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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for March 15, 2001


Wines, Ides and Julius Caeser

Since today is the ides of March, we speak of...Wines, Ides and Julius Caeser.


Prologue by today's guest author, William Shakespeare


CAESAR—"Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music."

SOOTHSAYER—"Beware the ides of March."

CAESAR—"What man is that?"

BRUTUS—"A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March."

CAESAR—"He is a dreamer; let us leave him."



[Time passes. Today Caesar is walking toward the Capitol. The soothsayer shows up.]

CAESAR—"The ides of March are come."

SOOTHSAYER—"Ay, Caesar; but not gone."

[Later, in the Capitol...]

CASCA—"Speak, hands, for me!"...and stabs Caesar in the neck, and by others, and last, by Brutus.

CAESAR—"Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!"...[and dies.]


Today Is the Ides of March

Ides is singular. In Roman times every month had an ides, either the 13th or the 15th. In March it was the 15th. Caesar died on March 15, 44 B.C.


Today's Wines—The Caesar Connection

My S.F. State University class tasted a number of wines from Italy. The top four are all descendants of wines that existed when the soothsayer had his say. Here they are. Incidentally, one of our best sources of information about wine grapes at Caesar's time is Pliny the Elder, who was born only 70 years after the assassination. (Christ was 25 years old when Pliny was born.)


Shriveled Grapes

The Romans found that letting red grapes partly dry before converting them to wine could produce a wine of exceptional intensity. Today we call it Amarone (ah-mah-row-neh), and the class gave this one a rating of EXCEPTIONAL.

1995 Amarone Classico della Valpolicella
By C. Cesari
Importer: OPICI Import Co., Carl Camasta, (201) 689-1200, FX (201) 251-8081, Publicity: Min Tak, FX (212) 261-4288
Price—$31 range


Volcanic Grapes

The grapes for this wine grow on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. An example is the Greco di Tufo, which the Greeks brought to Italy long before Caesar's time. Here's the white version. Buy the latest vintage you can get.

Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio (tears of Christ)
Dry white wine by Mastroberardino.
Importer: Paterno Imports
Contact: Elizabeth Cassanos, Ph.(847) 604-5740, FAX (847) 604-5849
Recommendation—You must try this sip of history.
Price—$15 range ?


Etruscan Grapes

Gabbiano LabelEtruscans from the Middle East had established winemaking from the precursor of the Sangiovese grape some five centuries before Caesar's time. Today we know the wine as Chianti, and the class liked this one.

1996 Chianti Classico Riserva (pictured)
By Castello di Gabbiano
Rating—America's formost wine authority, Robert Parker Jr., gives Gabbiano an EXCELLENT.
Contact—Phyliss Turner, (707) 963-7115, FAX (707) 963-1735
For full details, see the Dec. 25, 2000 WineDay.
Price—$17 range


The First Wine Grapes

Wine historians believe man's first wine was made from a Muscat grape. Muscat came to Italy from Greece. Pliny called it UVA APIANA, the "grape of the bees." Here's an outstanding one; the class voted it Best Wine of the Course.

Moscato di Pantelleria (dessert wine)
Pantelleria is an island 80 miles sonth of Sicily.
Grape—Muscat of Alexandria
Vine age—About 25 years
Harvest time—AUGUST!
Winemaking—Alcohol added to give content of 15.5%.
Service—With a lemon or fruit tart; I give it an hour in the frig before serving.
Importer—F. Wildman
Contact—Office of Amy Mironov, FX (212) 355-4723
Price—$18 range



Back to Caesar. When conquering Gaul (France), he found several tribes that forbid the consumption of wine. The reason? The leaders feared it would reduce their men's will to fight. Apparently they didn't notice that wine didn't seem to cause the Roman legions any problem!


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.



This page created March 2001