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

 

 

 

 

DE NATURALI VINORUM HISTORY CARAVAGGIO AND TAVERNIERI

Andrea BacciIn 1500, an abstract on wines attributed to a certain Andrea Bacci, (Sant’Elpidio a Mare, 1524 – Rome, October 1600)  De Naturali Vinorum Historia, was written.Largely dedicated to Sicilian wines, the writing refers to I rossi dell’Etna (The Reds of Etna) and the wines of Val di Noto as being of high quality.

 

 

Enta by Vanvakys

On the wines 0f  the  PalermoCammarata and Agrigento regions, he wrote: “...in Cammarata the vines grow prolifically, and as tall as men, so rich in grapes that ten plants are enough to render a bottle of must… The red wine is very strong, rich in fragrance and flavor, it is optimal for long-term
preservation…The great wines of “Mongibello” (Etna) are good due to the natural warmth that springs from below ground… (while) the wines of Palermo are clear and light…”

Antico palmento _2

 

Even Pope Paul IV, during the XI century loved Sicilian wines, and was known to recommend Bianco d’Alcamo most of all.

 

 

 

 

K43692CARAVAG 1 Michelangelo Merisi or Amerighi da Caravaggio  or simply the Caravaggio, is in exile in Sicily, around 1608 : he’s one of my favorite painter of all time!… “Caravaggio’s novelty was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of “chiaroscuro” like a black and white photographer…Caravaggio made his way to Sicily where he met his old friend Mario Minniti, who was now married and living in Syracuse. Together they set off on what amounted to a triumphal tour from Syracuse to Messina and, maybe, on to the island capital, Palermo. In Syracuse and Messina, Caravaggio continued to win prestigious and well-paid commissions. Among other works from this period are Burial of St. Lucy, The Raising of Lazarus, and Adoration of the Shepherds. His style continued to evolve, showing now friezes of figures isolated against vast empty backgrounds. “His great Sicilian altarpieces isolate their shadowy, pitifully poor figures in vast areas of darkness; they suggest the desperate fears and frailty of man, and at the same time convey, with a new yet desolate tenderness, the beauty of humility and of the meek, who shall inherit the earth.

 

 

 

 

vino bianco Alcamo edited Sicilian wines became so famous that they made for extremely profitable commerce for the VenetiansGenovesePisansFlorentines, and Jews. It was the beginning of a cultural period that lasted until “modern” times. The “cultural backlog” in Sicily, particularly among the agricultural sector, had kept the society attached to a somewhat feudal system, whereas the rest of Italy, and most of Europe, had developed into Republics and municipalities.

 

 

 

 

araldo medievale Caccamo  copy smallAs a consequence, Sicilian wine was commercialized by and for foreigners, therefore even nowadays used mostly as an additive for French, Spanish, and Northern Italian wines, leaving a legacy of wine culture limited merely to a handful of passionate barons, counts, and local croppers.
The business of wine did not adhere to many standards of quality at that time. Negligence, ignorance, and apathy accompanied Sicilian wine toward oblivion and mediocrity, with respect to other aspects of culture that were considered more important.

 

 

 

 

The-Merchant-of-VeniceIn fact, the business of Sicilian wine and produce in the North was managed almost entirely by those from Lombardy, a traffic pattern which led to the formation of La Maestranza dei Tavernieri or “The Majesty of the Public House Keepers”, in 1545.