Ancient Wine-Making Techniques: Uncovering the Secrets of Roman Wines

Archaeologists have recently made groundbreaking discoveries that shed light on the smell, taste, and appearance of Roman wines. The study, published in the journal Antiquity, delves into the ancient practice of winemaking using large clay pots called dolia. Researchers from the University of Ghent and the University of Warsaw compared these Roman vessels with Georgian earthenware pots called qveri, which employ a similar fermentation method.

Contrary to popular belief, Roman winemaking was far from amateurish. The shape, size, and clay composition of the dolia played a precise role in creating wines with specific characteristics. These vessels were designed to prevent excessive contact between grape solids and the wine, allowing for optimal aging and the formation of a beautiful orange color valued in ancient times.

The use of clay containers in winemaking has a long-standing tradition in the Mediterranean region. While most cultures abandoned earthenware vessels in favor of other materials, such as wood and steel, the qveri pots have persisted into the modern era in Georgia. In fact, the production technique of these pots was granted UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage status in 2013.

The clay pots used by the Romans were porous, allowing for controlled oxidation during the fermentation process. This resulted in unique flavors like grassy, nutty, and dried fruit-like notes. Furthermore, the dolia’s composition, size, and shape were not arbitrary; they were carefully engineered containers that contributed to the production of diverse wines with specific taste profiles.

The research also uncovered a genetic affinity between Roman and Georgian grape cultivars, suggesting that their techniques and cultivars might have been transferred through trade routes. There is evidence to support the presence of surface yeasts in Greek and Roman wines, similar to the use of flor yeasts in qveri winemaking.

These findings have sparked a resurgence of interest in ancient winemaking techniques among contemporary producers. Some winemakers have started experimenting with ceramic vessel vinification, echoing the practices of their Roman predecessors. This has led to a call for further scientific research to explore the sensory properties imparted by ceramic vessels and the importance of yeast varieties in Roman and Georgian winemaking.

By bridging the gap between ancient and modern methods of winemaking, this study opens up new possibilities for wine connoisseurs and historians alike. It deepens our understanding of the rich cultural heritage surrounding wine and provides valuable insights into the flavors and techniques cherished by the ancient Romans.

FAQ:

1. What recent discoveries have archaeologists made regarding Roman wines?
– Archaeologists have made groundbreaking discoveries about the smell, taste, and appearance of Roman wines.

2. What are the main findings of the study?
– The study reveals that Roman winemaking was sophisticated, with the shape, size, and clay composition of the clay pots called dolia playing a precise role in creating wines with specific characteristics. The use of clay containers allowed for controlled oxidation during fermentation, resulting in unique flavors. The research also found a genetic affinity between Roman and Georgian grape cultivars, suggesting a transfer of techniques and cultivars through trade routes.

3. What were the ancient clay pots called and how are they related to modern-day winemaking?
– The ancient clay pots used by the Romans were called dolia. These pots are comparable to Georgian earthenware pots called qveri, which are still used in winemaking today, preserving a long-standing tradition in the Mediterranean region.

4. Why were the clay vessels used for winemaking designed in a specific way?
– The shape, size, and clay composition of the clay vessels, such as dolia, were designed to prevent excessive contact between grape solids and the wine. This allowed for optimal aging and the formation of a beautiful orange color, which was highly valued in ancient times.

5. What role did yeast play in Roman and Georgian winemaking?
– There is evidence to suggest the presence of surface yeasts in Greek and Roman wines, similar to the use of flor yeasts in qveri winemaking. Yeast varieties were an important factor in the production of diverse wines with specific taste profiles.

6. How has this research impacted contemporary winemaking?
– The findings have sparked a renewed interest among contemporary winemakers in ancient winemaking techniques. Some producers have begun experimenting with ceramic vessel vinification, similar to the practices of the ancient Romans. This has led to a call for further scientific research to explore the sensory properties imparted by ceramic vessels and the importance of yeast varieties in Roman and Georgian winemaking.

Definitions:

– Dolia: Large clay pots used by the Romans in winemaking.
– Qveri: Georgian earthenware pots used in winemaking, similar to dolia.
– Fermentation: The metabolic process by which yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
– Controlled oxidation: The deliberate exposure of wine to oxygen in a controlled manner during the winemaking process.
– Flor yeasts: Yeasts that develop on the surface of wine during aging, often imparting specific flavors and aromas.

Suggested related links:
Georgia’s ancient winemaking technique given UNESCO status
Archaeologists discover 8,000-year-old pottery depicting oldest known wine-making
The Ancient Art of Winemaking