A Taste of the Past

At this weekend’s wine fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center there was a number of really good and interesting wines. Many wine producers were there to find a distributor in Florida, so it was a great opportunity to taste wines that aren’t available here.

Wine has been around for thousands of years. It was a part of everyday life in Ancient Rome; Romans had a big influence on viticulture and brought vines to new lands they conquered. One Italian winemaker had the idea to make wine in the same way it was made back then. As someone who has been fascinated by Ancient Rome since elementary school, I made this booth one of my first stops.

As I learned from the Italian man promoting the simply named “Wines of the Ancient Rome,” Roman wine had a salty taste due to the use of salt water in making wine and the high salt content in the soil. It struck me as a creative premise for making wine, though perhaps not the most appetizing one.

The grapes used to make the current version of Roman wine are grown by a saltwater lagoon in the east of Veneto in a city called Brussa, near Venice. It’s in the same area where Romans produced wine 2,000 years ago. The grapes absorb salt from the soil, which then comes through in the taste of the wine. Caligola, their white wine, is made from mostly Pinot Grigio. It’s light and fruity, with hints of lemon and white pear. The salty taste is on the finish. It’s not overwhelmingly salty like if you swallowed ocean water, but you can definitely taste salt. Cesare Augusto, the red wine, tastes like a mix between Pinot Noir and Merlot, with strawberry and black plum flavors. It has a thin mouth-feel with a mild amount of tannins, but is missing the complexity of other reds at the fair. The saltiness too came out at the end but was more subtle than in the white.

These wines would be fun to drink while learning about Roman history and they’d be a great conversation starter at a wine and cheese party but I’m not sure how well they’d do at a restaurant in the United States. It’s a great concept for wine but there is something to be said about those 2,000 years of improving grape growing and wine making techniques.