Archaeologists Have Determined What Ancient Roman Wine Tasted Like

Dolia in Ostia Antica

Dolia in Ostia Antica, Italy (Photo: AlMare via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The inhabitants of the ancient world routinely drank alcoholic beverages, as they were often safer than potentially polluted water. The ancient Romans were no different, as wine was a central part of their culture. By all estimates, they also drank a lot of it. Recently, archaeologists have been able to determine what their wine tasted like, allowing us to sense the flavor of the past.

According to a study published in Antiquity, Roman wine tasted somewhat spicy and smelled like “toasted bread, apples, roasted walnuts, and curry.” It typically had a unique orange tint in addition to its unique flavor, but the color of the wine could vary from white to golden to black, depending on the grapes used.

“By using the techniques we describe in our paper, the Romans were able to make much better, more tasty, and much more stable wines than is commonly assumed,” shared lead author and archeologist Dimitri Van Limbergen.

Traditionally, Roman wine was stored in dolia, large clay vessels that were partially buried in the ground. According to the researchers, this practice led to the spicy flavor of the wine, as the pH and temperature were well controlled as it aged.  Dolia were common in everyday Roman homes and are similar to vessels called qvevri, which are still used in traditional winemaking in Georgia.

This is a far cry from the stainless steel tanks that wine is often brewed in today, and researchers believe that the unique Roman choice of storage contributed to the wine's unique characteristics.

A recent study revealed that ancient Roman wine had a somewhat spicy flavor and smelled like “toasted bread, apples, roasted walnuts, and curry.”

Two Wine Glasses With The Coliseum In The Background

Photo: efesenko/Depositphotos

Romans fermented and stored their wine vessels called dolia, which are similar to earthenware pots still used in traditional winemaking in Georgia.

Traditional winemaking in Georgia

Qvevri being buried in a winery in Georgia. (Photo: Levan Gokadze via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)

h/t: [Smithsonian Magazine]

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Sarah Currier

Sarah Currier is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Based in central Iowa, she is currently enrolled at Iowa State University and is working toward a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in English. She loves all things creative, and when she’s not writing, you can find her immersed in the worlds of television, film, and literature.
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