by Fred McMillin
Let's go back to very early times. While living in Iran I hired a local scholar to search the archives at the University of Teheran for tales about the origin of wine. He translated one for me which is not in the conventional English literature. It is said to have been told by none other than Aristotle. Here are important passages.
"Jamsheed, the ancient king of Persia, is the first one who comes to the vine accidentally. While hunting he sees a vine with riped fruits in a mountinous place. They think of it as poisonous, pick the fruits, put them inside a small jar and the king orders to keep them in a safe place.
After a long time there was a guilty sentenced to death, so the king had him drink of the juice of those fruits. After drinking the juice, the man went to a heavy sleep and they imagined he was passing his last minutes of his life. But he wake up and was full of gay and wanted to drink the juice one more. Its impression was as before, so anybody was interested to drink of it. Finally the king himself [tried it], felt the same effection, became happy, and then order to plant this tree everywhere."
Jamsheed's wine was probably the precursor of the Syrah varietal, also called Shiraz. From ancient Persia, the Romans took it to the Rhone Valley in France nearly two millennia ago, the legendary James Busby brought it to Australia nearly two centuries ago, while California took a serious interest in it only two decades ago, but is coming on fast.
We have tasted it in all those locations, including the ancient Persian city of Shiraz. Here are our favorites, all of which are available in the U.S.A.
The Rhone: Chapoutier Hermitage
Australia: Rosemount Balmoral
California: Silkwood Syrah. For outlets phone the office of John Monnich, (800) 550-WINE.
They are substantial wines for substantial food.
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. He also writes a monthly column, On Wine.
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