hist-brewing: wine and technology

BrewInfo brewinfo at xnet.com
Tue Jul 6 13:38:22 PDT 1999

Lady Payton writes:
>>    1. Squeeze juice out of grapes into
>> narrow-mouthed container,
>>       such as a ceramic jug or amphora.
>Not quite.  "Squeeze juice into rather large necked
>tub" is more accurate.  Amphorae were used simply for
>storage after the fermentation was complete.

I stand corrected.

>>    2. Stuff a rag in the top.
>Would be a really cool game.  Stuff rag.  Watch rag
>pop out top and gracefully float back to ground.
>Repeat. %^>

Yes, depends on the porosity of the rag, I suppose.

>>    4. Decant off lees after a month.
>Nope.  Rack from primary vat to amphora or cask. 
>Decanting off lees(although shown in a 14th cnetury
>woodcut) has never been a proven pre-1700's wine
>making method.

Until large casks were made available (not sure which
century), I presume that wine was dispensed from large
narrow-necked containers.  We all know that tipping
a container that contains settled yeasts back and forth
will cause the yeast to be stirred up.  I find it hard
to believe that vintners took until the 17th century
to separate their wine from the settled yeast.  It's
just common sense.

>When technology took a nose dive around the fall of
>the Roman Empire winemaking techniques changed
>GREATLY.  I'll argue with anyone that winemaking,
>also, involves technology although admitedly less than

Winemaking invoves technology, but doesn't require it.
I could make wine using nothing other than clay pots
and grapes.

>  Wine has been
>> made pretty much
>> the same way for thousands of years 
>Absolutely, positively, 100% wrong.  Not all wine was
>made from grapes.  Not all wine was made from a single
>fruit.  Not all wine was made unadulterated. 
>Chaptilization is a late period, yet pre-1700

I knew that would generate some traffic.  I am well aware
(thanks mostly to Cindy Renfrow) of the vast variety when
it comes to historical fermented beverages.  My whole
point was that if one wanted to make a wine and be sure
that it was pre-1700's, one could not go wrong by simply
spontaneously fermenting grape (or other fruit... note
that I didn't say that this was the only way to make
wine... just a "recipe" that coudn't be said to be *NOT*
pre-1700's) juice.

>I think you'd benefit from reading rither Tim Unwin's
>_Wine and the Vine_, Turner's _Book of Wines_, de
>Villanova's _Book of Wine_, Markham's English
>Housewife and Digby's _Closet.....Unlocked..._...Not
>to mention _Dionysus; A Social History of the Wine
>Vine_ whose author escapes me now.

I'm sure I would and will save this list of books
for use at a later date (just recently had triplets...
lucky if I can sleep, let alone read or brew!).
Currently, my primary interest in this list is to
run across any recipes for extinct beer styles such
as Peeterman or Blanche de Louvain.

Jerry writes:
>>> While this may sound like I'm poking fun, I really
>>> mean to point out  that brewing and vinting are *very* different when
>>> it comes to history. Brewing differs from vinting in that it requires
>>> technology (albeit very primitive technology is enough).
>Indeed.  Your recipe is like saying making beer is simply making weak
>wine made from barley porridge.

No, you are generalising.  I did not say all wine was or should be made
this way, but rather that you can be assured that it would be period.
If you put "wine" in quotes (since in modern vernacular "beer" is a
grain-based fermented beverage and "wine" is a fruit-based fermented
beverage) and if you had said "...like saying beer can be simply making
weak 'wine" from barley porridge." then I would agree with you.  However,
since I wasn't saying all wine is this simple, you must admit that
this recipe could be pre-1700's.  It could also be 20th century... and
actually, it is, because that's when I made it up and posted it.

>>Chaptalization is a late period, yet pre-1700
>Wrong.  Honey was used as far back as 33 AD by Columella.  They also used
>something called cute which was made from free run juice of unpressed
>grapes boiled down to a third of its original volume.  This is referred
>to again in William Turner's -A Book of Wine- printed in 1597 and again
>in Gerard's Herbal in 1595.  And the stuff called wine in the Bible that
>the Babylon king gave the Jews for their sacrifices as they left
>captivity actually translates as a thick sticky syrup, probably the same

I'm not a wine scholar as many of you are, but a few things have lodged
in my head through the years.  I would venture a guess that the stuff
called wine in the Bible was not boiled down.  Here's why I think so...
Grape juice boiled down to that thickness would probably have too much
sugar in it to ferment very much at all.  Yeast simply can't handle the
osmotic pressures.  That's why honey doesn't ferment until you dilute
it.  Also, recall that in the Bible it says something on the order of
"don't put new wine in old bottles because it will cause them to burst."
My understanding is that "new wine" is basically freshly pressed juice.
The bursting will come from CO2 production during subsequent fementation
(aseptic packaging technology being developed several millennia later).

>As we look at the use of calcium compounds to reduce acid to the sections
>on ordering of wines where color of wines was either reduced or increased
>to suit need or season,  How can you say there is no technology involved?

I never said no technology was involved (incidentally, it's not calcium
compounds that raise pH, but rather carbonate is commonly used... usually
calcium carbonate, but it could be sodium bicarbonate), but rather that
brewing (even in its most primitive forms) required at least the technology
to separate the liquid from the grains (before fermentation in modern
beers, after fermentation in modern whiskeys and at serving in those
3000-year-old beers).  With wine, I guess you could say that you need
the technology of making a water-tight vessel for fermentation.  Yes,
perhaps I was generalising too much also.

I should have stuck to my original point: To get an authentic pre-1700's
wine recipe, couldn't you simply spontaneously ferment crushed fruit
juice?  I got myself in trouble when I began to ramble.

>It appears that you are interested (or at least more well versed) in
>beermaking technology than you are in winemaking, and that's cool, but I
>don't believe you can say one craft was more or less technologically
>advanced than the other.

I never meant to say that beermaking was more technologically advanced,
but rather that more technology has been required to make beer than
wine in any given period.  Compare a modern brewery with a modern
winery.  No, better yet, transport a vintner and a brewer from 1400
and put them in a modern winery and brewery, respectively.  The
vintner may be confused by the stainless steel tanks at first and
the motorised crushers, but the guy sweeping up could teach him how
to use those.  Well, the bottling line would be a stumbling block.
The brewer wouldn't stand a chance of even making a drinkable product.

If you haven't been to a modern brewery, check out my website's photo
tours of breweries.


Al Korzonas, Lockport, IL
korz at brewinfo.org

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