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Ancient and Modern Wine
#1
I'm wondering why romans watered their wine -- is it because wine in those days was so strong? Is there a huge difference between modern and ancient wines?

Also, I read that women were not allowed to drink wine (or frowned upon at least). What was the reasoning for this?
Sara T.
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Courage is found in unlikely places. [size=75:2xx5no0x] ~J.R.R Tolkien[/size]
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#2
Which triggers the question reenactors hate - do you read German? Tongue 'cause K.W.Weeber wrote a pretty good book on that.

IN short, I don't drink wine so I can't speak to flavours, but I very much doubt Roman wines were particularly strong compared to traditional European stuff (the current fashion for light, dry wines is quite recent, most traditional modern wine is as sweet and strong as can be arranged). There are some vineyards that try to reproduce Roman wines, and from what I hear they're on the strong side, but not exceptionally so, and tend to be dry and acerbic. Of course that could just be our idea of what Roman wine is *supposed* to taste like - food archeology is dangerous that way.

My suspicion regarding the watering is that the Romans liked the 'soft drink feeling', drinking large quantities of cool liquid without getting immediately drunk. Keep in mind a Roman commissatio could last for hours and a triclinium full of people must have got hot. You could easily put away a few litres. Try that with unmixed wine...

As to women, yes, in Republican times there was a tradition and even a law that forbade women from drinking wine. A writer (I can'tr recall who) even says the tradition of male relatives kissing female relatives as a greeting is to check for wine on their breath. Traditionalists love to pint out that in the good old days, a weoman could be killed for the offense, because wine-bibbing led to sexual license. However, by the Late Republic, this is pretty much history, and may never have been much more than the Roman version of the 'chastity belt'. Women in the Late Republic and Empire drink wine without fear of legal repercussions, though not without occasional censure. My guess is it was much like smoking in the early 20th century - not something a well-bred lady does where people can see, but something everyone knows women do.
Der Kessel ist voll Bärks!

Volker Bach
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#3
Quote:I'm wondering why romans watered their wine -- is it because wine in those days was so strong? Is there a huge difference between modern and ancient wines?

Also, I read that women were not allowed to drink wine (or frowned upon at least). What was the reasoning for this?

From what I've learned, it's because the wine was so thick by the time it was finished fermenting. I haven't been able to learn how modern processes avoid this, but I've read that ancient wine had a syrupy consistency. Thus the water, to thin it out. It was considered vulgar and barbaric to drink it unwatered.

I'm not a big wine fan, but we (my group) were talking about how to replicate the ancient sort of wine over the stove. Boil it for a few minutes? Something else?
---AH Mervla, aka Joel Boynton
Legio XIIII, Gemina Martia Victrix
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#4
Quote:From what I've learned, it's because the wine was so thick by the time it was finished fermenting. I haven't been able to learn how modern processes avoid this, but I've read that ancient wine had a syrupy consistency. Thus the water, to thin it out. It was considered vulgar and barbaric to drink it unwatered.

I'm not a big wine fan, but we (my group) were talking about how to replicate the ancient sort of wine over the stove. Boil it for a few minutes? Something else?

I doubt boiling would do anything to get you there. I've reduceed wine and grape must by as much as two thirds in hours of simmering, and only at the very extreme end did I acieve anything remotely syrupy. The resulting brew (a condiment, not a drink) had negligible alcohol context.
Der Kessel ist voll Bärks!

Volker Bach
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#5
Quote: From what I've learned, it's because the wine was so thick ...

This is my understanding as well. The makers of Feudi San Gregorio claim to make red wine as close to that of the ancients as possible (method and result) and it is VERY rich. I have watered it myself.

http://www.feudi.it/eng/intro.aspx
Aurelia Coritana
aka Laura Sweet
[url:3tjsw0iy]http://www.theromanway.org[/url]
[url:3tjsw0iy]http://www.legionten.org[/url]

Si vales, gaudeo. (If you are well, then I am happy.)
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#6
Quote:
My guess is it was much like smoking in the early 20th century - not something a well-bred lady does where people can see, but something everyone knows women do.

Interesting how ancient social conventions seem silly by todays standards!! Thanks for your insight.
Sara T.
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Courage is found in unlikely places. [size=75:2xx5no0x] ~J.R.R Tolkien[/size]
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#7
I find it hard to imagine any wine being so thick you have to dilute it for that reason. Not even dessert wines or fortified wines like port. I happen to like wine, and can't imagine getting any benefit from watering wines like Falernian. I can see watering wines that have been stored in jars with resin coatings, that are so heavily polluted by resin (ok, I don't like retsina) that they would be undrinkable.
Rather, bad wines would be made more palatable by adding water, and probably fruit juices, in my mind the precursor to sangria.
Richard Campbell
Legio XX - Alexandria, Virginia
RAT member #6?
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#8
I think the only *benefit* to watering a wine would be so you could drink it for refreshment and/or hydration in a really hot climate. It's much more of a thirst-quenching drink if it's watered a bit, as opposed to a subtle accompaniment to a meal, or something.
Aurelia Coritana
aka Laura Sweet
[url:3tjsw0iy]http://www.theromanway.org[/url]
[url:3tjsw0iy]http://www.legionten.org[/url]

Si vales, gaudeo. (If you are well, then I am happy.)
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#9
Quote: The makers of Feudi San Gregorio claim to make red wine as close to that of the ancients as possible (method and result) and it is VERY rich. I have watered it myself.

http://www.feudi.it/eng/intro.aspx

Smile Sounds yummy. Thanks for the link Aurelia! I must try that for myself.
Wow, you know so much about Roman food!
Sara T.
Moderator
RAT Rules for Posting

Courage is found in unlikely places. [size=75:2xx5no0x] ~J.R.R Tolkien[/size]
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#10
Quote:Thanks for the link Aurelia!

You are very welcome! :-) )
Aurelia Coritana
aka Laura Sweet
[url:3tjsw0iy]http://www.theromanway.org[/url]
[url:3tjsw0iy]http://www.legionten.org[/url]

Si vales, gaudeo. (If you are well, then I am happy.)
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#11
In the Balkans some people usually mix white wine with water when drinking large amounts, sometimes with soda water, then it is called spritzer.
Stefan Pop-Lazic
by a stuff demand, and personal hesitation
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#12
"Spritzers" are popular in Australia too....probably all countries that are hot and you need a 'thirst quencher......
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#13
Really interesting account of 'brown' wine served up in Crete today. Considering how it's used, it may be more like Roman wines of back then than any syrupy or dry wines of today. Makes me wonder about all the modern preconceptions!

Wines in Crete, with food
Richard Campbell
Legio XX - Alexandria, Virginia
RAT member #6?
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#14
Quote:"Spritzers" are popular
I keep thinking sangria may be much more Roman than we think. How else do you add sweetness to a liquid if you don't have a lot of sugar or honey lying around? Besides, it may have helped hide the taste of the amphora coatings, like retsina.
Richard Campbell
Legio XX - Alexandria, Virginia
RAT member #6?
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#15
In Northern Greece there is a grape called xinomavro (lit. sour-black).
It is an indigenous crop and it gives red wine.
Some small scale producers do it traditionally in the oak barel and use no modern techniques.
I believe it is as close as you can come to ancient wine.

Kind regards
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