Whining about Wine

As I clean up my mail backlog, I find I am risking a serious injury from all the mind boggling claims of the past few days … an excerpt from a piece about the history of wine from the Jefferson Post:

Engel shared with wine aficionados that the ancient Egyptians were the first to reserve wine for only special occasions. Following the Egyptians were the Greeks, who Engel feels, provided more positive innovations for wine than any other culture. It was the Greeks who were the first to preserve wine in airtight clay vessels.

Despite the leaps and bounds made by the ancient Greeks in the evolution of wine, it almost went for naught as the early Romans nearly wiped wine from all of recorded history. Engel described the early founders of Rome as similar to early American Puritans. For the first 600 years of the empire, wine was forbidden for consumption as ancient lore compelled the citizenry to adopt milk as the official drink of choice in the empire. It was not until the advent of wheat and bread production that wine began to rise in popularity with the ancient Romans.

The person doing the lecturing is one Elliot Engel, who is elsewhere billed as a ‘much-sought-after’ lecturer … his background is also given:

Originally from Indianapolis, Ind., Dr. Elliot Engel now resides in Raleigh where he teaches courses at North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. Engel earned his M.A. and Ph.D. as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at UCLA. While at UCLA, he won the university’s Outstanding Teacher Award. In addition for his scholarship and teaching, he has received North Carolina’s Adult Education Award, North Carolina State’s Distinguished Outreach Professorship and the Victorian Society Award of Merit.

It appears Dr. Engel’s background is actually English literature. While I can’t be sure that he is making the claims suggested in the aforementioned quote or whether it has been misfiltered by a reporter, it’s clearly silly to think the Romans had nothing to do with wine.

One thought on “Whining about Wine

  1. Interesting. The Thracians are not mentioned in this article either. As per historic records, they were ridiculed by the Greeks that they were drinking the wine without watering it down. No wonder that the God of wine was a Thracian god initially – Dionysus. And, of course, in the article there is no mention about the Thracians. Probably because they didn’t leave behind any literature for the Dr. Engel to read about. There is a lot of literature although by real cultural anthropologists and others about the wine history, including proofs that the oldest wine was made in Georgia (the country, not the state), followed by the Thracians and then the Greeks. You only have to go and see the gold and silver wine sets – fialas, jugs, etc. (in some case with more than 138 pieces) that the Thracian left behind, to understand how important was wine in their civilization.

    Wine, of course was very important for the Romans and the proof is the so called “The Wine Road” passing roughly on the same place as Via Ignatia.

    Anyway, we shouldn’t bother with popular misunderstanding. Thanks God, there is enough scientific literature on the history of wine.

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