« PreviousContinue »
It was so strong, that never any fill'd A cup, where that was but by drops instilled, And drunk it off, but 't was before allay'd With twenty parts in water; yet so sway'd The spirit of that little, that the whole A sacred odour breath'd about the bowl; Had you the odour smelt, and scent it cast, It would have vexed you to forbear the taste. But then, the taste gain'd too, the spirit it brought To dare things high, set up on end my thought. George Chapman's translation, 1609. We further learn that, through its potency, the Cyclop king, Polyphemus, not only lost his eye, but that Ulysses and his companions escaped from the doom prepared for them.
Wine was a favourite subject of the poets of Greece, as the ode of Anacreon and others testify, and likewise prove that the culture of the vine must have been well understood even three thousand years ago.
Anacreon, in the 19th Ode, has these beautiful
ΕΙΣ ΤΟ ΔΕΙΝ ΠΙΝΕΙΝ.
Ἡ γῆ μέλαινα πίνει,
At present, the Greeks find a ready market in Russia and Turkey, but are beginning to turn their attention to the establishment of a trade with England. They have made rapid strides in commercial
enterprise, and Greek merchants are now to be found. throughout the world. Not only individuals, but the Greek Government have been directing their attention to the improvement of their wines. Young Greeks have been sent to Burgundy, Champagne, &c., to be instructed in wine-making, and Frenchmen have been brought to Greece for the same purpose. Several wine companies have also been formed.
It is a curious and interesting fact, that some of the finest grapes (the sultanas, for instance) are devoid of stones, which is accounted for by the great age of the vines. The fact is undeniable, but the explanation dubious; and, as such grapes do not appear to exist elsewhere, they are probably of some peculiar species.
IMPROVEMENT OF WINE IN GREECE.
Underground cellars are not known in Greece, which of course militates against the preservation of her wines.
I have not had much opportunity of tasting the different qualities, but enough to form a decided opinion that many possess body and flavour which only require time, capital and skill, to make them severe competitors with the growths of other countries.
There is also a very large trade in currants, which might be made to produce a tenfold quantity of wine, should it become more profitable to apply the currant grapes to that purpose.
The following is a description of wine-making in Greece at the present day :
The Vine and its produce is another branch of Greek Agriculture, and for which the soil and climate of a large portion of Greece and its islands is well known to be highly favourable to the growth and yield of the vine; but it is most rudely cultivated, or rather neglected. One can scarcely imagine the amount of increase in the yield of the crop of grapes that would ensue if, for instance, that ordinary care in the cultivation of the vine, as adopted on the banks of the Rhine or the Rhone, were to be introduced into Greece. No one could question but that the yield would show a most enormous increase, as well as an improved quality of the produce, and which the climate and soil are peculiarly fitted to render. But if one asks in Greece, why the vine is not cultivated better and more extensively, the almost national dread of the impositions of the tax-gatherer is given as the popular reason why Greek vineyards are neglected, as well as the carelessness in respect to the cultivation of other products, and the universal need of roads throughout the country. Travellers are loud in their complaints of Greek wines, from their being impregnated with rosin ; this ingredient is used to preserve them, as casks or bottles are not found in Greece sufficiently suited to contain the wines, or to be used for their conveyance, for the clearest of all reasons, viz., that there are no roads over which casks or bottles of wine could with safety or convenience be carried; hence wines are kept in animal skins, and are carried in these to a place of sale. The skin is found to answer for this purpose, as it will yield to the projecting rock in the mountain pass, or the tree in the forest trail, without breakage or loss of its contents, while being borne along to a place of sale on the backs of donkeys or mules. It will thus be seen that the culture of the vine in Greece, and the subsequent management of its produce, is very far behind that which is adopted with such success in other vine-growing countries; yet the fruit is excellent, and the wines are good whenever ordinary care is observed in their treatment.
Lines on the Vintage Great Varieties-'Imperial' Tokay- Erroneous Ideas-Peculiar Properties-Natural Phosphor.
Dithyrambus in Vindemia horna.
Hungari dum sumus! Nam dat vinum copiosum, Jam in uvis gloriosum,
Almus sol et humus. Cælitus vindemia
Tollit vinitores: 'Vinum vetus ehibemus; Horno locum præparemus,'
Sed autumnus restaurabit
Hungari dum sumus!
Cætera sunt fumus.
LL accounts concur in describing Hungary as very fertile, with hills and mountains, on the slopes of which the vines attain the greatest perfection.
The estimated quantity is about 360,000,000 gallons, which, of course, rests on supposition; but, even were it correct, there is no doubt that the supply might soon be much increased, with improved quality. The delay and expense of bringing wines from Hungary are serious drawbacks, as may be seen by reference to the relative position of Pesth, &c.
and the nearest shipping ports, Hamburg or Bremen. By Trieste the expense is less, but there is a very long sea voyage.
In some cellars there are said to be immense stocks of old wine remaining, because the demand from abroad is so small ; but, although property is not subdivided, as in France, this holding of stocks for years, with little or no demand, is not easily comprehended.
In other great wine-growing countries, the producers are generally anxious to get their casks empty for the new vintage, even the first year ; and few have the capital, with the skill and patience essential for the preservation of natural wines.
It would be uninteresting to give the names of the places in which the various kinds are grown, but they are stated to be upwards of 600.
When Hungary is alluded to, 'Imperial Tokay' is usually associated with it, and the idea prevails that this is a wine of transcendently high quality; but a little practical experience would disabuse those who have this impression. On the contrary, it is coarse, sweet, and disagreeable, yet possessing qualities which cause it to be sought for by certain classes.
The following description has been given to me by one well acquainted with the produce of Hungary :
The district which produces this wine, and which takes its name from the principal town of Tokay, extends over an area of 24 English square miles. Prince Metternich never