Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Wine Smoking

Of all the many ruined buildings, temples and fountains in Glanum, these rooms were the most intriguing to me....

According to my guide book this building was constructed during the Hellenistic period (late 2nd-early 1st century BCE) and was originally a healing sanctuary. During Roman times, however, it was used for agricultural purposes. Each of the vaulted rooms had a fireplace that allowed for free smoke circulation within the room. The rooms were discovered filled with amphorae suggesting that the rooms were used for 'smoking' wine, a method of preserving it

Reading about the preservation of both natural and fermented grape juice (wine) in this article was very revealing. Not easy...any of it....in these ancient times. Wine quickly went bad becoming infected with bacteria that rendered it smelly, moldy and undrinkable. There were numerous methods for preventing this...adding boiled down must, adding salt, spices, or marble dust to the wine, or adding pitch or resin to it. Ick! These methods were not fool-proof. Wine was sold with the caveat that the buyer had 3 days to taste and approve of the wine. If it was still good after 3 days, he was stuck with it even if it went bad on Day 4. Once wine soured or developed a bad taste, there were some ways to fix it, however. One such way was to heat a roof tile in the fire, coat it with resin and then lower it with a string into the amphorae of bad wine. After sealing it in the jar for two days, the foulness should be gone. If not, repeat the process until it is!

Apparently, smoking was another way the Romans used to preserve their wine. Smoking artificially aged the wine in the sealed amphorae and kept bacteria from infecting the wine. At least, that's the theory. We'll probably never know how well it worked. Somehow I think that even the best Roman wine would fall far short of our modern standards.


  1. Fascinating stuff! Great photos as ever, and I like the gent who spews water too.

  2. Not sure how good smoked wine would have tasted...nor wine "fixed" with a hot roof tile coated in resin. I wonder what they did with all the wine that went off. Doesn't sound like it would have made edible vinegar either. I think I'd find these rooms to be the most intriguing too. Also, I have to agree with everything Deborah says in the comment above.