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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

in vino veritas

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Saturday, November 23, 2013/Categories: Uncategorized

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 produced a worldwide industry to satisfy the demand for this wonderful beverage.

The skills of developing a new wine requires a delicate interplay between the horticulture of cultivated grapes ( Vitis vinifera ) and the microbiological manipulation of yeast in the fermentation of grape juice into wine. The combination of both production efforts produces the fine beverage we enjoy. Modern advances aside, it all began long before the Greeks and the Romans. With The recent discovery of a 3000 year old wine cellar we are reminded of this remarkable history, passion, and industry.

An archeological dig run by George Washington University, has discovered the wine cellar dating from 1700 BCE in the basement of a ruined palace. The ancient cellar
contained pottery jars that once held red and white wines stored for dinner parties. The wine seems to have been much favored considering the number of big jugs in the cellar. Analysis of dried residues may allow re-creation of the ancient wines but they are unlikely to appeal to modern tastes. The beverage the ancients enjoyed at their banquets included ingredients such as honey, mint, cedar, tree resins, and cinnamon. Not anything like your contemporary Bordeaux or Pinot Grigio.

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

A particularly interesting case is that of the Pedro Ximenez grape. Originally grown in Southern Germany, perhaps of Roman origins again, it is now grown primarily in the dry regions of the far south of Spain. Pedro Ximenez has just arrived in California and is being grown for the first time by a small family-run vineyard, Condor's Hope .

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

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



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