“Dear Karen—I know that wine in the ancient world was far different from the wine we enjoy today. Could you describe what a typical wine was like in those times?” —Michael M. (Staten Island, New York)
Michael, I don’t think we really know except to surmise that many wines would have been cloudy and sweet, and that they often included other flavors from additives like pine sap, honey, and spices. Some of these foods might have been added to disguise the flavor of wine gone bad, but in other cases the additives were considered beneficial (helpful for digestion, brain health, a stronger constitution and so on). Many wines would also have been a little gritty with solids (skins) and may have been a bit fizzy if they were consumed before fermentation was complete. By the way, it wasn’t only in ancient history that other foods were added to wine. During and following Prohibition in the 1920s, beef broth and salt were added to American wines and doctors gave out prescriptions for these drinks—especially to women.