Renaissance (Spell Checked!) Period by Anthony Blackburn

Thanks goodness for spellcheck.
Forget it.
“Ren” period.
That word has always been trouble for me. And I’ma gud speler!
We’ll make it easy tonight and just say “Ren” period. It’s late. Work all day. School all night. I’m pretty wiped out. But at the same time, I’m energized. Excited to tell you about my experience tonight, in my Cultural Appreciation of Wine class at Napa Valley College.
Tonight, our instructor, Paul Wagner, spoke on the ……..”Ren” period.

The Renaissance is the “rebirth” of Europe. Necessarily so. The Ren period was not by accident. it was by necessity. Rome had fallen. Roman Villas became feudal city states. Some became loosely aligned with each other. “Primogenitor” became the way property was passed down through generations and it created the structure of a stratified culture. It was strictly enforced. Land, titles, property and work passed down from the father to the eldest son. Son #2, #3 and #4? S.O.L.. Outta luck. Sorry. As anything other than the eldest son, your options were the military or the clergy. And the clergy wasn’t a bad option. You got to make all the wine.
Then comes Black Death. The Plague. 30-50% of Europe was wiped out.

Imagine yourself in a village of a few hundred people. There is a Butcher. A Baker. A Candlestick Maker. These jobs had been passed down from father to first born son for hundreds of years. Now, with Black Death taking it’s toll, jobs were opening up! The Butcher dies. So does his son. Who will slaughter and butcher animals? The Baker dies. So does his first born son. Who will provide baked goods to the village now? You get the idea. The concept and institution of primogenitor does not work in this circumstance. Rebirth of culture was needed. With all the “job openings” in your village now, if you were son #2, 3 or 4, you could take nearly any job, so long as you could do it. No longer was primogenitor the structure and foundation of the European culture. The Ren period had arrived.

The Ren period was a time of great discovery and expansion of the human body of knowledge. Music, art and science flourished.

Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael. Botticelli, and Donatello are just a small handful of great men whose impact on the human species lives on even today. Politics was replaced, in large part, by pragmatism. With the influence of Venetian and Genoan trade power houses, war was sometimes replaced by commerce.
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In the feudal times of the Medieval period, you killed your rivals. In the Ren period, you ran them out of business.
This was also an age of exploration. Explorers from Spain, England, Portugal and other countries, brought back exotic foods from far away lands. Things like the tomato. The red pepper. Rice. Peanuts. Eggplant. All manner of exotic foods. As such, the kitchens changed in the Ren period, too.
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Food was becoming more recognize able to our contemporary palates.

Much literature was written during the Ren period on grape growing and wine production, favoring a more scientific approach.
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Oak cooperage was beginning to be used. However, sweet, oxidized wines were still the wines of the time.

As instructor Paul Wagner told us tonight, we are not at the pinnacle of eonological and gastronomic development. Just as in the Ren Period, we are right now, just in a snap shot of time. Tastes change, foods change. Wine styles change. Things come into favor and go right back out. Food changes. Wine changes. We change.

Along with our now normal feast, reflecting the foods of the time, we sampled what are thought of as more or less typical type wines for the Ren period.

2004 Prinz Hallgartener Jungfer, Rheingau Riesling from Auslese
2004 Chateau Cantemarle. This winery dates back as far as 1354, when the owner, Ponset de Cantemerle, was recorded as paying a debt with a tonneau of clairet – a barrel of the local wine.
Bosquet des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape Tradition. This wine is 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Cinsault.
2005 Domaine des Rochelles Cabernet D’anjou
2002 Lopez de Heredia “Viña Cubillo” Crianza, Rioja. This wine was very light and oxidized, with a little sweetness. Paul told us this is probably the most authentic wines of the ren priod.
Last, but certainly not least, one of the students brought in thier own, home made, Napa Valley Cabernet Franc Claret.

I really appreciated the research that went into the student made Cabernet Franc Claret. They added some Merlot and a bit of Sauvignon Blanc. An excellent wine.
In fact, I now know where my Cab Franc is going this year.

Student of the Grape at Napa Valley College
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