Pietro de’ Crescenzi and How to taste wine

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I was doing some reading this afternoon and came across this quirky piece about the how to taste wine written by Pietro de’ Crescenzi at the beginning of the 15th century. Pietro de’ Crescenzi was a Bolognese author who wrote an important treatise on agriculture called the Opus agriculturae of Rutilus Taurus Aemilianus Palladius Part 4 of which was dedicated to vines and winemaking.

Crescenzi wrote that experts do not agree about the best time for a tasting, with some preferring to taste when the boreal winds are blowing from the north, because then the wines are ‘immutable’ and not subject to change, while others prefer to taste when hot winds are blowing from the south, which ‘moves the wine more’ and thus allows its most intimate nature to be appreciated.

He also discussed whether it was better to taste wine on a full or empty stomach and concluded that to truly understand a wine, one must not have eaten or drunk too much, or one should have at least fully digested the meal. It was however necessary to avoid bitter things, such as salad that could affect the taste of the wine.

He also had something to say about the sellers of wine (tavern keepers as he calls them). He warned of skulduggery by those who have a cask “scented with excellent aged wine” but into which was placed the “wine which they wish to sell” so as to make it seem better. He also warned that some conniving sellers would offer cheese and walnuts to those wishing to task the wine before purchase, as these would most certainly ‘falsify the sense of taste.’

Whilst Pietro de’ Crescenzi was writing in a cultural context quite different from our own, he makes fascinating reading for those interested in the history of wine.

Another interesting piece on the history of wine to follow soon.

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