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The Sweet Taste of Ancient Winemaking

The ancient world may have struggled with written language, antibacterial medications, and a workable system of democratic governance, but they certainly solved the riddle of making delicious wine. Many, if not most, modern wine-making practices — trellising, pruning, manipulation of grape-skin contact with the fermenting juice, fermentation locks, and so on — all have been used in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean Basin for thousands of years. Problems did exist, to be sure. For example, our winemaking ancestors didn’t work out airtight stoppers for their amphorae. Consequently, they mostly drank their wine young, before oxygenation and harmful bacteria could take over. Eventually, adventurous winemakers discovered that wines with both residual sugar and high alcohol were more stable for travel and aged better. And the additional time in amphorae allowed the sweet wines to mellow and develop nuance. Of course, sweetness offered another attraction as well — at that time, honey was just about the only other way to satisfy a sweet tooth, and it was extremely expensive.Crete is credited with devisi …

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