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by Fred McMillin
for September 5, 2000

 

The Discovery of Wine
According to Omar Khayyam


In ancient Persia some 900 years ago, Omar wrote...

Long ago the mighty King Shariman at Herat in Persia had a brave son who was a marksman unexcelled in all the world. He saved the life of an eagle with a well-placed arrow that dispatched a snake coiled around the bird's neck. Exactly a year later the eagle returned to the spot of its salvation and from his beak deposited some strange seeds, unlike any King Shariman or his wisest advisors had ever seen.

They were planted and ultimately brought forth juice-laden fruit. Afraid to taste the strange fruit, the king had it stored in a large vat by the gardener. A few days later this good man, running toward the king, cried out, "The juice! O King! The juice is boiling! It's boiling without any fire!" The King: "Come back and tell me when it has finished boiling." In time the gardner reported that the boiling stopped, leaving a clear, ruby-red liquid. Fearful of the juice, the King had a good idea. "Quick, get one of the rascals out of the dungeon and let him try it!"

Two days later the guards brought the rascal before the King, who asked, "How did it make you feel?" The prisoner clearly had enjoyed it. "It was very good, and I only hope you will give me some more today."

When King Shariman heard all of this, he was very glad, pardoned the rascal and set him free. The king and learned consulted together and came to the conclusion that there was no greater blessing on earth than this juice. They called it "wine," and the plant from which it came, "vine."

To this very day you can see, outside the city of Herat, the garden where grapes grew for the first time and whence they began their triumphant progress through the great, wide world.

Clos du Lac

Clos du Lac logo.


Today's Wine

The great grape of ancient Persia was Syrah. It is still alive and well today, and here's one that surely would have dazzled King Shariman.

1997 Clos du Lac Syrah, $13
Sierra Foothills, Highway 88, Ione, California
Winemaker—Francois Cordesse is just as colorful as Omar's tale. Two years in the French navy, Master's in winemaking from Montpellier, worked four crushes at Chateau Cadillac in Bordeaux, one in Australia at Chandon and then to California. We reviewed his du Lac '96 dessert Muscat in the July 14, 1997 WineDay. My panel was startled by the quality then, and they were again with this Syrah.
Rating—I checked back 12 months and couldn't find another Syrah at or under $13 with as high a rating by my panel. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Contact—Carolis Deal, (800) 738-9463, FAX (510) 839-9991; Winery, (209) 274-2238, FAX (209)274-4147


Postscript

About Omar, my wife and I traveled hundreds of miles to see his tomb in eastern Iran. We were almost there when we were waylayed by a dizi sangi. The dizi is a regional cooking pot carved out of a single stone. My wife became so interested in learning DIZI recipes from the local cooks that we never did get to the tomb, but we did bring home (and still have) a very heavy dizi sangi.

Credits
The above consolidated version of the legend is based on:
a) Conversations with the University of Tehran's Dr. Hasan Javadi
b) How Wine Came To Man,!! Rochester Folk Art Guild, Middlesex, New York, undated.

 

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 September 2000

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