Short URL for this page:
VINUM (οἶνος). The general term for the fermented juice of the grape.
The native country of the vine was long a vexata quaestio among botanists, but, although many points still remain open for debate, it seems now to be generally acknowledged that it is indigenous throughout the whole of that vast tract which stretches southward from the woody mountains of Mazanderân on the Caspian to the shores of the Persian Gulf and the Indian sea, and eastward through Khorasan and Cabul to the base of the Himalaya, — the region to which history and philology alike point as the cradle of the human race.b Hence, when we consider the extreme facility of the process in its most simple form, we need little wonder that the art of making wine should have been discovered at a very remote epoch.
In the earliest of profane writers the cultivation of the grape is represented as familiar to the Heroic Greeks, some of his most beautiful and vivid pictures of rural life being closely connected with the toils of the vineyard. It is worth remarking that the only wine upon whose existence Homer dilates in a tone approaching to hyperbole is represented as having been produced on the coast of Thrace, the region from which poetry and civilization spread into Hellas, and the scene of several of the more remarkable exploits of Bacchus. Hence we might infer that the Pelasgians introduced the culture of the vine when they wandered westward across the Hellespont, and that in like manner it was conveyed to the valley of the Po, when at a subsequent period they made their way round the head of the Adriatic. It seems certain from the various legends that wine was both rare and costly in the earlier stages of Italian and Roman history. Thus, a tradition preserved by Varro (ap. Plin. H. N. XIV.14) told that when Mezentius agreed to aid the Rutilians he stipulated that the produce of the Latian vineyards should be his recompense. Romulus is said to have used milk only in his offerings to the gods (Plin. l.c.): Numa, to check extravagance, prohibited the sprinkling of wine upon the funeral pyre, and, to stimulate the energies of the rustic population, he ordained that it should be held impious to offer a libation to the gods of wine which had flowed from an unpruned stock. So scarce was it at a much later period that Papirius the dictator, when about to join in battle with the Samnites, vowed to Jupiter a small cupful (vini pocillum) if he should gain the victory. That wine was racked off into amphorae and stored up in regular cellars as early as the era of the Gracchi Pliny considers proved by the existence in his own day of the Vinum Opimianum, described hereafter. But even then no specific appellation was given to the produce of different localities, and the jar was marked with the name of the consul alone. For many years after this foreign wines were considered far superior to native growths, and so precious were the Greek vintages esteemed in the times of Marius and Sulla that a single draught only was offered to the guests at a banquet. The rapidity with which luxury spread in this matter is well illustrated by the saying of M. Varro, that Lucullus when a boy never saw an entertainment in his father's house, however splendid, at which Greek wine was handed round more than once, but when in manhood he returned from his Asiatic conquests he bestowed on the people a largess of more than a hundred thousand cadi. Four different kinds of wine are said to have been presented for the first time at the feast given by Julius Caesar in his third consulship (B.C. 46), these being Falernian, Chian, Lesbian, and Mamertine, and not until after this date were the merits of the numerous varieties, foreign and domestic, accurately known and fully appreciated. But during the reign of Augustus and his immediate successors the study of wines became a passion, and the most scrupulous care was bestowed upon every process connected with their production and preservation (Plin. H. N. XIV.28). Pliny calculates that the number of wines in the whole world deserving to be accounted of high quality (nobilia) amounted to eighty, of which his own country could claim two-thirds (XIV.13); and in another passage (XIV.29) he asserts that 195 distinct kinds might be reckoned up, and that if all the varieties of these were to be included in the computation, the sum would be almost doubled (Plin. H. N. XIV.6.29).
The process followed in wine-making was essentially the same among both the Greeks and the Romans. After the grapes had been gathered, they were first trodden with the feet and afterwards submitted to the action of the press. This part of the process of wine-making is described in the article Torculum.
The sweet unfermented juice of the grape was termed γλεῦκος by the Greeks and mustum by the Romans, the latter word being properly an adjective signifying new or fresh. Of this there were several kinds distinguished according to the manner in which each was originally obtained and subsequently treated. That which flowed from the clusters, in consequence merely of their pressure upon each other before any force was applied, was known as πρόχυμα (Geopon. VI.16) or protropum (Plin. H. N. XIV.11), and was reserved for manufacturing a particular species of rich wine described by Pliny (l.c.) to which the inhabitants of Mytilene gave the name of πρόδρομος or πρότροπος (Athen. I p30b, II p45e). That which was obtained next, before the grapes had been fully trodden, was the mustum lixivium, and was considered best for keeping (Geopon. VI.16; Colum. XII.41). After the grapes had been fully trodden and pressed, the mass was taken out, the edges of the husks cut, p1202 and the whole again subjected to the press; the result was the mustum tortivum or circumcisitum (Cato, R. R. 23; Varr. I.54; Colum. XII.36), which was set apart and used for inferior purposes.
A portion of the must was used at once, being drunk fresh after it had been clarified with vinegar (Geopon. VI.15). When it was desired to preserve a quantity in the sweet state, an amphora was taken and coated with pitch within and without; it was filled with mustum lixivium, and corked so as to be perfectly air-tight. It was then immersed in a tank of cold water or buried in wet sand, and allowed to remain for six weeks or two months. The contents after this process were found to remain unchanged for a year, and hence the name ἀεὶ γλεῦκος, i.e. semper mustum (Geopon. VI.16; Plut. Q. N. 26; Cato, R. R. 120; Colum. XII.29; Plin. H. N. XIV.11). A considerable quantity of must from the best and oldest vines was inspissated by boiling, being then distinguished by the Greeks under the general names of ἒψημα or γλύξις (Athen. I.31e), while the Latin writers have various terms according to the extent to which the evaporation was carried. Thus, when the must was reduced to two‑thirds of its original volume it became carenum (Pallad. Octobr. tit. XVIII), when one‑half had evaporated, defrutum (Plin. H. N. XIV.11),º when two‑thirds, sapa (known also by the Greek names siraeum and hepsema, Plin l.c.), but these words are frequently interchanged (see Varr. ap. Non. c17, n14; Colum. XII.19). Similar preparations are at the present time called in Italy musto cotto and sapa, and in France sabe. The process was carried on in large caldrons of lead (vasa defrutaria), iron or bronze being supposed to communicate a disagreeable flavour, over a slow fire of chips, on a night when there was no moon (Plin. H. N. XVIII.74), the scum being carefully removed with leaves (Plin l.c.; Virg. Georg. I.296),º and the liquid constantly stirred to prevent it from burning (Plin. XXIII.2; Cato, R. R. 105; Colum. XII.19, 20, 21; Pallad. XI.18; Dioscorid. V.9). These grape-jellies, for they were nothing else, were used extensively for giving body to poor wines and making them keep, and entered as ingredients into many drinks, such as the burranica potio, so called from its red colour, which was formed by mixing sapa with milk (Festus, s.v. Burranica; compare Ovid. Fast. IV.782), and others described hereafter.
The whole of the mustum not employed for some of the above purposes was conveyed from the lacus to the cella vinaria (οἰνοθήκη, πιθεῶν, Geopon. VI.2, 12), an apartment on the ground-floor or a little below the surface, placed in such a situation as to secure a moderate and equable temperature, and at a distance from dunghills or other objects emitting a strong odour (Varro, R. R. I.13; Geopon. l.c.). Here were the dolia (πίθοι), otherwise called seriae or cupae, long bell-mouthed vessels of earthenware (hooped tubs of wood being employed in cold climates only, Plin. H. N. XIV.27)º very carefully formed of the best clay and lined with a coating of pitch (πισσωθέντα, picata), the operation (πίσσωσις, picatio) being usually performed while they were hot from the furnace. They were usually sunk (depressa, defossa, demersa) one-half or two-thirds in the ground; to the former depth if the wine to be contained was likely to prove strong, to the latter if weak, and attention was paid that they should repose upon a dry bed. They were moreover sprinkled with sea-water, fumigated with aromatic plants and rubbed with their ashes, all rank smelling substances, such as rotten leather, garlic, cheese, and the like, being removed, lest they should impart a taint to the wine (Geopon. VI.2, 3, 4; Cato, R. R. 23; Varro, I.13; Colum. XII.18, 25; Dig. 33 tit. 6 s3). In these dolia the process of fermentation took place. They were not filled quite full, in order that the scum only might boil over, and this was also cleared off at regular intervals by skimming, and carried to a distance. The fermentation usually lasted for about nine days, and as soon as it had subsided and the mustum had become vinum, the dolia were closely covered, the upper portion of their interior surface as well as the lids (opercula doliorum) having been previously well rubbed over with a compound of defrutum, saffron, old pitch, mastic, and fir-cones (Geopon. VI.12; Cato, R. R. 107; Varro, I.65; Colum. XII.25, 80). The opercula were taken off about once every thirty-six days, and oftener in hot weather, in order to cool and give air to the contents, to add any preparation required to preserve them sound, and to remove any impurities that might be thrown up. Particular attention was paid to the peculiar light scum, the ἄνθος οἶνου (flos vini), which frequently appeared on the surface after a certain time, since it was supposed to afford indications by its colour and consistence of the quality of the wine. If red (πορφυρίζον), broad, and soft, it was a sign that the wine was sound; if glutinous, it was a bad symptom; if black or yellow, it denoted want of body; if white, it was a proof that the wine would keep well (όνιμον). Each time that the opercula were replaced they were well rubbed with fir-cones (Geopon. VII.15; Colum. XII.38). [Thyrsus.]
The commoner sorts of wine were drunk direct from the dolium, and hence draught wine was called vinum doliare or vinum de cupa (Dig. 18 tit. 6 s1 §4; Varr. ap. Non. c2 n113), but the finer kinds, such as were yielded by choice localities and possessed sufficient body to bear keeping, were drawn off (diffundere, μεταγγίζειν) into amphorae or lagenae, many fanciful precautions being observed in transferring them from the larger to the smaller vessel (Geopon. VII.5, 6; compare Plin. H. N. XIV.27). These amphorae were made of earthenware, and in later times occasionally of glass; they were stoppered tight by a plug of wood or cork (cortex, suber), which was rendered impervious to air by being smeared over with pitch, clay, or gypsum. On the outside the title of the wine was painted, the date of the vintage being marked by the names of the consuls then in office, or when the jars were of glass, little tickets (pittacia, tesserae) were suspended from them indicating these particulars (Petron. 34). The amphorae were then stored up in repositories (apothecae, Colum. I.6; Plin. Ep. II.17); horrea, Senec. Ep. 115; tabulata, Colum. XII.41) completely distinct from the cella vinaria, and usually placed in the upper story of the house (whence descende, testa Hor. Carm. III.21.7; deripere horreo, III.28.7) for a reason explained afterwards.
It is manifest that wines prepared and bottled, if we may use the phrase, in the manner described above must have contained a great quantity of dregs and sediment, and it became absolutely necessary to separate these before it was drunk. This was sometimes effected by fining with yolks p1203 of eggs, those of pigeons being considered most appropriate by the fastidious (Hor. Sat. II.4.51), or with the whites whipped up with salt (Geopon. VII.22), but more commonly simply by straining through small cup-like utensils of silver or bronze perforated with numerous small holes, and distinguished by the various names ὑλιστήρ, τρύγοιπος, ἠθμός, colum vinarium (Geopon.VII.37) [Colum]. Occasionally a piece of linen cloth (σάκκος, saccus) was placed over the τρύγοιπος or colum (Pollux, VI.19, X.75) and the wine (σακκίας, saccatus) filtered through (Martial, VIII.45). The use of the saccus was considered objectionable for all delicate wines, since it was believed to injure (Hor. Sat. II.4.51) if not entirely destroy their flavour, and in every instance to diminish the strength of the liquor. For this reason it was employed by the dissipated in order that they might be able to swallow a greater quantity without becoming intoxicated (Plin. H. N. XIV.28,º compare XXIII.1, 24, XIX.4.19; Cic. ad Fam. II.8). The double purpose of cooling and weakening was effectually accomplished by placing ice or snow in the filter, which under such circumstances became a colum nivarium (Martial, XIV.103) or saccus nivarius (XIV.104).
The wine procured from the mustum tortivum, which was always kept by itself, must have been thin and poor enough, but a still inferior beverage was made by pouring water upon the husks and stalks after they had been fully pressed, allowing them to soak, pressing again, and fermenting the liquor thus obtained. This, which was given to labourers in winter instead of wine, was the θάμνα or δευτέριος of the Greeks, the lora or vinum operarium of the Romans, and according to Varro (ap. Non. XVII.13) was, along with sapa, defrutum, and passum, the drink of elderly women (see Athen. X p440). The Greeks added the water in the proportion of ⅓ of the must previously drawn off, and then boiled down the mixture until ⅓ had evaporated; the Italians added the water in the proportion of 1⁄ of the must, and threw in the skimmings of the defrutum and the dregs of the lacus. Another drink of the same character was the faecatum from wine-lees, and we hear also of vinum praeliganeum given to the vintagers, which appears to have been manufactured from inferior and half-ripe fruit gathered before the regular period (Geopon. VI.3; Cato, R. R. 23, 57, 153; Varro, I.54; Colum. XII.40; Plin. XIV.12). We find an analogy to the above processes in the manufacture of cider, the best being obtained from the first squeezing of the apples and the worst from the pulp and skins macerated in water.
In all the best wines hitherto described the grapes are supposed to have been gathered as soon as they were fully ripe and fermentation to have run its full course. But a great variety of sweet wines were manufactured by checking the fermentation, or by partially drying the grapes, or by converting them completely into raisins. The γλύκος οἶνος of the Geoponic writers (VII.19) belongs to the first class. Must obtained in the ordinary manner was thrown into the dolia, which remained open for three days only and were then partially covered for two more; a small aperture was left until the seventh day, when they were luted up. If the wine was wished to be still sweeter, the dolia were left open for five days and then at once closed. The free admission of air being necessary for brisk fermentation, and this usually continuing for nine days, it is evident that it would proceed weakly and imperfectly under the above circumstances. For the Vinum Dulce of Columella (XII.27) the grapes were to be dried in the sun for three days after they were gathered, and trodden on the fourth during the full fervour of the mid-day heat. The mustum lixivium alone was to be used, and after the fermentation was finished an ounce of well-kneaded iris-root was added to each 50 sextarii; the wine was racked off from the lees, and was found to be sweet, sound, and wholesome (Colum. l.c.) For the Vinum Diachytum, more luscious still, the grapes were exposed to the sun for seven days upon hurdles (Plin. H. N. XIV.11).
Lastly, Passum or raisin-wine was made from grapes dried in the sun until they had lost half their weight, or they were plunged into boiling oil, which produced a similar effect, or the bunches after they were ripe were allowed to hang for some weeks upon the vine, the stalks being twisted or an incision made into the pith of the bearing shoot so as to put a stop to vegetation. The stalks and stones were removed, the raisings were steeped in must or good wine, and then trodden or subjected to the gentle action of the press. The quantity of juice which flowed forth was measured, and an equal quantity of water added to the pulpy residuum, which was again pressed and the product employed for an inferior passum called secundarium, an expression exactly analogous to the δευτέριος mentioned above. The passum of Crete was most prized (Mart. XIII.106; Juv. XIV.270), and next in rank were those of Cilicia, Africa, Italy, and the neighbouring provinces. The kinds known as Psythium and Melampsythium possessed the peculiar flavour of the grape and not that of wine, the Scybillites from Galatia and the Haluntium from Sicily in like manner tasted like must. The grapes most suitable for passum were those which ripened early, especially the varieties Apiana (called by the Greeks Sticha), Stirpula and Psithia (Geopon. VII.18; Colum. XII.39; Plin. H. N. XIV.11; Virg. Georg. II.93).
The Greeks recognized three colours in wines: red (μέλας), white, i.e. pale, straw-colour (λευκός), and brown or amber-coloured (κιῤῥός) (Athen. I p32c). Pliny distinguishes four: albus answering to λευκός, fulvus to κιῤῥός, while μέλας is subdivided into sanguineus and niger, the former being doubtless applied to bright glowing wines like Tent and Burgundy, while the niger or ater (Plaut. Menaech. V.6.17) would resemble Port. In the ordinary Greek authors the epithet ἐρυθρός is as common as μέλας, and will represent the sanguineus.
Among the ancients recourse was had to various devices for preventing or correcting acidity, heightening the flavour, and increasing the durability of the inferior kinds of wine. This subject was reduced to a regular system by the Greeks: Pliny mentions four authors who had written formal treatises, and the authors of the Geoponic collection, together with Cato, Varro, and Columella, supply a multitude of precepts upon the same topic. The object in view was accomplished sometimes by merely mixing different kinds of wine together, but more frequently by throwing into the dolia or amphorae various condiments, or seasonings (ἀρτύσεις, medicamina, conditurae). When two wines were mixed together those were selected which possessed opposite good qualities and defects (Athen. I p32b).
The principal substances employed as conditurae were, 1. sea-water; 2. turpentine, either pure, or in the form of pitch (pix), tar (pix liquida), or resin (resina). 3. Lime, in the form of gypsum, burnt marble, or calcined shells. 4. Inspissated must. 5. Aromatic herbs, spices, and gums; and these were used either singly, or cooked up into a great variety of complicated confections.
We have already seen that it was customary to line the interior of both the dolia and the amphorae with a coating of pitch; but besides this it was common to add this substance, or resin, in powder, to the must during the fermentation, from a conviction that it not only rendered the wine more full-bodied, but also communicated an agreeable bouquet, together with a certain degree of raciness or piquancy (Plin. H. N. XIV.25; Plutarch, Symp. V.3). Wine of this sort, however, when new (novitium resinatum) was accounted unwholesome and apt to induce headach and giddiness. From this circumstance it was denominated crapula, and was itself found to be serviceable in checking the fermentation of the must when too violent.
It must be remembered, that when the vinous fermentation is not well regulated, it is apt to be renewed, in which case a fresh chemical change takes place, and the wine is converted into vinegar (ὄξος, acetum), and this acid, again, if exposed to the air, loses its properties and becomes perfectly insipid, in which form it was called vappa by the Romans, who used the word figuratively for a worthless blockhead.
Now the great majority of inferior wines, being thin and watery, and containing little alcohol, are constantly liable to undergo these changes, and hence the disposition to acescence was closely watched and combated as far as possible. With this view those substances were thrown into the dolia, which it was known would neutralize any acid which might be formed, such as vegetable ashes, which contain an alkali, gypsum, and pure lime, besides which we find a long list of articles, which must be regarded as preventives rather than correctives, such as the various preparations of turpentine already noticed, almonds, raisins steeped in must, parched salt, goats' milk, cedar-cones, gall-nuts, blazing pine-torches, or red-hot irons quenched in the liquid, and a multitude of others (Geopon. VII.12, 15, 16, &c.). But in addition to these, which are all harmless, we find some traces of the use of the highly poisonous salts of lead for the same purpose (Geopon. VII.19), a practice which produced the most fatal consequences in the middle ages, and was prohibited by a series of the most stringent enactments (see Beckmann's History of Inventions, vol. I p396, Trans.).
Defrutum also was employed to a great extent; but being itself liable to turn sour, it was not used until its soundness had been tested by keeping it for a year. It was then introduced, either in its simple state, in the proportion of a sextarius to the amphora, that is, of 1 to 48, or it was combined with a great variety of aromatics, according to a prescription furnished by Columella (XII.20). In this receipt, and others of the same kind, the various herbs were intended to give additional efficacy to the nourishing powers of the defrutum, and great pains were taken to prevent them from affecting the taste of the wine. But from a very early period it was customary to flavour wines highly by a large admixture of perfumes, plants, and spices. We find a spiced drink (ἐξ ἀρωμάτων κατασκευαζόμενος) noticed under the name of τρίμμα by Athenaeus and the writers of the new comedy (Athen. I p31e; Pollux, VI.16), and for the whole class Pliny has the general term aromatites (XIV.19 §5).
There was another and very numerous family of wines, entitled οἶνοι ὑγιεινοί, into which drugs were introduced to produce medicinal effects. Such were vinum marrubii (horehound) for coughs, the scillites (squill-wine), to assist digestion, promote expectoration, and act as a general tonic, absinthiates (wine of wormwood), corresponding to the modern vermuth, and above all the myrtites (myrtle‑berry-wine), which possessed innumerable virtues (Columell. 32, 39; Geopon. VIII.1, &c.).
Pliny, under the head of vina fictitia, includes not only the οἶνοι ὑγιεινοί, but a vast number of others bearing a strong analogy to our British home-made wines, such as cowslip, ginger, elderberry, and the like; and as we manufacture Champagne out of gooseberries, so the Italians had their imitations of the costly vintages of the most favoured Asiatic isles. These vina fictitia p1205 were, as may be imagined, almost countless, every variety of fruit, flower, vegetable, shrub, and perfume being put in requisition: figs, cornels, medlars, roses, asparagus, parsley, radishes, laurels, junipers, cassia, cinnamon, saffron, nard, malobathrum, afford but a small sample. It must be remarked, that there was one material difference between the method followed by the Greeks and that adopted by the Romans in cooking these potions. The former included the drug, or whatever it might be, in a bag, which was suspended in a jar of wine, and allowed to remain as long as was thought necessary; the latter mixed the flavouring ingredient with the sweet must, and fermented them together, thus obtaining a much more powerful extract; and this is the plan pursued for British wines, except that we are obliged to substitute sugar and water for grape-juice (Geopon. VIII.32, 33, 34; Plin. H. N. XIV.19; Colum. ll.cc.; Cato, R. R. 114, 115).
But not only were spices, fragrant roots, leaves, and gums, steeped in wine or incorporated during fermentation, but even the precious perfumed essential oils (unguenta) were mixed with it before it was drunk. The Greeks were exceedingly partial to this kind of drink (Aelian, V. H. XII.31). We also learn from Aelian (l.c.) that it was named μυῤῥινίτης, which seems to be the same with the μυῤῥίνης of Poseidippus (Athen. I p32b), the μυῤῥίνη of Hesychius, the μυρίνης of Pollux (VI.2),º and the murrhina of Plautus (Pseudol. II.4.50; compare nardini amphoram, Miles Gl. III.2.11; Festus, s.v. Murrata potio and Murrina). The Romans were not slow to follow the example set them, valuing bitterness so highly, says Pliny (H. N. XIII.5), that they were resolved to enjoy costly perfumes with two senses, and hence the expressions "foliata sitis" in Martial (XIV.110) and "perfusa mero spumant unguenta Falerno" in Juvenal (VI.303).
In a more primitive age we detect the same fondness for the admixture of something extraneous. Hecamede, when preparing a draught for Nestor, fills his cup with Pramnian wine, over which she grates goat-milk cheese and sprinkles the whole with flour (Il. XI.638), the latter being a common addition at a much later epoch (Athen. X p432). So also the draught administered by Circe consisted of wine, cheese, and honey; and according to Theophrastus (Athen. I p32a) the wine drunk in the prytaneum of the Thasians was rendered delicious by their throwing into the jar which contained it a cake of wheaten flour kneaded up with honey (compare Plat. Symp. I.1.4).
This leads us on to notice the most generally popular of all these compound beverages, the mulsum of the Romans. This was of two kinds; in the one honey was mixed with wine, in the other with must. The former was said to have been invented by the legendary hero Aristaeus, the first cultivator of bees (Plin. H. N. XIV.6),º and was considered most perfect and palatable when made of some old rough (austerum) wine, such as Massic or Falernian (although Horace objects to the latter for this purpose, Sat. II.4.24), and new Attic honey (Mart. IV.13, XIII.108; Dioscor. V.16; Macrob. Sat. VII.12). The proportions as stated in the Geoponic collection were four, by measure, of wine to one of honey, and various spices and perfumes, such as myrrh, cassia, costum, malobathrum, nard, and pepper, might be added. The second kind, the oenomelum of Isidorus (Orig. XX.3 §11), according to the Greek authorities (Geopon. VIII.26), was made of must evaporated to one half its original bulk, Attic honey being added in the proportion of one to ten. This, therefore, was merely a very rich fruit syrup in no way allied to wine. The virtues of mulsum are detailed by Pliny (H. N. XXII.53;º compare Geopon. l.c.); it was considered the most appropriate draught upon an empty stomach, and was therefore swallowed immediately before the regular business of a repast began (Hor. Sat. II.4.25; Senec. Ep. 122), and hence the whet (gustatio) coming before the cup of mulsum was called the promulsis (Cic. ad Fam. IX.16 and 20). We infer from Plautus (Bacch. IV.9.149; compare (Liv. XXXVIII.55) that mulsum was given at a triumph by the Imperator to his soldiers.
Mulsum (sc. vinum) or οἰνόμελι is perfectly distinct from mulsa (sc. aqua). The latter, or mead, being made of honey and water mixed and fermented, is the μελίκρατον or ὑδρόμελι of the Greeks (Geopon. VIII.28; Dioscorid. V.9; Isidor. Orig. XX.3 §10; Plin. H. N. XIV.20), although Pollux confounds (VI.2)º μελίκρατον with οἰνόμελι. Again, ὑδρομήλον (Geopon. VIII.27) or hydromelum (Isidor. Orig. XX.3 §11) was cider; ὀξύμελι (Plin. H. N. XIV.20) was a compound of vinegar, honey, salt, and pure water, boiled together and kept for a long time; ῥοδομέλι was a mere confection of expressed juice of rose-leaves and honey (Geopon. VIII.29).
The ancients considered old wine not only more grateful to the palate but also more wholesome and invigorating (Athen. I p26a; II p36e), and curiously enough, Pliny supposes that it grew more strong and fiery by age in consequence of the dissipation of the watery particles (H. N. VII.3). Generally speaking the Greek wines do not seem to have required a long time to ripen. Nestor in the Odyssee, indeed, drinks wine ten years old (III.391), and wine kept for sixteen years is incidentally mentioned by Athenaeus (XIII p584b); but the connoisseurs under the Empire pronounced that all transmarine wines arrived at a moderate degree of maturity (ad vetustatem mediam) in six or seven (Plin. XIV.10). Many of the Italian varieties, however, as we shall see below, required to be kept for twenty or twenty-five years before they were drinkable (which is now considered ample for our strongest ports), and even the humble growths of Sabinum were stored up for from four to fifteen (Hor. Carm. I.9.7; Athen. I p276). Hence it became a matter of importance to hasten, if possible, the natural process. This was attempted in various ways, sometimes by elaborate condiments (Geopon. VII.24), sometimes by sinking vessels containing the must in the sea, by which an artificial mellowness was induced (praecox vetustas), and the wine in consequence termed thalassites (Plin. H. N. XIV.10); but more usually by the application of heat (Plut. Symp. V.3). Thus it was customary to expose the amphorae for some years to the full fervour of the sun's rays, or to construct the apothecae in such a manner as to be exposed to the hot air and smoke of the bath-furnaces (Colum. I.6), and hence the name fumaria applied to such apartments, and the phrases fumosos, fumum bibere, fuligine testae in reference to the wines (Tibull. II.1.26; Hor. Carm. III.8.9; Juv. V.35). If the operation was p1206 not conducted with care, and the amphorae not stoppered down perfectly tight, a disagreeable effect would be produced on the contents, and it is in consequence of such carelessness that Martial pours forth his maledictions on the fumaria of Marseilles (X.36, III.82, XII.123).
The year B.C. 121 is said to have been a season singularly favourable to all the productions of the earth; from the great heat of the autumn the wine was of an unprecedented quality, and remained long celebrated as the Vinum Opimianum, from L. Opimius the consul of that year, who slew C. Gracchus. A great quantity had been treasured up and sedulously preserved, so that samples were still in existence in the days of the elder Pliny, nearly two hundred years afterwards. It was reduced, he says, to the consistence of rough honey, and, like other very old wines, so strong and harsh and bitter as to be undrinkable until largely diluted with water. Such wines, however, he adds, were useful for flavouring others when mixed in small quantities.
Our most direct information with regard to the price of common wine in Italy is derived from Columella (III.3 §12), who reckons that the lowest market price of the most ordinary quality was 300 sesterces for 40 urnae, that is 15 sesterces for the amphora, or 6d. a gallon nearly. At a much earlier date, the triumph of L. Metellus during the first Punic war (B.C. 250), wine was sold at the rate of 8 asses the amphora (Varro, ap. Plin. H. N. XVIII.4), and in the year B.C. 89 the censors P. Licinius Crassus and L. Julius Caesar issued a proclamation that no one should sell Greek and Aminean wine at so high a rate as 8 asses the amphora; but this was probably intended as a prohibition to their being sold at all, in order to check the taste then beginning to display itself for foreign luxuries, for we find that at the same time they positively forbade the use of exotic unguents (Plin. H. N. XIV.16, XIII.5).º
The price of native wine at Athens was four drachmas for the metretes, that is about 4½d. the gallon, when necessaries were dear, and Böckh considers that we may assume one half of this sum as the average of cheaper times. In fact, we find in an agreement in Demosthenes (In Lacrit. p928) 300 casks (κεράμια) of Mendaean wine, which we know was used at the most sumptuous Macedonian entertainments (Athen. IV p129d), valued at 600 drachmas, which gives two drachmas for the metretes, or little more than 2d. a gallon; but still more astonishing is the marvellous cheapness of Lusitanian wine, of which more than ten gallons were sold for 3d. On the other hand high prices were given freely for the varieties held in esteem, since, as early as the time of Socrates, a metretes of Chian sold for a mina (Plut. de Anim. Tranquill. 10; Böckh, Publ. Econ. of Athens, vol. I p133, 1st ed.).
With respect to the way in which wine was drunk, and the customs observed by the Greeks and Romans at their drinking entertainments, the reader is referred to the article Symposium.
It now remains for us to name the most esteemed wines, and to point out their localities; but our limits will allow us to enumerate none but the most celebrated. As far as those of Greece are concerned, our information is scanty; since in the older writers we find but a small number defined by specific appellations, the general term οἷνος usually standing alone without any distinguishing epithet. The wine of most early celebrity was that which the minister of Apollo, Maron, who dwelt upon the skirts of Thracian Ismarus, gave to Ulysses. It was red (ἐρυθρόν), and honey-sweet (μελιηδέα), so precious, that it was unknown to all in the mansion, save the wife of the priest and one trusty housekeeper; so strong, that a single cup was mingled with twenty of water; so fragrant, that even when thus diluted it diffused a divine and most tempting perfume (Od. IX.203). Pliny (H. N. XIV.6) asserts that wine endowed with similar noble properties was produced in the same region in his own day. Homer mentions also more than once (Il. XI.638, Od. X.234) Pramnian wine (οἶνος Πραμνεῖος), an epithet which is variously interpreted by certain different writers (Athen. I p28f). In after times a wine bearing the same name was produced in the island of Icaria, around the hill village of Latorea, in the vicinity of Ephesus, in the neighbourhood of Smyrna near the shrine of Cybele, and in Lesbos (Athen. I p30c &c.; Plin. XIV.6). The Pramnian of Icaria is characterized by Eparchides as dry (σκληρός), harsh (αὐστηρός), astringent and remarkably strong, qualities which, according to Aristophanes, rendered it particularly unpalatable to the Athenians (Athen. I p30c).
But the wines of greatest renown during the brilliant period of Grecian history and after the Roman conquest were grown in the islands of Thasos, Lesbos, Chios and Cos, and in a few favoured spots on the opposite coast of Asia (Strabo, XIV p637), such as the slopes of Mt. Tmolus, the ridge which separates the valley of the Hermus from that of the Caÿster (Plin. V.29; Virg. Georg. II.97; Ovid. Met. VI.15), Mount Messogis, which divides the tributaries of the Caÿster from those of the Maeander (Strabo, XIV p650), the volcanic region of the Catacecaumene (Vitruv. III.3) which still retains its fame (Keppell's Travels, II p355), the environs of Ephesus (Dioscorid. V.12), of Cnidus (Athen. I p29a), of Miletus (Athen. l.c.), and of Clazomenae (Plin. XIV.9). Among these the first place seems to have been by general consent conceded to the Chian, of which the most delicious varieties were brought from the heights of Ariusium, in the central parts (Virg. Ecl. V.71; Plin. H. N. XIV.9;º Silius, VII.210), and from the promontory of Phanae at the southern extremity of the island (Virg. Georg. II.97). The Thasian and Lesbian occupied the second place, and the Coan disputed the palm with them (Athen. I pp28, 29, &c.). In Lesbos the most highly prized vineyards were around Mytilene (Athen. I p30b, III p86e; p92d), and Methymna (Athen. VIII p363b; Pausan. X.19; Virg. Georg. II.89; Ovid. Ar. Am. I.57). Pliny (XIV.9), who gives the preference over all others to the Clazomenian, says that the Lesbian had naturally a taste of salt water, while the epithet "innocens," applied by Horace, seems to point out that it was light and wholesome.
It may here be observed that there is no foundation whatever for the remark that the finest Greek wines, especially the products of the islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas, belonged for the most part to the luscious sweet class. The very reverse is proved by the epithets αὐστηρός, σκληρός, λεπτός, and the like, applied to a great number, while γλυκύς and γλυκάζων are designations comparatively rare, except in the vague language p1207 of poetry. "Vinum omne dulce minus odoratum," says Pliny (H. N. XIV.11), and the ancients appear to have been fully sensible that sweet wines could not be swallowed either with pleasure or safety, except in small quantities. The mistake has arisen from not perceiving that the expressions οἶνος γλυκύς and οἶνος ἡδύς are by no means necessarily synonymous. The former signifies wine positively sweet, the latter wine agreeable to the taste from the absence of acidity, in most cases indicating nothing more than sound wine.
It is well known that all the most noble Italian wines, with a very few exceptions, were derived from Latium and Campania, and for the most part grew within a short distance of the sea. "The whole of these places," says Strabo (V p234), when describing this coast, "yield excellent wine; among the most celebrated are the Caecuban, the Fundanian, the Setinian, and so also are the Falernian, the Alban, and the Statinian." But the classification adopted by Pliny (XIV.4) º will prove our best guide, and this we shall follow to a certain extent.
In the first rank, then, we must place the Setinum which fairly deserves the title of Imperial, since it was the chosen beverage of Augustus and most of his courtiers. It grew upon the hills of Setia, above Forum Appii, looking down upon the Pomptine marshes (Pendula Pomptinos quae spectat Setia campos, Mart. XIII.112; see also VI.86, IX.3, X.74, XIII.112; Juv. V.34; Silius, VIII.378; Plin. H. N. l.c.). Before the age of Augustus the Caecubum was the most prized of all. It grew in the poplar swamps bordering on the gulf of Amyclae, close to Fundi (Mart. XIII.115). In the time of Pliny its reputation was entirely gone, partly in consequence of the carelessness of its cultivators, and partly from its proper soil, originally a very limited space, having been cut up by the canal of Nero extending from Baiae to Ostia. Galen (Athen. I p. 27A) represents it as generous, full‑bodied and heady, not arriving at maturity until it had been kept for many years (Plin. l.c.; Strabo, V p231; Mart. XIII.115; Hor. Carm. I.20.9, III.28.2,º &c.).
The second rank was occupied by the Falernum, of which the Faustianum was the most choice variety, having gained its character from the care and skill exercised in the cultivation of the vines; but when Pliny wrote, it was beginning to fall in public estimation, in consequence of the growers being more solicitous about quantity than quality, just as was the case with Madeira a few years ago. The Falernus ager, concerning the precise limits of which there have been many controversies, commenced at the Pons Campanus, on the left hand of those journeying towards the Urbana Colonia of Sulla, the Faustianus ager at a village •about six miles from Sinuessa, so that the whole district in question may be regarded as stretching from the Massic hills to the river Vulturnus. Falernian became fit for drinking in ten years, and might be used when twenty years old, but when kept longer gave headachs, and proved injurious to the nervous system. Pliny distinguishes three kinds, the rough (austerum), the sweet (dulce), and the thin (tenue). Galen (ap. Athen. I p26c) two only, the rough (αὐστηρός) and the sweetish (γλυκάζων). When the west wind prevailed during the season of the vintage the wine was sweetish and darker in colour (μελάντερος), but if the grapes were gathered during weather of a different description, it was rough and tawny or amber-coloured (κιῤῥός). The ordinary appearance of Falernian, which has been made a theme of considerable discussion, seems to be determined by a passage in Pliny (H. N. XXXVII.12), in which we are informed that the finest amber was named Falerna. Others arranged the varieties differently; that which grew upon the hill tops they called Caucinum, that on the middle slopes Faustianum, that on the plain Falernum (Plin. l.c. and XXIII.21; Athen. I p26c; Hor. Carm. I.20.10; Prop. IV.6; Martial, IX.95; Silius, VII.159).
In the third rank was the Albanum, from the Mons Albanus (Mons Juleus, Mart. XIII.109), of various kinds, very sweet (praedulce), sweetish (γλυκάζων), rough (Plin. XXIII.21), and sharp (ὀμφακίας); it was invigorating (nervis utile), in perfection after being kept for fifteen years (Plin. ll.cc.; Mart. XIII.109; Hor. Sat. II.8.14; Juv. V.33; Athen. I p26d). Here too we place the Surrentinum, from the promontory forming the southern horn of the bay of Naples, which was not drinkable until it had been kept for five-and‑twenty years, for being destitute of richness (ἀλιπής) and very dry (ψαφαρός), it required a long time to ripen, but was strongly recommended to convalescents, on account of its thinness and wholesomeness. Galen, however, was of opinion that it agreed with those only who were accustomed to use it constantly; Tiberius was wont to say that the physicians had conspired to dignify what was only generous vinegar; while his successor, Caligula, styled it nobilis vappa (Plin. ll.cc.; Athen. l.c.). Of equal reputation were the Massicum, from the hills which formed the boundary between Latium and Campania, although somewhat harsh, as would seem, from the precautions recommended by the epicure in Horace (Sat. II.4.51: compare Carm. I.1.19, II.7.21,º III.21; Mart. XIII.111; Silius, VII.207), and the Gauranum, from the ridge above Baiae and Puteoli, produced in small quantity, but of very high quality, full‑bodied (εὔτονος) and thick (πάχυς) (Athen. l.c.; Plin. H. N. III.5; Flor. III.5). In the same class are to be included the Calenum from Cales, and the Fundanum from Fundi. Both had formerly held a higher place, "but vineyards," moralizes Pliny, "as well as states, have their periods of rise, of glory, and of fall." The Calenum was large (κοῦφος), and better for the stomach than Falernian; the Fundanum was full‑bodied (εὔτονος) and nourishing, but apt to attack both stomach and head; therefore little sought after at banquets (Strabo, V p234; Athen. I p27a; Hor. Carm. I.31.9; Juv. I.69; Mart. X.35, XIII.113). This list is closed by the Veliterninum, Privernatinum, and Signinum, from Velitrae, Privernum, and Signia, towns on the Volscian hills; the first was a sound wine, but had this peculiarity, that it always tasted as if mixed with some foreign substance; the second was thin and pleasant; the last was looked upon only in the light of a medicine, valuable for its astringent qualities (Athen. I p27b; Plin. l.c.; Mart. XIII.116). We may safely bring in one more, the Formianum, from the gulf of Caieta (Laestrygonia Bacchus in amphora, Hor. Carm. III.16.34) associated by Horace with the Caecuban, Falernian, and Calenian (Hor. Carm. I.20, III.16), and compared by Galen (ap. Athen. I p26e) p1208 to the Privernatinum and Rheginum, but richer (λιπαρωτέρος), and ripening quickly.
The fourth rank contained the Mamertinum, from the neighbourhood of Messana, first brought into fashion by Julius Caesar. The finest, called Potalanum (Ἰωταλῖνος, Athen. I p27d), from the fields nearest to the main land, was sound (ἠδὺς), light, and at the same time not without body. The Tauromenitanum was frequently substituted fraudulently for the Mamertinum, which it resembled (Athen. I p27d; Plin. l.c.).
Of the wines in Southern Gaul, that of Baeterrae alone bore a high character. The rest were looked upon with suspicion, in consequence of the notorious frauds of the dealers in the Province, who carried on the business of adulteration to a great extent, and did not scruple to have recourse to noxious drugs. Among other things, it was known that they purchased aloes, to heighten the flavour and improve the colour of their merchandise, and conducted the process of artificial ripening so unskilfully, as to impart a taste of smoke, which called forth, as we have seen above, the malediction of Martial on the fumaria of Marseilles (Plin. H. N. XIV.8 §5).
The produce of the Balearic isles was compared to the first growths of Italy, and the same praise was shared by the vineyards of Tarraco and Lauron, while those of the Laletani were not so much famed for the quality as for the abundance of their supply (Plin. H. N. XIV.8 §6; Mart. XIII.118; Silius, III.370).
Returning to the East, several districts of Pontus, Paphlagonia, and Bithynia, Lampsacus on the Hellespont, Telmessus in Caria, Cyprus, Tripolis, Berytus, and Tyre, all claimed distinction, and above all the Chalybonium, originally from Beroea, but afterwards grown in the neighbourhood of Damascus also, was the chosen and only drink of the Great King (Plin. H. N. XIV.9; Geopon. V.2; Athen. I p28d), to which we may join the Babylonium, called nectar by Chaereus (Athen. I p29f), and the Βύβλινος from Phoenicia, which found many admirers (Athen. I p29b). The last is spoken of elsewhere as Thracian, or Grecian, or Sicilian, which may have arisen from the same grape having been disseminated through these countries (compare Herod. II.35; Athen. I p31a).
Passing on, in the last place, to Egypt, where, according to Hellanicus, the vine was first discovered, the Mareoticum, from near Alexandria, demands our attention. It is highly extolled by Athenaeus, being white, sweet, fragrant, light (λεπτός), circulating quickly through the frame, and not flying to the head; but superior even to this was the Taenioticum, so named from a long narrow sandy ridge (ταινία) near the western extremity of the Delta; it was aromatic, slightly astringent, and of an oily consistency, which disappeared when it was mixed with water: besides these we hear of the Sebennyticum, and the wine of Antylla, a town not far from Alexandria. Advancing up the valley, the wine of the Thebaïs, and especially of Coptos, was so thin and easily thrown off that it could be given without injury to fever patients; and ascending through Nubia, to the confluence of the Nile with the Astapus, we reach Meroë, whose wine has been immortalized by Lucan. (Athen. I p33f; Strab. XVII p799; Hor. Carm. I.37.10; Virg. Georg. II.; Lucan, X.161; Plin. H. N. XIV.9). Martial appears to have held them all very cheap, since he pronounces the vinegar of Egypt better than its wine (XIII.122).º
We read of several wines which received their designation, not from the region to which they belonged, but from the particular kind of grape from which they were made, or from some circumstance connected with their history or qualities. Names belonging to the former class were in all likelihood bestowed before the most favoured districts were generally known, and before the effects produced upon the vine, by change of soil and climate, had been accurately observed and studied. After these matters were better understood, habit and mercantile usage would tend to perpetuate the ancient appellation. Thus, down to a late period, we hear of the Amineum (Ἀμιναῖος οἶνος, Hesych.), from the Aminea Vitis, which held the first place among vines, and embraced many varieties, carefully discriminated and cultivated according to different methods (Plin. H. N. XIV.4 §1; Cato R. R. 6 and 7; Colum. III.2 §7; 9 §3). It was of Grecian origin, having been conveyed by a Thessalian tribe to Italy (a story which would seem to refer to some Pelasgian migration), and reared chiefly in Campania around Naples, and in the Falernus ager. Its characteristic existence was the great body and consequent durability of its wine (Firmissima vina, Virg. Georg. II.97; Galen, Meth. med. XII.4; Geopon. VIII.22; Cels. IV.2;c Macrob. II.16; Auson. Ep. XVIII.32; Seren. Samm. XXIX.544). So, in like manner, the ψίθιος οἶνος (Athen. I p28f), from the ψιθία ἄμπελος, (Colum. III.2 §24), which Virgil tells us (Georg. II.93) was particularly suitable for passum, and the καπνίας (smoke-wine) of Plato the comic poet (Athen. I p31e), prepared in greatest perfection near Beneventum, from the κάπνεος ἄμπελος, so named in consequence of the clusters being neither white nor black, but of an intermediate dusky or smoky hue (Theophr. H. P. II.4, C. P. V.3; Aristot. de Gener. IV.4; Plin. H. N. XIV.4 §7; compare XXXVII.36,º on the gem Capnias).
On the other hand, the Σαπρίας, on whose divine fragrance Hermippus descants in such glowing language (Athen. I p29e) is simply some rich wine of great age, "toothless, and sere, and wondrous old" (ὀδόντας οὐκ ἔχων, ἥδη σαπρὸς . . . γέρων γε δαιμονίως, Athen. X p441d; see Eustath. ad Hom. Od. II.340; Casaub. ad Athen. I p29). The origin of the title ἀνθοσμίας is somewhat more doubtful: some will have it to denote wine from a sweet-smelling spot (Suid. s.v); others more reasonably refer it to the "bouquet" of the wine itself (Hesych. s.v.); according to Phanias of Eresus, in one passage, it was a compound, formed by adding one part of sea-water to fifty of must, although, in another place, he seems to say, that it was wine obtained from grapes gathered before they were ripe, in which case it might resemble Champagne (Athen. I p32a; compare p462e).
Those who desire more minute details upon this very extensive subject may consult the Geoponic Collection, books III to VIII inclusive; the whole of the 14th book of Pliny's Natural History, together with the first thirty chapters of the 23d; the 12th book of Columella, with the commentary of Schneider and others; the 2d book of Virgil's Georgics, with the remarks of Heyne, Voss, and the old grammarians; Galen, I.9, and XII.4; p1209 Pollux, VI foll.; Athenaeus, lib. I and lib. X; besides which there are a multitude of passages in other parts of the above authors, in Cato, Varro, and in the classics generally, which bear more or less upon these topics.
Of modern writers we may notice particularly, Prosper Rendella, Tractatus de Vinea, Vindemia et Vino, Venet. 1629; Galeatius Landrinus, Quaestione de Mixtione Vini et Aquae, Ferrar. 1593; Andreas Baccius, de Naturali Vinorum Historia, &c., Rom. 1596, de Conviviis Antiquorum, &c., Gronov. Thes. Graec. Antiq.; Sir Edward Barry, Observations on the Wines of the Ancients, Lond. 1775; Henderson, History of Ancient and modern Wines, Lond. 1824. Some of the most important facts are presented in a condensed form in Becker's Gallus, vol. II pp163‑176, and pp238‑241, and Charikles, vol. I p456, foll.
a The great mystery of Greek and Roman wine is not addressed in this article, and as far as I know, it remains a mystery to this day: wine was almost always drunk diluted, and not just a few drops of water, either, but two and three and up to five parts water, as attested by many passages in the ancient authors — Athenaeus X 426A ff. will do nicely. Do that to any modern unfortified wine, and you get a weak and insipid liquid, and it must have been the same in Antiquity: no natural vinification can push the alcohol past about 18° in the strongest of cases. Even fortified wine (which depends on the use of pure sugar, not known in Antiquity) is not that much stronger, and in either case it's hard to understand why the ancients constantly characterize undiluted wine as something uncomfortably potent, fit only for drunks.
Nor, given a total absence of evidence of ancient distillation, can the mystery be solved by assuming that in fact what the ancients referred to as wine was what we would call brandy or grappa or some other distilled spirit; our sources clearly describe the wine-making process as being much the same as today's, and conversely never seem to mention distillation. Now absence of evidence is of course not evidence of absence, but it is not evidence of anything else either. . . .
b Thus the mid‑19c when our dictionary was written; the general belief in our own time is East Africa for the origin of the human race, and no consensus for human languages.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY if its URL has a total of one *asterisk. If the URL has two **asterisks, the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use. If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 30 May 20