Page images



As soon as it enters the gates it is destined to far worse adulteration of every kind, and lucky is he who gets a bottle of pure and sincere wine from any osteria, bettola, or canova di vino within the walls.

To guard against the levying of private customs in kind by the carrettiere, each is furnished with a little barellette for his own consumption, filled with the best wine. This, however, he is too wise to drink, as his thirst can always be satisfied by milking the wooden cow of the padrone, and he therefore keeps it unadulterated for sale on his own account in Rome, where purchasers are always ready to give him a good price, and to thank him too.

The principal Roman vintners have subterranean caves under Monte Testaccio, that huge artificial hill of eartben shards at the foot of the Aventino, near the pyramid of Caius Sestius. Here they store their great butts of wine, and carry on their adulterations at first hand. From here the wine is distributed in detail among the shops and osterias, where it is submitted to new practices. As it is, therefore, comparatively pure at Monte Testaccio, this is a favourite resort of the Romans on festa afternoons, who go there to play boccie or pallone on the open space, and drink wine, and lunch on the benches and tables set out before the wine-cellars and osterias. The porous character of the hill itself is well adapted to preserve the wine, and the cellars are well worth visiting.

After the vintage is over, come the October festivals, the ottabrate as they are called, when the Romans twice a week during the whole month are in the habit of going out to the villas and poderi about Rome in companies, to dance, sing, and picnic under the trees. Every Monday and Thursday they may be seen dressed in the gayest costumes, and crowded, as in Carnival times, into an open carriage, some sitting on the hood, some on the box, and shaking their tamborelli and thrumming their guitars as they pass along through the streets of the city. The carriage is generally decorated gaily, and the horses wear bright ribbons and feathers on their head-stalls and saddles. In the Villa Borghese every Thursday groups are gathered everywhere, with their picnics spread out on the grass. There they sing and dance the saltarello, and give themselves up to fun and frolic with an abandon and disregard of bystanders peculiarly Italian.



Bacchus, the God of Wine-Pan-His Conquests by Wine - Homer's

Description of a celebrated Wine-Its Potency-PolyphemusUlysses—The Islands of the Archipelago—Cyprus—Commanderi - Malmsey-Santorin-Smyrna-Tenedos-Currants.

BUNDANT evidence exists, both in sacred and

profane writings, that vinous beverages were known to nations whose very existence has been lost in the lapse of time. It does not therefore surprise us that the Greeks should have placed Bacchus, the god of wine, and of wine-drinkers, in the highest rank, making him the son of Jove himself, and his most especial care, after the death of Semele.

His birthplace is not stated, but we learn that his youth was passed in the vine-covered islands of the Archipelago. He is generally represented as a handsome, effeminate young man, possessing eternal youth, thus denoting the pleasure and good effects to be derived from the moderate use of wine; but the reverse of this picture is also given by painting him as old and infirm, to warn his followers that inordinate indulgence will reduce us to weakness and decrepitude.

Accompanied by Pan, Silenus, fauns and satyrs, he extended his victories over the human race, making some of the greatest monarchs and philosophers his slaves. His crown was the vine, his thyrsus the wine-cup

'Tis true, my fading years decline,
Yet can I quaff the brimming wine,
As deep as any stripling fair,
Whose cheeks the flush of morning wear;
And if, amidst the wanton crew,
I'm callid to wind the dance's clue,
Then shalt thou see this vigorous hand,
Not faltering on the Bacchant's wand,
But brandishing a rosy flask,
The only thyrsus e'er l'll ask!
Let those, who pant for Glory's charms,
Embrace her in the field of arms;
While my inglorious, placid soul
Breathes not a wish beyond this bowl.
Then fill it high, my ruddy slave,
And bathe me in its brimming wave.
For though my fading years decay,
Though manhood's prime hath pass'd away,
Like old Silenus, sire divine,
With blushes borrow'd from my wine,
I'll wanton 'mid the dancing train,
And live my follies o'er again !

The greater part of Greece proper, the islands of the Grecian Archipelago, and Asiatic and European Turkey, are well adapted for the cultivation of the vine ; and the Christian population bestows incessant care upon it. They have an ancient custom in many places of mixing rosin, chalk, and tar with their new wine, which makes it very unpalatable to those not used to it. In the Islands of Cyprus, the kind known


as Commanderi (evidently derived from the time of the Crusades), is mixed with about one-third of tar, which is said to impart mellowness and softness, when kept for some years.

for some years. It is a most luscious wine. Napoli de Malvasia, in Laconia, in the Peloponnesus, gives its name to the malmsey, once much used in England, and known to all as connected with the death of George Duke of Clarence.

It is an historical fact, as well authenticated as most others, that the duke was such an exquisite connoisseur of his favourite malmsey, that even when gasping in the butt, he raised his head and exclaimed, • This is not genuine.'

The small island of Santorin, being comparatively level, and of volcanic origin (as, indeed, are most of the islands), is almost covered by vineyards, and duces about one-tenth of the whole quantity made in Greece. In ancient times some of the most celebrated kinds came from the neighbourhood of Smyrna ; and now, much of that which is used in Constantinople is said to be grown in the Island of Tenedos, and on the contiguous plains of Troy. That very strong wines were made in Greece and Thracian Ismarus we know; for Homer, in the Ninth Book of the Odyssey, writes of Maron, the minister of Apollo

He fetch'd me gifts of varied excellence ;
Seven talents of fine gold; a book all framed
Of massy silver ; but his gift most famed
Was twelve great vessels, tillid with such rich wine,
As was incorruptible and divine.
He kept it as his jewel, which none knew
But he himself, his wife, and he that drew.


« PreviousContinue »