hist-brewing: Period Questions

Beth Ann Snead ladypeyton at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 21 10:52:19 PST 1999

> 1.  Was period wine making  a two stage process as today with a rapid
> fermentation followed by a slower air lock process or were air locks
> even used?
> 2. What were used as period fermentation containers?  Ceramic? Wood?
> Metal?

One stage process that during medieval times up to about 1600 was done
in a wooden barrel.  It wasn't aged more than a year as it tended to
oxidize or acetify by then.  Pre- medieval times Greeks, Romans and
Egyptians used a ceramic vessel called an amphorae which was sealed
after fermentation stopped and usually buried.  Wine in amphorae was
ageable and evidence exists that suggests that Romans sometimes aged
their wines up to 5-10 years.  The concept of an airlock is modern. 
Many recipes from the 1600's (Digby, Platt, Markham) mention loosely
plugging a bunghole until the must has stopped "working" but that was
probably to keep out pests.

> 3. How was the must set up?  By taste to add sugar and or

More often than not wine involved pressing the fruit and fermenting
it.  Only later (17 century) do we see recipes that involve adding
things like sugar to wine.  This doesn't includes medicinals.  Arnald
of Villanova often recommended adding healing herbs and spices to must
pre-fermentation, but that was for tonics, not table wine.   

> 4.  I have read that a period (Roman) container to age wine was called
> an amphorae but can not find a reference as to its material
> (ceramic? brass or some other metal?)


Books you may want to read are:  _Monks and Wine_, by Desmond Seward; 
_Wine and the Vine_, by Tim Unwin; _Studies in the Medieval Wine
Trade_, by M.K. James and _Dionysus: a Social History of the Wine
Vine_, by Edward Hyams.

Wine and the Vine is still in print.  The rest are out of print and
can be found in a decent library.  I have found all of the except M.K.
James' _Studies in the Medieval Wine Trade_ online for purchase if you
want to invest the $$$.  

Beth Ann
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