Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Mother of Intervention

Before there was Rolland and Accad, long before Helen Turley and Clark Smith, ages before Cotarella and Tachis, there was an influence in winemaking that probably has had as much authority, over time, as all the above combined. (And you can throw in all the high-ranking wine critics too). Were his techniques natural, or did he meddle?

Recently I read this in one of the old books on wine that I inherited from a friend and mentor who recently passed away. The passage went like this:

Q. In winemaking, what do you get if you don’t intervene?
A. Vinegar.

The following are some excepts regarding winemaking, translated from his mater lingua. Seems that was the way in those days in sunny old Frascati, i.e. Tusculum. Have some fun; nothing new under the sun?

• Wine for the family to drink through the winter: Pour into a jar 10 quadrantals of must, 2 quadrantals of sharp vinegar, 2 quadrantals of boiled must, 50 quadrantals of fresh water. Stir with a stick thrice a day for five consecutive days. Then add 64 sextarii of old sea-water, cover the jar, and seal ten days later. This wine will last you until the summer solstice; whatever is left over after the solstice will be a very sharp and excellent vinegar.

• If your place is far from the sea, you may use this recipe for Greek wine: Pour 20 quadrantals of must into a copper or lead boiler and heat. As soon as the wine boils, remove the fire; and when the wine has cooled, pour into a jar holding 40 quadrantals. Pour 1 modius of salt and 1 quadrantal of fresh water into a separate vessel, and let a brine be made; and when the brine is made pour it into the jar. Pound rush and calamus in a mortar to make a sufficient quantity, and pour 1 sextarius into the jar to give it an odor. Thirty days later seal the jar, and rack off into amphorae in the spring. Let it stand for two years in the sun, then bring it under cover. This wine will not be inferior to the Coan.(Coan wine is wine from the Greek island of Kos)

• Preparation of sea-water: Take 1 quadrantal of water from the deep sea where no fresh water comes; parch 1½ pounds of salt, add it, and stir with a rod until a boiled hen's egg will float; then stop the stirring. Add 2 congii of old wine, either Aminnian or ordinary white, and after mixing thoroughly pour into a pitched jar and seal. If you wish to make a larger quantity of sea-water, use a proportionate amount of the same materials.

• Recipe for Coan wine: Take sea-water at a distance from the shore, where fresh water does not come, when the sea is calm and no wind is blowing, seventy days before vintage. After taking it from the sea, pour into a jar, filling it not fully but to within five quadrantals of the top. Cover the jar, leaving space for air, and thirty days later pour it slowly and carefully into another jar, leaving the sediment in the bottom. Twenty days later pour in the same way into a third jar, and leave until vintage. Allow the grapes from which you intend to make the Coan wine to remain on the vine, let them ripen thoroughly, and pick them when they have dried after a rain. Place them in the sun for two days, or in the open for three days, unless it is raining, in which case put them under cover in baskets; clear out any berries which have rotted. Then take the above-mentioned sea-water and pour 10 quadrantals into a jar holding 50; then pick the berries of ordinary grapes from the stem into the jar until you have filled it. Press the berries with the hand so that they may soak in the sea-water. When the jar is full, cover it, leaving space for air, and three days later remove the grapes from the jar, tread out in the pressing-room, and store the wine in jars which have been washed clean and dried.

• To coat the brim of wine jars, so as to give a good odor and to keep any blemish from the wine: Put 6 congii of the best boiled must in a copper or lead vessel; take a hemina of dry crushed iris and 5 pounds of fragrant Campanian melilot, grind very fine with the iris, and pass through a sieve into the must. Boil the whole over a slow fire of faggots, stirring constantly to prevent scorching; continue the boiling, until you have boiled off a half. When it has cooled, pour into a sweet smelling jar covered with pitch, seal, and use for the brims of wine jars.

• If you wish to determine whether wine will keep or not, place in a new vessel half an acetabulum of large pearl barley and a sextarius of the wine you wish to test; place it on the coals and bring it to a boil two or three times; then strain, throw away the barley, and place the wine in the open. Taste it the next morning. If it is sweet, you may know that the wine in the jar will keep; but if it is slightly acid it will not.

• To make sharp wine mild and sweet: Make 4 pounds of flour from vetch, and mix 4 cyathi of wine with boiled must; make into small bricks and let them soak for a night and a day; then dissolve with the wine in the jar, and seal sixty days later. The wine will be mild and sweet, of good color and of good odor.

• To remove a bad odor from wine: Heat a thick clean piece of roofing-tile thoroughly in the fire. When it is hot coat it with pitch, attach a string, lower it gently to the bottom of the jar, and leave the jar sealed for two days. If the bad odor is removed the first time, that will be best; if not, repeat until the bad odor is removed.

• If you wish to determine whether wine has been watered or not: Make a vessel of ivy wood and put in it some of the wine you think has water in it. If it contains water, the wine will soak through and the water will remain, for a vessel of ivy wood will not hold wine.

• To impart a sweet aroma: Take a tile covered with pitch, spread over it warm ashes, and cover with aromatic herbs, rush and the palm which the perfumers keep, place in a jar and cover, so that the odor will not escape before you pour in the wine. Do this the day before you wish to pour in the wine. Pour the wine into the jars from the vat immediately; let them stand covered for fifteen days before sealing, leaving space for air, and then seal. Forty days later pour off into amphorae, and add one sextarius of boiled must to the amphora. Do not fill the amphorae higher than the bottom of the handles, and place them in the sun where there is no grass. Cover the amphorae so that water cannot enter, and let them stand in the sun not more than four years; four years later, arrange them in a wedge, and pack them closely.

• If you wish to make a laxative wine: After vintage, when the vines are trenched, expose the roots of as many wines as you think you will need for the purpose and mark them; isolate and clear the roots. Pound roots of black hellebore in the mortar, and apply around the vines. Cover the roots with old manure, old ashes, and two parts of earth, and cover the whole with earth. Gather these grapes separately; if you wish to keep the wine for some time as a laxative, do not mix it with the other wine. Take a cyathus of this wine, dilute it with water, and drink it before dinner; it will move the bowels with no bad results.

• Throw in a handful of black hellebore to the amphora of must, and when the fermentation is complete, remove the hellebore from the wine; save this wine for a laxative.

• To prepare a laxative wine: When the vines are trenched, mark with red chalk so that you will not mix with the rest of the wine; place three bundles of black hellebore around the roots and cover with earth. Keep the yield from these vines separate during the vintage. Put a cyathus into another drink; it will move the bowels and the next day give a thorough purging without danger.

• To blend a wine as a remedy for retention of urine: Macerate capreida or Jupiter, add a pound of it, and boil in 2 congii of old wine in a copper or lead vessel. After it cools, pour into a bottle. Take a cyathus in the morning before eating; it will prove beneficial.

• To blend a wine as a remedy for gout: Cut into small chips a piece of juniper wood a half-foot thick, boil with a congius of old wine, and after it cools pour into a bottle. Take a cyathus in the morning before eating; it will prove beneficial.

• Recipe for myrtle wine: Dry out black myrtle in the shade, and when dried keep it until vintage. Macerate a half-modius of myrtle into an urn of must and seal it. When the must has ceased to ferment remove the myrtle. This is a remedy for indigestion, for pain in the side, and for colic.

And my personal favorite,
• Dogs should be chained up during the day, so that they may be keener and more watchful at night.

Thanks to William P. Thayer for the translation and the actual words from the Loeb Classical Library, 1934


paul said...

was that you with the milk-or frank zappa-paul

Do Bianchi said...

Intervention is the mother of necessity.

D J R-S said...

Sean Thackrey (--the secret love child of non-intervention?) has uploaded a plethora of texts from his extensive classic library online, lovely to browse but difficult to finish. Thanks for a highbrow Reader's Digest to spare my challenged attention span!
Look fwd to actually meeting you sometime.
Un abrazo, DJR

petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Always fascinating, and am forever feasting, drinking and being merry in Italy, vicariously, through your
blog. I wrote a mini-script set in Italy if you'd care to visit and/or vote for whom you'd think should play that particular role on Whose Role is it Anyway? Have a wonderful day! Ciao! Petra

BK said...

Add heat, add Marco, get patchouli.

Marco Paterno said...

Reminds me of some of Ficino's concoctions.

Marco said...

BK's got da' formula

Anonymous said...

that first picture looks like strappo not zappa


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