Thursday, October 26, 2006

on wine

Referring to Roman times:
Until cork was discovered, seventeen hundred years later, a film of olive oil over the top of a wine jar was the only means they had of preventing the wine from turning sour.

From Betty Watson's «Cooks, Gluttons and Gourmets: A History of Cookery» published in 1962 and now, I think, out of print. (Fun read if you like food.)

Another useless factoid: In ancient Greece, the archer Orion was credited for inventing white wine sauce.


Anonymous said...

this simply is not true.

suttonhoo said...

well that might explain why the book is out of print.

wish you had offered a different source to shine a little light on this, Anon.

suttonhoo said...

of course this is bugging me so I did a little googling (for what that's worth) -- the folks who have a vested interest in cork do say that the Ancient Greeks used "cork oak bark" as stoppers for wine. but they note shortly after that, that: "In the 1600s, a French monk called Dom Pérignon, took a giant step towards the modern, most widespread use of cork - as a wine closure."

so. we're not a whole lot closer. but we're somewhere. will keep noodling.

here's the source: History of Cork as a Wine Closure

suttonhoo said...

update: Knowledge@Wharton has published an interview with George Taber, author of "To Cork or Not to Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle (Scribner)" that recounts the history of cork and wine and may shed some light on Betty Watson's (not entirely accurate -- but not entirely inaccurate) view of history:

Taber: Cork is one of the most mysterious and, in a lot of ways, one of the most wonderful products that nature has made. In the book I call it "nature's nearly perfect product." It's very light. That's why it's been used for fish floats and buoys. In fact, that was its very first use. Cork has been used for about 4,000 years, according to my calculations. And as a way to seal wine containers, it was used for about 1,000 years -- from 500 BC to 500 AD.

Then, for 1,000 years, it wasn't used as the world went to different things and trade collapsed after the fall of the Roman Empire. About 1600 it came back into use. And it, as you say, it has been the monopoly closure for close to 400 years. Throughout history, cork has always been considered almost a magical product.

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