Harvest time was a magical time. And it still is. But much more so, before the days of refrigeration, processed food that can be frozen and and giant mega stores where 6 months worth of lima beans can be had for a song. A time when people either struggled for survival, or survived on a monotonous diet of bread and a little meat. Think of your cupboards and refrigerator being slightly above bare for 10 months of the year. Think of going for long stretches with little food. Then think of the bounty that harvest times bring. Vegetables, fruit, grains, all aplenty. It’s certainly a far cry from our lives today.
In Cultural Appreciation of Wine at Napa Valley College, we pondered these issues and in the second half of class, after lecture, we had a “feast”, modeled after what was available to people, long before the times of supermarts.
On the menu:
3 types of goat cheese
olives cured in oil and brine
Figs and grapes
Lentil and onion stew and pita bread
Salt, vinegar and oil were our condiments
And of course, we thought there must have been one or more winemakers in out little village. Even in times that many of us in the modern day would consider slightly above barbaric, there was culture.
Our feast would not have been complete without wine. Wine that was common to the times, some 3,000 years ago. it was unlike our wines of today. In fact, often times, it was mixed with other ingredients. Spices, honey, milk, water. All were put in wine. Winemakers each must have had their own special recipe. our special recipe, prepared by Paul Wagner, our instructor, was a special blend.
To a very volatile burgundy, he added about 20% water, a 20 year old Barolo and a non descript CA red table wine, opened and left to the elements for two weeks.
This “ancient” wine had sediment, oxidation and a brackish character. Although when polled, students reported flavors and aromas of spices, honey, broth and sherry.
Behold the versatility and intrigue of wine. A blend, that if we had known about it, most of use would have sent down the sink without so much as a second thought, producing such a wide variety of pleasant characteristics.
Such was the wine of the ancients and the celebration of the harvest.
Anthony Blackburn is a student at Napa Valley College in the Viticulture and Winery Technology Department. He is also the Student Sales and Marketing Intern responsible for selling the wines made by the students in the student winery. www.napavalley.edu/winery