EGYPTIAN WINE LABELING
Egyptian Wine Classifications: Beyond
date, maker, quality
& origin - classifying wine by its
function – e.g. celebrating first class functions, tax
collection day, wine for
dancing. wine for offerings, wine for a happy return and of course wine
THE PURPOSE OF
WINE V 1.03
There is much discussion these days regarding wine labeling.
general we are in the camp that "more is better". Truth in
labeling is historically important.
But something too often overlooked is THE PURPOSE OF WINE.
Should not the purpose of wine also be written on its label?
reading THE PHILOSOPHY OF WINE by Roger Scruton:
“The Ancient Egyptians,
incidentally, while they
often labeled wines with the place of their production and would trade
the best supplier around the Mediterranean,
would classify wines by their social function. Archaeologists have
amphorae labeled as “wine for first-class
celebrations”, “wine for tax
collection day”, “wine for dancing”, and
I had an AHA moment: Wine
writers usually discuss WHY
buy a particular wine. The far more essential issue or
question I suddenly realized is WHY was this wine born or made?
It struck me that I would
like to encourage the adaption of a modern version of ancient Egyptian
- YEAR OF HARVEST
- TYPE OF WINE
- AREA OF PRODUCTION
- NAME OF ESTATE (PHARAOH, TEMPLE OR PRIVATE PERSON)
- NAME OF WINE MAKER
- QUALITY (GOOD, VERY GOOD OR EXCELLENT)
Naturally, the listing of vintage year, name of the estate,
with estate owner and chief vintner was reserved for premium wines.
Others labeled of good quality or simply identified by the house that
produced them the equivalent of the today's French Vin de Pays or
French country wine.
But what is of greater significance is the addition of the specific purpose or occasion
for which the wine was prepared:
Is it to celebrate a first class
Clearly a vintage champagne or Bordeaux &
Burgundy investment wines are appropriate for first class occasions.
Is it a wine for
The first wine that comes to mind for "merriment" is Australian Shiraz.
Additionally, we might think of higher alcoholic or heavily fortified
hardly classical Egyptian, I am reminded of the teenage
desire to "get drunk.")
Broadly speaking, I view wine as serving one of two functions:
Food or Wine
With the former, there are many classic
rules as well as modern matching principles, the latter especially
applicable for New World
wines or those without traditions. Some authors
have written about what wine is best for celebrations such as
Thanksgiving or Valentine's Day. Many have written about
seasonality or selecting food and wine by the seasons. But I
would argue, if the Wine is the star attraction, THINK
INSCRIPTIONS NEW KINGDOM AMPHORAE RECORD
The following list is derived from the 1400 Labels of Amenhotep III El
Malkata Western Thebes.
Note: I would welcome any readers who are proficient egyptologists to
make additions to the following list to make it more comprehensive.
FOR HAPPY RETURN (Bon Voyage)
FIRST CLASS FUNCTIONS
We have already mentioned the obvious modern wine
choices for first class
occasions to be the likes of a first growth Bordeaux, Grand Cru Burgundy
But which wines are best
If we wish to serve a "wine for
dancing", would we not also need to know the music
In Ancient Egypt dancing often accompanied celebrations, feasts,
religious services and funeral rites. [While there were also
specialized dances for other purposes e.g. military, drama etc, I
presume wine was most likely served before or after but not to
accompany such events.] We understand many dances were
in nature, and meant to honor, celebrate, mourn, or pacify various
Gods. Again I presume the choice of wine was made according
the purpose of each function*
So thinking in modern terms, would it be correct to select an
Argentina Malbec as appropriate for tangos, while an Austrian
Gruener Veltliner is better for Waltzes?
But clearly there is more. If we think about jazz and wine, we have
many different styles of jazz, each having its "match made in heaven"
We have more research to do. I will post the results
in a future blog. **
Readers are happily encouraged to do similarly and hopefully
share the fruits of their drinking labors and comments below:
What Egyptian wine would I most desire to taste? Personally, I would
love to have a cellar full of sweet wines from the House of
Aton of the Western River. Its Chief Vintner Aperershop labeled the
purpose of this wine to be "Life, Prosperity & Health".
* Wine was
the main offering made by pharaoh to the gods in funerary and ritual
scenes. While there were several Egyptian gods and goddesses
associated with wine,
it was Osiris who was equated by the historian Herodotus with the Greek god
Dionysus. Soon after picking the grapes, vine leaves would fall down and
the vine itself would seem dead. Some months later the vine would sprout
again. This cycle was seen by the Egyptians to correspond to the death
and resurrection of their god Osiris.
** We were wondering about which wines match classic rock`n`roll music. One answer may be the wines that rock each
inspired by some of the world's great bands e.g. Rolling Stones "Forty
Licks" Merlot, Woodstock Chardonnay, Pink Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon"
Cabernet Sauvignon. etc. Here clearly the wine making has been
explicit in labeling the purpose WHY these wines were made.
Another example is one answer to the classic food and wine pairing
conundrum: "What wine to drink with curry?" was the inspiration in 2007
for Balti Wine to
develop and market five Argentinian blended wines (each with a distinct
bottle top colour to denote its "chili rating") to
match all spicy foods.
1. "The early Egyptians confined much of their well tendered vineyards to walled-in gardens (wine gardens!)
2. It is also interesting to note that Wine in
Egyptian is irp, which is thought to
for a 'burp' or hiccup from drinking either too much wine or too quickly. :)
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King Tut's Wine Cellar Leonard Lasko
Wine in Ancient Egypt Maria Rosa Guasch Jane
Inscriptions from the Palace of Amehotep III
A YEAR OF WINE Perfect
Pairings, Great Buys, and what to Sip for Each Season Tyler Colman, aka
WINE FOR EVERY
DAY AND EVERY
OCCASION Dorthy Gaiter & John Brecher
(c) 2010 Henry Weingarten