THE OLDEST WINE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA: THE MOSCATO DI SIRACUSA

THE OLDEST WINE OF THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA: MOSCATO DI SIRACUSA

gastronomia

 

Wine, as it is known, has been diffuse since ancient times. In fact, instances of wine citation reach back to the Babylonian age of Gilgamesh. Perhaps the oldest known sample, an amphora containing traces of wine, was found in Ajii Firuz, Armenia, in the form of a bi-conical vase dating back to the year 3,500 BC. The first traces of wine cultivar in the Mediterranean sea originated at some point during the IV Millennium on the island of Cyprus (Erimi and Pygros), where the wine vase was invented and later evolved into the Roman amphora, the most commonly used receptacle of the ancient era, and the best method of its time for the preservation and transportation of wine.The myth and the legend of Moscato or Pollio of Syracuse. Homer and Hesiod described it thusly: “sweet, graciously scented and most suave… the only example where poetry and lyrics converge in the memory of time…” Moscato di Siracusa is derived from a variety of grapes originating in the Caucasus, and is the oldest known variety among whites. The Greeks called it “Anathelicon moschaton“, and they cultivated and exported the grapes throughout the Mediterranean. The Siceliot (ancient Sicilians) referred to the grape as “Pollio“, also known as “Biblino“, a name that comes from Pollio Argivio, the king who ruled the Greek colony of Syracuse.

Siracusa Greek T copy

Wine for a perfect “symposium”. In ancient Greek society, wine had a fundamental role in the symposium (from etymological root, syn- + posis, meaning “ to drink together”) because it facilitated both profound meditation and interpersonal relationships. Wines were often diluted with water, honey and spices in order to render it more palatable, except for the Moscato of Siracusa, which did not require much tampering and was likely very similar then as it is today. Once considered a luxury item afforded almost exclusively to nobility, enjoying this wine today allows the rest of us to share the experience the same kind of sensation those ancient peoples revered: “ …intense, persistent, fine, vast and ethereal, with a hint of honey, candied fruit and white withered flowers”.

 King-Frederick-II-Germany-Sicily-Jerusalem-EmperorFamous Moscato di Siracusa  lovers.

Among famous historical figures and favorable appraisers of various time periods we find Frederick II, the Emperor of Sicily (XIII Century) who loved Syracuse for the beauty of its landscape and the bounty of its vineyards, and who built there a castle which he named, “Solacium“. 

 

 

 

Gioacchino_Rossini_19th_century_portrait

More recently, the XIX Century Italian composer Giacomo Rossini and XX Century American writer Henry Dumas, were among the many who visited Syracuse for the pleasure of taking in the physical and ethereal beauty of the place, as well as taste the famous Moscato of Syracuse, decanted by the ancient poets so long ago. 

 

 

 

henry-dumas  

 Henry Dumas

 

 

 

 

FROM THE SPANISH TO THE FLORIOS

Palermo Palazzo Chiaromonte2 copyThe Spanish governed Sicily from 1479 until 1713, and certainly not well. Queen Isabella of Castile starts the Inquisition as a domestic policy to secure control. After her husband Ferdinand becomes king of Aragon, she exports the inquisition to the entire kingdom.”In 1492 the Jews are expelled from Spain; and on June 18 of the same year the order of expulsion also arrives in Sicily and Sardinia. Was a very dark period for Sicily as in the entire catholic countries. Using the religion as an excuse the Spaniards got rid of political opponents expropriating vast estates, torturing and killing anybody was against them. 

 

Palermo- Palazzo Steri trionfo-della-morte-After a long restoration, completed in 2006,  at “Palazzo  Chiaromonte Steri” is possible to observe all signs of these terrible years of darkness  left by prisoners, written sometimes with their own blood on the walls.”Il Trionfo della MorteThe Triumph of Death” is one of the most impressive painting exhibited, according to some expert inspired Pablo Picasso, when visiting Palermo, in the making of the famous Guerninca”. 

 

 

SicilyWine.com for Enjoy Gourmet June 09 Sicilian Legacy page12 photo Vanvakys copy 4However, they do deserve the credit for reinvigorating the cultivation of vineyards and the production of wines all over the island. The resulting wine was strong, full-bodied, and minimally refined, but it filled the barrels of the most important of the numerous taverns that were cropping up in the cities during that era, including the city of Palermo.

 

 

 

 

Villa Palagonia_2 copyArtists, along with patrons of every type, frequented these rowdy and promiscuous locales,”taverne“, and very often, as happened in many other European cities, such as London, Paris, and Naples, drew inspiration for their works from them: imagine the places described by A. Dumas in “Les Miserables”, for instance.

 

 

Palmento pressa small_2jpgSeveral poets, in Sicilian and Italian language, praised and gushed over Sicilian wines, describing, among other things, their production processes from the grapevine to the cellar. To quote one of them, the great historian and Sicilian scholar, Domenico Scinà (Palermo, 1765-1837), wrote: “…Several species of our grapes can be called subtle”, as did Cupani (another Sicilian poet), “and the vine, trimmed well, was cultivated by us”.

 

 

 

Nerello vineyard S. AlfioBut the wine is not drawn with the diligence it might be. Every sort of grape is mixed together, mature with immature, and is allowed to ferment arbitrarily, at the will of the ignorant farmer.

 

 

MessinaDSCN0882 copyYet our wine is rich and robust, and makes famous the workers of Bagaria and Abbate” (Bagheria e Villabate).

 

 

 

 

 

  

Giovanni Meli DSCN0080Another famous Sicilian poet, Giovanni Meli (1740-1815), dedicated much of his writing to Sicilian wine and its virtues. Among these writings, we will cite:

Lodi ai vini Siciliani di Giovanni Meli 

(Ode to Sicilian Wines, by Giovanni Meli)

“ This will be a delight
Restoration of mortals
Remedy for sadness
Balsam for ills
It will bring balance,
In spite of destiny,
Among the rich and the poor
Among the greats and the commoners…”

“ Live live at full steam Moscato
of Catania or Syracuse… for wine you’ll drink Resalaimi…”

“…Live the garnish of the Ficarazzi
for we who drink bubbling wines”

“…Oh Castelvetrano, my love?
Oh Carini, Carini, oh what wine
That entraps my heart with sweetness…
Oh Alcamo, Oh Ciaculli! Oh Bagheria
Recipes for true contentment…”

 

Bandiera_del_Regno_di_Sicilia_4.svgIn the second half of the 1700s, during the Bourbon Dynasty, wine cultivation was experiencing a full resurgence in Sicily.

 

 

Balconies of Ragusa a detail copyMany wines were beginning to come into their own, reaching northern Italy as well as several foreign countries and the largest wine-producing cities, where, by that time, they boasted international quality, which: AlcamoAvolaCastellamareCastelvetranoMarsala, MascaliVittoria.

 

 

 

1-SicilyWine.com present Cerasuolo di Vittoria at NYU May 5th  copy It was in that same period that several large proprietors of vineyards, such as Salaparuta, Ganci, and Mortillaro, began to produce more refined wines, according to the French model. One of the largest producers of Sicilian wine, Giuseppe Alliata Moncada Colonna, Prince of Villafranca and Duke of Salaparuta, was also convinced by this method. Don Giuseppe, who possessed a vast expanse of vineyards

 

                                               

at CariniTerrasiniBagheria and Casteldaccia, oversaw his vineyards personally, and according to the particular Antico palmento _2manner of the Corvo di Bagheria district. Reserved for his family, as well as a few more illustrious guests, he bottled the first bottles of Corvo (beginning in 1800), creating the famous reserve known around the world.