Archeologists Reveal How Roman Wine Would Have Tasted

Archeologists Reveal How Roman Wine Would Have Tasted
Archeologists have revealed how Roman wine would have looked, smelled, and tasted around 2,000 years ago.

It is no secret that Ancient Romans loved their wine. Its consumption has been depicted in ancient texts as well as drawings and other archeological finds. But the intricacies of its production have so far been a mystery.

To discover more, researchers Dimitri Van Limbergen from Ghent University and Paulina Komar from the University of Warsaw compared ancient dolia—a type of vessel or vase used to hold wine back in Ancient Roman times—with similar containers used in modern-day winemaking. Dolia was utilized not just for holding the wine but for producing and aging it.
Dolias, or Roman pots for wine, in the ground.
This is how they would have been stored during the fermentation process.

Their findings, which are published in the journal Antiquity, included that Roman wine likely tasted slightly spicy and had aromas similar toasted bread and walnuts.

"The results of our study force us to question several long-held assumptions about Roman winemaking," Van Limbergen told Newsweek. "[Firstly], by using the techniques we describe in our paper, the Romans were able to make much better, more tasty, and much more stable wines than is commonly assumed.

 "The widespread nature of wine cellars with earthenware containers (dolia) in the Roman world between the 3rd or 2nd century AD and the 3rd or 4th century AD suggests the development of a wine industry on a scale never attained before, and with a level of expertise and a sensory profile long obscured," Van Limbergen said.

"Modern wine classification ideas are unhelpful to capture the nature of Roman wine. Wine colors, for example, were not standardly subdivided between white and red (as is done today), but for the Romans, they belonged to a wide spectrum of colors ranging from white and yellow to goldish, amber, brown, and then red and black, all based on grapes macerated on the skin."
According to the study, this is the first time the role of the vessels in Roman winemaking has been "scrutinized" meaning these are the first insights to ever come from such research.

Nowadays, most wine is made in large metal containers, which allows more wine to be mass-produced.

But the dolia are comparable to qvevri, which are pots used to create wine in Georgia. The process used in this wine-making process is very similar to how the Romans would have made their wine in Dolia.

According to the study, the narrow base of the fermentation vessel means solids from the grape are separated from the wine. Unlike a lot of the typical wines we consume, this fermentation process gave the liquid an orange color.
A dolia, a vessel that Romans made their wine in.
Researchers found that the wine would have made the mouth dry due to the clay vessel.


The spicy flavor was created by burying the dolia into the ground, the study said. This meant that pH and temperature were well controlled while the wine aged. Yeasts had more of an opportunity to force, producing a compound known as sotolon.

"Winemaking in qvevri and dolia is both extremely straightforward and an ingenious way of producing wine," Van Limbergen said. "Big wine cellars filled with dolia were investments of a kind that could only occur under economically favorable circumstances, and their presence attests to economic prosperity in the Roman world in Late Republican and Early Imperial times.

"At the same time, many households could afford one dolium, and winemaking was probably part of daily life in many families, making wine a product consumed across a broad social scale (many households today in Georgia make their own wine and keep it next to the kitchen or in a cellar inside a qvevri, this must have been quite similar in the Roman world)."

The texture of this wine would also have been different from the wine we consume today. The clay of the vessel gave the wine a "drying sensation" when in the mouth. According to the researchers, this was popular with Roman palates.

Not only does this research teach us how the wine tasted and smelled, but it also gives archeologists new details about how Romans lived. From the fermentation process, it is clear that the Romans knew many different techniques for creating wine and could vary how it tasted and smelled. They varied the tastes and smells by altering the shape of the dolia, and how they were stored.

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