Celtic Wine

The drink of choice among the wealthy is wine brought from Italy or the region of Massalia. It is normally drunk unmixed with water, although sometimes water is added.

Athaneus (fl. c. C. E. 200) Deipnosophistae trans. Phillip Freeman. (John T. Koch and John Carey eds. The Celtic Heroic Age. Celtic Studies Publications:
Maldon, MA, 1995).

There are a number of similar references in Classical sources to the Celts’ fondness for wine. Most references emphasize that the wine was unwatered, and that drunkenness was common. Drunkenness is one of the most common slurs cast at any “barbarians, yet there does seem to be some corroborating evidence regarding Celtic fondness for wine. There are the many amphorae found pretty much everywhere the Celts were found, including Britain.

And now, thanks to Luca Sormani, from Como, and Fulvio Pescarolo, from Robbio near Milan, both part of Italy’s northern region, you can buy a replica clay wine flask containing 80 centilitres of Uinom Laevum made with ancient recipes from grapes grown on a farm using ancient Celtic agricultural methods, and ancient Celtic for 140-160 euros ($170-$195). You can read Reuters’ take on the story here.

The Celts in question are the Insubri, the Boii and the Senoni, who migrated to the northerm Italian area known as Liguria (as in the Continental Celtic langauge Ligurian) during Rome’s Tarquin era, around 500 B. C. E. The region is the same area where the real Lambrusco is made. The techniques used to make the wine are based on the “Arbustum Gallicum” described by Roman historian Columella, in De Re Rustica. The soil, deposited by river, is sandy, and swampy, creating very specific growing conditions. There’s a reasonable description of the horticultural methods, in particular the way the vines are deliberately kept low, and the use of wooden casks (a Celtic innovation) here, in Italian.

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