Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rediscovering Victorian Drinking

What motivated me to attempt the discovery, or rediscovery, of the winemaking techniques available to the pre-automotive farmers and householders of America?

Partly it must have been that very lack of Martha's and mine, of the necessary equipment for Age of Masses winemaking. I was simply making do -- while trying to think how early-Modern winemakers made do.

I was also curious about what it is that they drank. I have studied some of their lives ... but how did their kitchen wines taste? What was it that they served to one another, in their Sunday-afternoon circles of visiting and socializing? What did they sip, on a convivial evening?

Another aspect to the situation is the almost inescapable presence of sulfite additions to the commercially produced wines being sold here in our Age of the Masses times. Did sulfites come into use as stoneware jugs fell out of use? (I would guess not, since books such as Bravery's will include mention of both Camden tablets and jugs that were presumably stoneware.) Whenever the transition did happen, sulfiting became an industry standard, and, perhaps soon thereafter, a household and farm standard.

Sulfiting seems to have made possible the mass-shipping of cheap wine around the globe -- as anyone knows who, like Martha, reacts in the lungs to their presence. Cheap imported wines bring on a worse bronchial reaction than do domestic ones. The sad aspect of the situation is that sections of organic wine, such as found even in our local-boosting Viroqua Food Co-op, are dominated by foreign wines.

We have come to dismiss cheap and inexpensive import wines out of hand. The mega-production that makes the prices possible seems to lean heavily on sulfiting practices that compromise one's chances of enjoying the wine.

What is the use of wasting those fewer dollars per bottle, when you might be fruitfully spending a few more dollars for a better experience?

Cheers ...

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