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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jul, 2017 2:54 am    Post subject: the taste of roman wine         Reply with quote

do we know what roman era wine was like, better yet do we have some idea of close comparitives with modern wines (so i could get a good set for reenacting events)

similarly goes for early medieval byzantine empire but roman is more important.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jul, 2017 5:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You won't like it. There are no modern equivalents. They never used glass bottles to stop oxidation so they had to use additives instead such as tree resin, pepper, lye-ash, and various herbs. The result was syrupy and unpalatable. The Romans sweetened it with honey or lead acetate and diluted it with sea water. Pliny reckoned that sea water taken far away from the coast is best.
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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jul, 2017 6:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is precisely what I wrote my post-graduate dissertation on at Oxford, so I can speak with some authority.

Some of Dan's comments above are true.. but a little bit misinformed.. particularly I take issue with the idea that the wine would be unpalatable; secondarily, there was a great degree of variation in the styles of wine produced, and written work from the period is often quite specifically non-specific... in other words, what I mean, is that terms were used that would have been understood in period that we often misinterpret today --and very direct comments typically have a context (i.e. it was only certain wines that were mixed, etc). Pliny, Cato, Horace, Virgil, and others wrote about wines, vines, and viticulture.. but it must be kept in mind that these writers were not themselves winemakers. Wine produced in different areas of the Roman Empire varied exponentially --so for a modern re-enactor (and closer to your exact question) it matters hugely what type of Roman and what geographical area you are portraying. A frontier soldier in Gaul would have very different wine to drink than would a Roman consul in Britain, and different again from a 'Roman' fisherman in North Africa.

Unfortunately, modern academia has a tendency to overlook the world of wine, and modern wine writers do not have the academic background to write about the archaeological and historical sources of medieval and pre-medieval wine. As such it is difficult to recommend many academic books on the subject (this was a big part of why I wrote on this for my dissertation). At the time of writing, the Wikipedia article is a fairly good summery, though it contains several errors: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Rome_and_wine
The best academic on the subject is Stuart Fleming and his various books are very well written and useful.

One summary that we can say thats quite interesting is that most medieval and pre-medieval wine was white, while "red wine" was rarely as dark and concentrated as it is today, and more often than not would have resembled a rosť. There were some proper red wines produced, they just seem very rare. Sweet wine was indeed quite common, and so were additives to make the wine have different or more complex flavours. This is where I take great issue with Dan Howard's post --the wine was not always oxidising and these additives were not designed to mask this! The purpose was no different typically than modern 'cocktail enthusiasts' blending flavours and aromas together, or simply consider modern mulled wine/gluhwein. The other fascinating thing to consider is the fact that certain additives were put in to try and con the buyer. We have evidence of wine forgery as far back as Pompeii, and writings warning against the ways that unscrupulous wine merchants might try to change the aroma of an inferior grape or wine style to mimic a more expensive style of wine!

Wine had great age potential, and storing wine in amphora was not problematic! Amphorae that are large, and well sealed, would have kept the wine for decades, even centuries. We have evidence of wine being drunk over a century after bottling. I see no reason why this would have been unlikely, higher dosage wine particularly in large format will age almost indefinitely. I myself have drunk wines back to the 19th century that are still showing in the most beautiful condition, and some of these have been dry wines kept in 750ml glass bottles! And aside from amphorae, glass bottles were used in Rome as well, despite the comments made above. The Speyer Bottle in Germany is the oldest bottle of liquid wine (AD 325-350), and was buried with a Roman soldier!

To answer your original question more specifically, a few things that might be fun to try for this would be a Retsina (greek wine made with pine resin), Commandaria (a sweet wine made in Cyprus that is probably similar to what was made in the ancient world --St. Pauls is a common brand). You could also take more typical table wine and mix various spices or sweeteners like 'cocktail making' to explore this area. The other interesting thing to do would be to try one of the many modern winemakers trying to bring back 'roman wine making'.. these tend to be referred to as 'Amphorae Wines' and there are dozens of producers out there exploring the subject: http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/opinion/the...wines-853/

Tomac Amfora (pronounced 'tomatz') in Croatia is producing really interesting "ancient" wine, as is Frank Cornelisson in Sicily.

I love talking about this stuff.. and am happy to answer any other questions that people might have.

Historia magistra vitae est

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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jul, 2017 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not much of a wine drinker, but I've often wondered what the 'beer' of the ancient world tasted like. I'm willing to bet it was no Miller High Life or Budweiser. Laughing Out Loud Now, Mead, on the other hand... Wink Big Grin .....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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M. Livermore





Joined: 20 Aug 2008

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jul, 2017 7:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark, you should try some of the ancient brews by Dogfish Head. They are made with the input of academics based on analysis of ancient beer containers. Good stuff. My wife is a professor of Physical Anthropology, and she has a number of students in her lab working on ancient beers as part of their studies. One of them, an ancient Chinese beer, was made as a limited run by a local brewery and sold out in days. Ancient beers are pretty tasty.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jul, 2017 7:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmmm....I just checked out their website. The 'Olde School Barleywine' sounds interesting. Next time I get to the 'big city', I may just have to look for some of their products. I'd never heard of them before today! Thanks! Big Grin ....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jul, 2017 3:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is unpalatable to someone who is used to drinking modern wine. It becomes tolerable when it is watered down and sweetened but it doesn't taste anything like modern wine.

Start with this book. It traces the development of wine from the earliest times.
https://www.amazon.com/Inventing-Wine-History-Ancient-Pleasures/dp/0393064522/?tag=serieats-20

Here is one review
http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/06/wine-hi...rible.html

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Victor R.




Location: Spring, Texas
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PostPosted: Fri 14 Jul, 2017 5:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark C. Moore wrote:
Hmmm....I just checked out their website. The 'Olde School Barleywine' sounds interesting. Next time I get to the 'big city', I may just have to look for some of their products. I'd never heard of them before today! Thanks! Big Grin ....McM


How deep in East Texas are you? If you can get anywhere near a Spec's (they're in most of the bigger cities now - born in Houston) they carry the most variety I've seen. If you get to Houston, go to the "Mother Spec's" on Smith Street just outside downtown (mid-town area): more bottles of wine, beer, liquor than you've ever likely seen in one place. Ever. Nice humidor as well.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Sat 15 Jul, 2017 3:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud Deep enough in the sticks that even the sticks get bored! Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud That's okay with me though. I do manage a road trip every now and then. Wink If you want to triangulate: About 100 miles East of Dallas, 40-ish miles North of Tyler--in the Winnsboro/Quitman area. Happy ....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Arne G.





Joined: 31 Jul 2014

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PostPosted: Sat 15 Jul, 2017 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hadrian Coffin wrote:
This is precisely what I wrote my post-graduate dissertation on at Oxford, so I can speak with some authority.
.


Is your dissertation available online? I should like to read it, if possible.
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Robert Morgan




Location: Sunny SoCal
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PostPosted: Sat 15 Jul, 2017 10:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Concur. As a "wino" myself I'd be very interested in reading it.

Any ideas on what medieval meade tasted like? There are some mainstream labels out there (Chaucer's Meade, Bunratty, etc.) but I have no idea if they're comparable to what would have actually been served in the medieval period.

Many thanks!

Bob
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Sat 15 Jul, 2017 11:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Modern mead recipes are little different to those that were used nine thousand years ago and the taste hasn't changed. It is pretty easy to make: the basic recipe only requires three ingredients. It can't spoil the way beer or wine can so will keep for centuries with little trouble.
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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
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PostPosted: Sun 16 Jul, 2017 5:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Is your dissertation available online? I should like to read it, if possible.


I just finished it, and am taking a much needed summer holiday. I will, however, in the fall be re-editing it for a release in monograph form. I am happy to post a link once it has been released!

------

In terms of mead, modern "mead" that you find in the liquor store with various sort of 'viking' labels.. are nothing like say Anglo-Saxon meads, and the style of the end-mead-product differs based on geographic location/time period, as well as the quantity.

I highly recommend Anglo Saxon Food and Drink by Ann Hagen.

She also goes into the difference between 'Beer' and 'Ale' in the period.. in which her argument is pretty fascinating. Many misunderstand the difference in period, vs. the distinction we now use. She proposes that the english word beer descends from beor and this drink in period was vastly different to anything we have today. Beor appears to have been highly alcoholic, and very sweet. It was described as being 'wine-like' and was drunk by the AS elite. Ale descends from ealu which was quite low alcohol in period.. it would be most similar to modern (very weak) very simple cask ales as you can get in Britain, though would have had differences... you would have to look for something with no hops as these were not used until the high middle ages. The Anglo-Saxons would, however, have used various flowers/roots to produce different flavourings.

Cheers!

Historia magistra vitae est

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Alexander Hinman




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Jul, 2017 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hadrian, could you talk a bit about some of the flavouring agents? Pepper we're familiar with, and I've had retsina before, but what's the flavor profile of lye ash? Was there anything particularly weird or interesting that was added in and hasn't been mentioned?

Glad we have a resource like you around!
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Robert Morgan




Location: Sunny SoCal
Joined: 10 Sep 2012

Posts: 81

PostPosted: Tue 18 Jul, 2017 8:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just out of curiosity which college are you studying at? I did a summer program for educators at Mansfield a very long time ago. I absolutely adored Oxford. As a teacher and lifelong student, I fell in love with the university system there.

Bob
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Daniel Parry




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Nov, 2017 6:00 pm    Post subject: Hadrian - you live in my area         Reply with quote

This is precisely what I wrote my post-graduate dissertation on at Oxford, so I can speak with some authority.

Hadrian

Just noticing from posts that you and I are in the same area. I live near Henley, not far from Oxford. It seems we both studied at Oxford. I was at Pembroke College in the early 90s. I have a keen interest in ancient history since school (the endless Latin and Greek lessons for 7 years had some effect after all). And we both collect antique swords it seems from your posts. I would be very interested to see your medieval collection. Mine is mostly 16th - 18th century - rapiers in particular. Drop me a message and we should meet up. Do you go to the antique arms and armour fairs in London ?

Daniel
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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Nov, 2017 7:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel,

I sent you a PM! I was at teddy hall and later St Cross.

Best,

Hadrian

Historia magistra vitae est

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Daniel Parry




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2017 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hadrian - sent you a pm back !

Dan - I really like your book on bronze age armour. I have a few bronze age pieces but have had a long held interest in Aegean bronze age history. I like your reconstructive approach to how things might have been made. Your shield reconstruction suggestions seem really heavy but I am no expert on shield weights ! Just seem like a lot of weight to hold and control.

I read a good book last year on bronze age chariot warfare where he was suggesting that bronze age Greek chariot warfare and equipment may have been different to Egyptian and Hittite largely due to the rocky and hilly topography of Greece being unsuitable to that type of chariot warfare and that Homer's descriptions of how the Greeks used chariot to transport aristocratic warriors around the battlefield which people had thought was a lack of understanding of how they had been used hundreds of years previously might not be so inaccurate. I thought that was interesting.
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