The great Roman poet Horace once wrote, “No poem was ever written by a drinker of water.” Possibly, Horace was a tremendous admirer of Bacchus, the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine. And possibly the most intriguing, the god of ritual madness and ecstasy. Bacchus was one of the primary gods worshipped in Ephesus in Roman times and his infamous celebrations were notorious for their sexual and criminal character. His revelry got so out of hand that they were once forbidden by the Roman Senate.
The followers of Bacchus had a strong theology: The more wine they drank, the more Bacchus filled them and controlled them. They became like him. Therefore, drunkenness became well-known as a spiritual experience.
As time marched on, and as we explored a bit in yesterday’s post, people continued to enjoy and drink wine for thousands of years. Romans loved their wine; drinking it with every meal even their slaves drank wine. Demands for the “nectar of the gods” became immense and they had to become creative in how they served it. The alcohol content back then was stronger than current day wines so they mixed it with large quantities of water. Romans preferred sweet wine yet strangely enough their most prized wine was white.
Unusual flavors were often added to the wine. Romans liked to mix honey with this drink to make an aperitif called mulsum. They often added herbs and spices, but were known to mix wine with salt water which must have given it an extremely bitter taste. Even chalk was sometimes mixed with wine to reduce acidity
As time moved forward, Romans decided that aged wines tasted better and preferred wines that were ten to twenty-five years old. They discovered that wines kept in tightly closed containers improved with age and became the first to store it in wooden barrels. Bringing me to tomorrow’s topic: current day wine making. Somehow, I imagine Bacchus is still watching over, guiding and influencing every step of the way.