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From the very earliest times wine was the daily beverage of the Greeks, and was made in every Greek country. The best was produced on the coasts and islands of the Egean, such as Thasos, Rhodes, Cyprus, and, above all, Chios and Lesbos. The cultivation of the vine was common in Lower Italy before its colonization by the Greeks, and the Romans had vineyards in very early times. Wine was however long regarded as an article of luxury, and was limited in its use. The regular production of wine (the method of which was imported from Greece, together with the finer varieties of vines) first came in with the decline of the cultivation of cereals. The home-grown wines were of little esteem, as compared with the Greek, and especially the highly prized island wines, until the 1st century B.C. After this date the careful treatment of a number of Italian, and more particularly of Campanian brands (such as the Falernian, Caecuban, and Massie), procured for them the reputation of being the first wines of the world. They formed an important article of export, not merely to the collective provinces of the Roman empire, Greece herself not excepted, but also beyond the Roman frontier. It was to the advantage of Italy that, in the western provinces, down to the 3rd century A.D., the cultivation of the vine was subject to certain limitations. No new vineyards could be added to those already existing, and the Italian vines could not be introduced, although Gaul produced many varieties of wine. Under the Empire wine was the main article of produce and of trade in Italy, Greece, and Asia, and the wine merchants of Rome, who had, from the commencement of the 2nd century, formed two corporations, one for the eastern and another for the western trade, held an important position. In the 1st century there were already eighty famous brands in the Roman trade. Of this number Italy supplied two-thirds. The vine was grown partly on poles or espaliers, partly on trees, especially on elms, which, if the ground between were still used for agriculture, were planted at a, distance of 40, sometimes of 20, feet apart. The grapes intended for manufacture into wine were trodden with naked feet and then brought under the press. The must was then immediately poured into large pitched earthenware jars (Gr. pithos, Lat. dolium; see VESSELS). These were placed under ground in a wine-cellar, facing the north to keep them cool, and kept uncovered for a year in order to ferment thoroughly. The inferior wines which were of no great age were drunk immediately from the jar [de dolio haurire; Cicero, Brutus 228]. The better kinds, which were meant for preservation, were poured into amphorae. These were closed with stone stoppers, sealed with pitch, clay, or gypsum, marked with a brand, furnished with a label giving their year and measure (tessera or nota), and placed in the apotheca. This was a room in the upper story, built by preference over the bath-room in order to catch the smoke from the furnace, and thus to make the wine more mellow. One method of improving the wine which was used in the East and in Greece was to keep the wine in goat-skins, because the leather tended to cause evaporation of the water. In Italy the wine-skins appear to have been only used in transport. To produce flavour, strength, and bouquet, various means were employed, such as adding gypsum, clay, chalk, marble, resin, pitch, and even sea water, the last being especially in use in Greece and Asia Minor. Bad wines were improved by being mixed with fine brands and good lees; adulteration was extremely common. The number of artificial wines was very large; e.g. honey wine, raisin wine, and boiled must (the beverage of the common people and slaves),a poor drink prepared by pouring water on the remains of the pressed grapes. The place of our liqueurs was taken by flavoured wines, of which more than fifty kinds are mentioned. These were simply extracted from herbs, flowers, or sweet smelling woods (thyme, myrtle, sweet rush, rose, hearts-ease, pine-cones and pine-wood, cypress, etc.), or mixed with oils, such as nard or myrrh. There were also wines made from fruits such as apples, pomegranates, pears, dates, figs, or mulberries. In respect of colour three sorts of wine were distinguished: the black or dark red (color sanguineus and niger) which was considered the strongest; the white (albus), which was thought thin and weak; and the brown or amber-coloured (fulvus), which was considered particularly serviceable for promoting digestion. As in its ordinary treatment the wine often retained much sediment, it had to be made clear before it was drunk. This was done either with yolk of eggs or by straining the wine through a cloth or sieve, which was filled with snow to make it cool. Greeks and Romans alike generally drank their wine mixed with water. (Cp. MEALS.)
Type: Standard
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