Nov 19, 2010

Wine making way in ancient Egypt

A preferreddrink for rich, gods and to the dead

Wine, known as yrp to the Egyptians, was veryexpensive. It was drunk by those who could afford it, used as offerings to thegods and to the dead. The resurrected pharaoh was known as one "one of thefour gods ... who live on figs and who drink wine." Even in later times,the Greek tourists report that wine was confines to the wealthy. Though wine,too, was occasionally given out as pay - the workmen at the pyramids at Giza had four kinds of wine to drink, along with five kinds of beer.

Ancient Egyptian Wine Jar with Stopper The wordwine, funnily enough, predates the word for vine, so it seems that theEgyptians imported wine long before they imported grapes to the Nile valley.

The Egyptians has several different kinds ofwine, some of which have been commended by ancient authors for their excellentqualities. That of Mareotis was the most esteemed, and in the greatestquantity.

Athenæus tells us that the Mareotic wine was"white, its quality excellent, and it is sweet and light with a fragrantbouquet; it is by no means astringent, nor does it affect the head."Strabo wrote that the wine was also known for its long shelf-life.

Other wines of note to the Greeks wereTeniotic, Thebiad, Sebennytic, Thasian, Manfesian, Ecbolada (forbidden to newlymarried brides!) This was only a small sample of wines made throughout Egypt. Itseems, though, that the favourite wine from the Old Kingdom onwards was red wine. The white wine that the Greeksfavoured was only produced from the Middle Kingdom onwards.

In ancient party scenes on the tomb walls, wineis seen offered to the guests. It seems that a lot of wine was consumed at thebanquets, because there are a number of images depicting the guests throwing upor being carried home because of their drunken state - drunkenness was seen asan amusement to the ancient Egyptians!

At celebrations of drunkenness to the Eye ofRa, wine was also drunk by those who could afford it. The temples associatedwith the goddesses had their own vineyards to make sure that the celebrants hadenough wine for the rituals. Wine was also an acceptable offering to the gods.

The search for the recipes and wine types ofthe Egyptians have yielded mixed results within the delta region of the Nile. Due to the climatic changes since the time ofancient Egypt,quests for the right vine, the right mixture of materials, and other factors,have left the modern renditions of ancient Egyptian wine with something to bedesired ... It was not until 1931 that the first modern rendition of ancientEgyptian wine was produced. This rendition of the ancient wine continues to bemade in the present day, however, many wine connoisseurs consider it of poortaste. Regardless, the taste of the ancients is still present 3,500 yearslater.

Treding on grapes to make wine Egypt had vineyards all over the country, thoughmost of them were in the Nile delta. Grapeswere hand picked, then placed in a vat for traditional treading on the grapes,or in special wine presses. The resultant juice was captured in open jars,where the fermentation process took place. When ready, these jugs were sealedand marked with the date, name of the vineyard and the person in charge of thewine. Aged in these earthenware jars, they had to be broken when it was time todecant the wine, and then poured into yet another earthen jar. When the winewas ready to be served, it was poured into shallow vessels with a short stem.

In the Pyramid Texts the god Shesmu brings theking grape juice for wine production. Although he was a god of wine and of thewine press, he was also a vengeful god - in a papyrus from the 21st Dynasty,Shesmu his cruel side was shown by two hawk deities twisting the net of thewine press which contains three human heads instead of grapes. Hathor, also agoddess of wine (and beer), was also both a goddess of love and a goddess of destruction.

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