An Italian Winemaker Is Resurrecting Julius Caesar's Favorite Wine

Eliza Gray history /
ancient winemaking tradition elba
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The craft of concocting alcoholic beverages is one shrouded in historical legacy. We often see successful labels returning to their roots and experimenting with ancient techniques to preserve the traditional taste. But in Italy, winemakers are taking it to a whole other level.

marine wine ancient italy
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The first pioneer worth mentioning is Antonio Arrighi, a winemaker from the Italian island of Elba. Back in 2018, Arrighi submerged a batch of grapes into the sea's waters for five days, recreating a process that dated back centuries. Antonio was hoping to emulate a wine that was a personal favorite of Julius Caesar, called marine wine. In fact, relics of the ancient process still lay on the Mediterranean seafloor close to Arrighi's vineyard on Elba island. But what was the secret effect that the seawater had on the grapes?

julius caesar ancient wine
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According to Italian historian Pliny the Elder, these seawater techniques weren't shared with anyone back in the day. But academics and historians of the period have since uncovered the mysterious practice. During their time underwater, the grapes would shed a waxy layer on their surface and soak in the salt and minerals from the sea, thus shortening the drying process. Overall, the flavor would be enriched, and the wine would come out with a sweeter taste.

elba island winemaking tradition
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Marine wine was said to be a favorite of the time and has since become a hot commodity from Elba island and beyond. While the thought of plunging sweet grapes in the salty sea may be a strange notion to many, according to Angela Zinnai, the two pair exceptionally together. "There's a long love story between the sea and wine," the University of Pisa's food technology professor shared. "The sea represented the way for wine and its culture to be transported from the place of production to those of consumption - to every country in the world."

italian winemaking traditions marine
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But the results of Arrighi's experiment weren't just for study - they were for enjoyment too. "I've never drunk a wine like this in my life," Antonio praised. "It allows you to journey through time and appreciate the beginnings of winemaking." So, if you're looking for a delicious glass to transport you through history, look no further. Check back soon for more interesting moments in history...