The Blog

- - in Olive Oil

The cycle of the vineyards and man’s enjoyment of wine has continued throughout the ages

with some of these intriguing differences…

ONCE UPON A TIME

Roman civilization was well versed in viticulture and wine making, but then the Barbarians

destroyed their vineyards and turned them into pastureland and cornfields. Luckily,

Benedictine and other monks kept the art of viticulture alive at their monasteries. By the

12th century, viticulture was fully revived.

THEY WEREN’T SO FUSSY

One of the major differences between today’s wine connoisseurs and medieval man was that

back then they weren’t so concerned with which exact vineyard a wine came from, but rather

the general area. The body of the wine was more important than it’s subtle flavors and

aroma.

JUST BEING PRACTICAL

Wine was mostly the drink of the upper classes and rich merchants, while the lower classes

generally drank beer, cider or mead.

Also, in medieval times, much of the water was tainted by sewage, so naturally, people

preferred to drink wine.

OTHER USES

Wine also served to relieve minor aches and pains.

In 1166, the vintages were so plentiful and there was such an over production of wine, that in

Franconia (a part of what is now Germany), they mixed wine with lime for use in building

construction.

DRINK UP BEFORE IT GOES BAD

In medieval times, the aging of wine wasn’t important. This was partly due to the fact that

much of the wine was too unstable to age well anyway, and if air hit it, it might turn to

vinegar. One way to combat this problem was to use a thin film covering of olive oil. Other

methods included adding burnt salt, mixing in cloves, or plunging lighted torches dipped in

pitch into the wine.

Vintners and wine sellers often just mixed good wine in with bad, at least until the practice

was later forbidden. Others put cloves in wine to keep it from spoiling.

A major advance of medieval wine making was the discovery of sulphur by the alchemists.

This was now used to preserve the wine.

A PINCH OF THIS AND A PINCH OF THAT

Spices were added to wine for the same reason they were added to food: for variety and to

disguise it’s lackluster or bad flavor. Spiced wines were called Piments.

When bad weather resulted in poor ripening of the grapes, flavors and herbs were often added

to the wine. The resulting beverage would then take on the taste and character of these

added ingredients. If the poor crop yielded grapes low in sugar, medieval man sometimes

added cooked grape juice or honey to bring up the sugar levels so the final alcohol content

would increase.

To clarify the wine, they used eggs, pine kernels, peach stones or river pebbles. Honey was

sometimes added to maintain the proper color.

Because their was so much unstable wine, many medieval vintners diligently tried to keep

their barrels and wine vessels as clean as possible. Various methods to clean them were

used, including scouring with cold water, old wine or salt water. Sometimes they would then

fumigate them with rosemary or cedar wood.

MEANWHILE, OUT IN THE GRAPE FIELDS

Medieval viticulture’s drawbacks were partly due to slow technical progress in general during

that time, and the cultivation of the vineyards was not as advanced as it had been in Roman

times.

One new development for the time was the use of the “low vineyard”. Vines started to be tied

to upright stakes and weren’t allowed to be grown over 4 feet high.

FROM MALMSEY TO MERLOT

The most famous of medieval wines was Malmsey. This was a sweet wine made from grapes

grown primarily in Crete or Cyprus. We still have a form of Malmsey today which is basically a

sweet type of Madeira wine. But today’s wine drinkers generally prefer drier, more complex

wines than their medieval ancestors had access to.

Medieval Wine Trivia

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Your Comment*

Name*

Email*

Website*

Save & Share Cart
Your Shopping Cart will be saved and you'll be given a link. You, or anyone with the link, can use it to retrieve your Cart at any time.
Back Save & Share Cart
Your Shopping Cart will be saved with Product pictures and information, and Cart Totals. Then send it to yourself, or a friend, with a link to retrieve it at any time.
Your cart email sent successfully :)