Saturday, April 30, 2022

Wine by Eden Monroe



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Wine is often referred to as the elixir of the gods, and indeed the making of it is one of the oldest practices of man. Viticulture dates back to Neolithic times, about 8,000 years ago, and Georgia in the ancient world is usually considered the “cradle of wine”. For a frame of reference, wine was being made thousands of years before beer according to, or indeed the invention of the wheel.

And since wine flows through a good part of Dangerous Getaway, although not in the way you might imagine, a few more wine tidbits might be in order.

It’s believed Roman winemakers were the first to store their product in glass bottles, the oldest bottle of wine unearthed so far dating back to 325 AD. It was also interesting to learn that instead of corks, the Romans poured a thin layer of olive oil on top of the wine after bottling, to preserve the contents within.

It also seems that winemakers in every part of the world are only limited by their imagination, with excellence being the universal standard. That’s likely why wine tasting is so popular, and while I am not in any sense of the word a connoisseur … of anything … it was fun to see what’s out there for those who might be looking for a bit of an unusual sip. I found a few, and here are some of the most unique offerings:

First up is lizard wine, a potent drink produced in China. The gecko has been the traditional choice of small carnivorous lizard to marinate in rice wine or whiskey for the better part of a year, before this delicacy is ready for the table. Another daring choice might be wine that’s made using snakes. Vietnamese snake wine is created by steeping a snake (preferably venomous) in rice wine, but if that isn’t tempting enough, why not consider snake bile wine? This is probably not for the faint of heart, and amateur winemakers should be aware that for the main ingredient, other than rice wine, you’ll have to extract the bile from a filleted cobra’s gallbladder. Presentation is key too, and like lizard wine, snake wine also has the reptile still inside the bottle.

For those who pale at the thought of reptilian wine, I found something I’m guessing might be substantially more inviting: wine made from chocolate and oranges. There’s also pumpkin wine for those who enjoy adding a little spice to their life, and how could you go wrong with wine made from handpicked rose petals? For tree lovers, how about a sparkling wine made from the sap of the silver birch tree?

Ahhh, the beautiful birch tree…. That’s the perfect segue to Dangerous Getaway and the intrigue of Birch Shadow where, shall I say, wine is a polite enticement … well, sort of, along with the inevitable wine cellar, because a large part of the wine experience, is storing it. And really, it’s all about scale, a wine cellar being functional for most, and a personal luxury for others.

Wine cellars date back to antiquity, in fact the largest, oldest wine cellar found thus far in the Near East, was unearthed during excavation by archeologists of a 3700-year-old Canaanite palace in northern Israel. The wines in that cellar, both white and red, were stored in fifty-litre clay jars. Of course the fermented drink had long ago evaporated from those ancient vessels, but the residue still clinging to the pottery suggested ingredients such as honey, mint, cinnamon bark and juniper berries. There was also evidence of tartaric acid and syringic acid, indicating it was indeed wine “consciously crafted and brewed according to a sophisticated recipe.”

Just like the drink itself, wine cellars can be a tribute to creativity. I did some digging to find the most noteworthy. The first is Castello di Amorosa: Napa Valley Castle Winery in Calistoga, California. It’s a 121,000 square foot winery housed in a 13th century medieval Tuscan-style castle. Ninety-five of the hundred and seven rooms are used for winemaking, and there’s one heck of a wine cellar. A VIP tour experience, which offers a private chef, a photographer, a barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon, transportation by limo and a key to the castle, is available for the price of  $20,000 per couple.

And did you know there are wine cellars under the Brooklyn Bridge? The next time you cross over to the Manhattan side, think of fine wines resting in the cool dark caverns beneath the 60,000-ton granite entrances. Established in 1876 (seven years before the official opening of the bridge to vehicle traffic), the Manhattan cellars have been storing wine ever since, except during prohibition of course.

And how about the largest wine cellar in the world? The Milestii Mici located in Maldova in Eastern Europe (between Romania and Ukraine) held that honour in the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records with 2,000,000 bottles in storage. But you’ll need your car to view the thirty-four miles of underground galleries, complete with streets named for each wine.

I even came across a few haunted wine cellars, and those on record for having resident spirits are all located in the United States. For instance at the Mansfield Winery in California’s Napa Valley, “several odd and frightening events” have been recorded.

There are no ghosts in Dangerous Getaway, friendly or otherwise, but let me ask you this, would you want to be in an old wine cellar, in the dark … alone?



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  1. I love wine, and your wine history was fascinating. I had no idea about reptile wine...and glad of it!
    I grew up near California wine country, Napa and the rest. Thank goodness Pennsylvania is now creating its own wines. Great post.

  2. I once tried to make dandilion wine. Wasn't bad tasting. Interesting project though

  3. In Canada, we have Ice Wine. It's a wine produced from grapes that froze while still on the vine. I'm not a wine drinker, but Ice Wine is my daughter's favorite's wine.

  4. Amazing the many different wines found in antiquity. So, when modern winemakers experiment with strawberry wine or other fruits and flavors, they are only repeating what their faraway ancestors did so long ago. Thanks for sharing.


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