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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

in vino veritas

in vino veritas

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, December 21, 2017/Categories: art and design, environment, adventure

There are few better examples of blending art and science than the production of wine. The alchemy between grape growing (viticulture) and wine making (oenology) has created a worldwide industry to satisfy the demand for this wonderful beverage with an ancient heritage. The skills of developing wine require the interplay of cultivating grapes (Vitis vinifera) and the microbiological manipulation of yeast in the fermentation of juice from the berries into wine. The combination of dual efforts produces the fine beverage we enjoy. Modern advances aside, it all began a very long time ago. The discovery of a 3000 year old wine cellar reminds us of wine's remarkable history.

An archeological dig led by George Washington University, discovered the wine cellar dating from 1700 BCE in the basement of a ruined palace. The ancient cellar contained clay jars that once held red and white wines stored for fancy dinner parties. The wine seems to have been very popular considering the volume of jugs in the cellar. Analysis of residue deposits may allow re-creation of the ancient wines but they are unlikely to appeal to modern tastes. The beverage the ancients enjoyed included ingredients such as honey, mint, cedar, tree resins, and cinnamon. Not anything like a contemporary Bordeaux, Cabernet, or Pinot Grigio.

       Ancient Wine Jars  (credit: Eric H. Cline/GWU)            Modern Vineyard & Winery, Australia (credit: SWP Media)
Besides interest in ancient cellars and their contents, heritage grapes are all the rage. Where did California's favorite zinfandel grape derive? Turns out, it is an ancient Roman variety still grown on small cultivate hillsides in Slovenia. Cuttings of the once mystery vine made it to the Golden State during the Gold Rush. What about Chianti, the classic Italian red wine? 300 long-forgotten ancient ancestors of the sangiovese grape are now being evaluated for new blends in that country long recognized for producing fine wines.

A particularly interesting ancestrial example is Pedro Ximenez a grape originally grown in southern Germany, perhaps since Roman times, but now found in the far south of Spain. It has arrived in California and now being grown at a small, dry-land vineyard, Condor's Hope , perhaps for the first time. Pedro has the color of straw, with hints of California's mineralize soil, and the taste of lemons.

              Ancient white wine grape, Pedro Ximenez  (credit: Wiki-commons)

Few foods or beverages produce as much interest, attention, and debate as wine. As discoveries like the ancient cellar show, in telling a story of wine history, the Romans had it down correctly saying: in vino veritas or “in wine, [there is the] truth".



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