Viticulture and Venus: A History of Wine and Love: Part II
Part II: First Century A.D. to 1317 A.D.
“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.” — Thomas Aquinas
Humanity’s love affair with viticulture is as sweeping and storied as history itself. The magical elixir culled from the fruit of the vine has become an irreplaceable component of religion, medicine and perhaps mankind’s most cherished pastime — the relentless pursuit of romance, for good or ill. Beginning in ancient history and continuing through the ages, wine is a constant companion at the ready through love and loss, war and peace, tragedy and celebration — deepening the subjective experience of the extreme highs and lows life delivers. This timeline includes modern toasting suggestions, allowing readers to sip alongside the losers, poets ans lovers within these stories.
Cana, Galilee – 26 A.D.
Two Lucky Lovers
An earnest and prolific young leader was attending a wedding with his mother, Mary, and a few of his friends. Similar to mother and son, the bride and groom were of modest upbringing and due to their limited budget, the celebration was soon out of wine. Hosting a wedding without a sufficient supply of libations for the guests was a punishable offense in Biblical times, so Mary, aware of her son’s special heritage appealed to him to remedy the situation. After a brief protest he told his friends to fill six urns with water and cover them. When the lids were removed after a short time, the water had transformed into wine and thus begun the first of many “miracles” performed by Jesus. Whether this was a true act of magic or if the friends of the young hero had a secret stash somewhere on the premises may forever be a subject of debate — but one thing is certain: the probability of the bride and groom living happily ever after must have been pretty darn good.
Modern Toasting Suggestion: 2013 Passion Has Red Lips Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz
Rome, Italy – 169 A.D.
A Taboo Affair
Claudius Galenus, known simply as Galen, was educated in Alexandria and appointed as the personal physician to Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Galen’s previous experience attending to gladiators had given him profound insight into human anatomy and physiology along with great surgical skill. He used wine to create protective potions to insulate leaders from being poisoned as well as for disinfecting battle wounds before dressing them. He was an authority on the various products of viticulture including mass-produced harvests of cheap swill and precious batches of liquid gold, and he used his expertise to peruse the vast Roman cellars in search of the finest wines to present to Emperor Aurelius. The two men shared a close bond, as did Aurelius with his appointed tutor of many years, Marcus Cornelius Fronto. Recent revelations about the correspondence between the Emperor and his tutor reveal a passionate affection for one another, and in fact, a taboo love affair carried out in secret over a number of years. Perhaps, just maybe after a glass or two of wine, Marcus Aurelius unburdened himself of such a great secret in the confidence of his personal physician. Galen, seeing that the relationship was greatly fulfilling, no doubt encouraged his Emperor to continue with discretion. After all — what was good for the Emperor was also good for the empire.
Modern Toasting Suggestion: PromisQous Red Table Wine
King Arthur’s Court, England – 530 A.D.
A Love Quadrangle and a Knight Obsessed
The presence of wine was ubiquitous throughout the many legends of King Arthur. Quite notably, was how the product of viticulture pervaded the fates of Sir Lancelot and his son Sir Galahad. Lancelot was portrayed as a brave knight and a dear friend to the King, yet even dearer were his affections for the Queen — Lady Guinevere. To this day, their love affair stands as one of the premier adulterous romances in English folklore. Regardless of his transgressions, Sir Lancelot went so far as to defend the Queen when she was accused of poisoning a guest. He boldly declared her innocence after vanquishing her accuser in battle. He was given a flask of the finest sparkling wine and told to deliver his testimony, to which he obliged with aplomb and then drank the entire portion in one chug. He was later seduced by Elaine of Corbenic, who tricked him into bed in spite of his love for Guinevere. She managed to mesmerize him using copious amount of wine and one of the Queen’s hypnotizing rings. Their coupling brought about the birth of Galahad, who became a Knight of the noblest pedigree. Because Galahad was pure of heart unlike his father, he sought only to recover the most coveted of relics: the Holy Grail — the wine cup used by Jesus during his last meal with his wine manifesting buddies. Galahad did not thirst for love, only the attainment of the grail itself. Soon after finding the Grail he ascended to heaven escorted by angels. Although much of Arthurian legend could be considered myth, there are numerous archaeological sites of castle ruins in use through the sixth century A.D. Many of these contain the pottery shards of urns imported from the eastern Mediterranean region that were more than likely used to transport wine.
Modern Toasting Suggestion: Chateau Diana Mind Bender Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio
Ravenna, Italy – 1317 A.D.
Viticulture survived the Dark Ages of Europe almost solely through the efforts of Catholic monasteries. Yet, at the onset of the Renaissance the practice of cultivating grapes and turning them into wine became mainstream, as social ideals were rapidly revolutionizing to champion humanism and the value of creativity. Dante Alighieri was by far the most prolific of the Renaissance poets, and no doubt enjoyed the intellectually expansive qualities of vino as he created his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, while travelling about Europe. This epic work is thought to be inspired by his first love, Beatrice Portinari, whom he adored from afar, yet to whom he never revealed his true feelings. When she died at the young age of 24, Dante was at the same time devastated and inspired. Thus, he created Beatrice, a character in The Divine Comedy who appears intermittently as Dante traverses Hell, Purgatory and Paradise all the while encountering dozens of historical characters. Among these personalities were some of the greatest icons of viticulture: Venus, Bacchus, Cleopatra and Jesus.
Modern Toasting Suggestion: 2012 Fifty Shades of Grey Red Satin Petite Sirah and Syrah
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