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by Fred McMillin
for August 17, 2000

 


THE NEW BABYLONIAN TIMES
"All the Cuneiform That's Fit to Print."

EXTRA!! EXTRA!!

FIRST WORDS WRITTEN
ABOUT WINE

King Gilgamesh Denied Taste
of Wine by Goddess Siduri
***
Misses Opportunity
To Become Immortal

Byline—Written by
Ben Bacchus,
Food & Wine Editor

 

The Rest of the Story

Babylon, c.l800 B.C.—The first words have been written about wine. The King Gilgamesh ruled a millennium ago. Since then he became the subject of a new literary device, the epic poem. While the tale grew to include both charming and dangerous gods and goddesses as it is passed from generation to generation orally, it is based on many historical facts.

Of Goddess Siduri's vineyard, clay tablet 10 says,

    "Grape vine was trellised, good to behold,
    Lapis lazuli it bore as grape clusters,
    Fruit it bore, magnificent to look upon."

Mrs. McMillin

My wife in a Persian kitchen that existed when the Epic was written.

Unfortunately for Gilgamesh, Siduri did not believe in letting mortals taste wine and hence, live forever, so he traveled on, finally finding the life-conferring plant at the bottom of the sea! Ecstatically heading home, he lost it to a serpent Dang!


Our Wine of the Day

Historians tell us Siduri's vineyard would have been planted with a domesticated Muscat. Hence, today's wine is a Muscat that always scores well in our tastings. My latest Ft. Mason (S.F. City College) class gave it an enthusiastic HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Here it is...

1998 Black Muscat dessert wine
Shenandoah Vineyards
Amador County
100% Black Muscat alias Muscat Hamburg
Sugar—6.5%
Alcohol—16.5%
Price—Great value at $12
Contact—Shirley Sobon, (209)245-4455, FAX (209)245-5156


Postscript—Ziggurats

The use of the artificial hills called Ziggurats for the planting of vines used to make wine was very common in Babylonia. The photo shows my wife in the outdoor kitchen of an ancient Persian ziggurat (east of Babylon) that existed during the reign of Gilgamesh. (See ziggurat discussion in Dionysus by Edward Hyams.)

Further reading—For the latest scholarship on wine origins and related archeology, see:

  • The Origins and Ancient History of Wine, Katz, McGovern, Fleming
  • The Stones Cry Out, Randall Price

     
    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 August 2000

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