples plays, this I judge much the best of all the other wines, after fine and harmless Chian. There is a certain wine that they call saprias, from the mouths of whose jars when they are opened there is a smell of violets, a smell of roses, a smell of larkspur, a sacred smell through all the high-roofed hall."It's a great article and worth checking out. Wine has been a part of civilization for as far back as most people can remember.
Or has it?
Apparently while the civilized Greeks were super hip to wine, the industrious Romans didn't always quite savvy the old fermenting grapes trick. You've heard of ideas lost to the tides of history? Well it seems that at first the Romans either didn't know how, or simply didn't care to grow wine. Maybe they were too busy building aqueducts, or maybe they figured they'd eventually conquer some people who knew how to make wine.
A new series of archaeological studies seems to show that the first grape cultivation and winemaking in the Roman empire was not the result of the inexorable progress of intellectual thought, technology, and civilization. No, it was instead the punishment of invading barbarians. Celtic barbarians, to be most specific.
Think about that. Italy probably owes its wine culture and vineyards to a load of Scottish/Irish invaders with furs and horned helmets. While they were in Northern Italy, they drained swamps, planted vines, and grew some grapes. At least until Caesar threw them out. I guess they were eventually driven back to a rainy island where all they could drink was beer. A shame really. I think the Irish would have been great advocates for wine in the modern age.
If you're asked to subscribe to the LA times before being able to read the first story, go here.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
Holiday Gift Guide for the Wine Lover Who Has Everything I'll Drink to That: Andrew McNamara of The Court of Master Sommeliers Vinography Unboxed: Week of November 22, 2015 I'll Drink to That: Bruce Neyers of Neyers Vineyards Vinography Images: Rows of Gold A Lonely Hillside: The Wines of Alto de la Ballena, Uruguay I'll Drink to That: Karen MacNeil The Most Untrustworthy Wine in the World Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 11/22 I'll Drink to That: CP Lin of Erewhon
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune