hist-brewing: Historical Wine Sweetening

NeophyteSG at aol.com NeophyteSG at aol.com
Fri May 26 11:47:00 PDT 2000

In a message dated 5/26/00 6:29:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 
kaolson3 at hotmail.com writes:

> Well Shawn as one who does a lot more "country wines" and meads,  I have a 
>  problem with sweetening wines at the end of fermentation.  After all its 
>  that hard to figure out if it will be dry, or sweet or inbetween. I do it 
>  tasting the fruit, and knowing how much I have on hand at the time.  
>  Unscientific I know.

Unscientific?  Yes.  But I'd venture to say that your method is closer to 
those used by ancient/period brewers.  While I confess a rather compulsive 
attachment to my hydrometer, SG charts, etc., I constantly struggle with the 
philosophical/academic quandary of whether you can truly create a "period" 
recipe using modern methods.  However, my question was in reference to 
sweetening (read, "adding sugars") wines *before* fermentation.

>  But to answer your questions I hope, the recipes I have seen in "a sip 
>  through Time"  were both types.  

I've been meaning to get a copy of Renfrow's book.  Right now I'm reading 
"Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers" by Stephen Buhner -- great read.

>  I suspect it had something to do with what 
>  equipement was available.  I admit I'm not sure, its just what I suspect.

Now your touching on the root of my question.  I'm more inclined to believe 
that the dividing line coincides with the advent and availability of "refined 
sugar."  Anyone know when that was?  Prior to that, honey would have been 
pretty much the only "artificial sweetener" ancient brewers would have had 
access to. (correct?)  

So, barring cysers, melomels, pyments -- arguably "wines" in their own right 
-- ancient fruit wines would have been more like ciders in terms of 
production methods and alcohol content.  Crushed/pressed/squeezed fruit, 
natural yeasts, wood or earthenware fermenting and storage vessels, and a 
peak alcohol content of around (8-10%?).  Again, would water have been added 
or would they have just used the pulp and pressed juice?  Both?  I know it's 
grapes, but what did the Greeks do?

Sorry for what are probably a lot of silly questions! :)


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