by Fred McMillin
for April 1, 1999


April Fool!


Robert Mondavi Winery  
For over three centuries the first day of April has been known as April Fools' Day. Practical jokes are played on this day.

Here's one of my best, wine-related, naturally. In fact, Bartholomew Broadbent was in the audience and later wrote, "thank you for a such an amusing evening."

The Joke

San Francisco food and wine writers were invited to preview the opening of a new, prestige restaurant in the financial district. The very successful chef-owner, Faz, was from Iran. So, he asked me to speak about the legend of the discovery of wine by his forefathers in ancient Persia, based on what I had learned during my three years in Teheran.

I opened with a tribute to my best source, Dr. Hasan Javadi, Chairman of the English Department at Teheran University when I was there in the 1970s. He knew all the versions of the discovery, and could have done a much better job than I. In fact, I then raised my hands toward the heavens and cried out, "DR. JAVADI, WHERE ARE YOU WHEN I NEED YOU?"

The room was silent. Then from a table in the back came a voice: "I'M RIGHT HERE!" You see, I had discovered that Dr. Javadi, with degrees from the University of Tabriz, the Sorbonne in Paris, and Cambridge in England, was a guest lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley! In any case, the press then received the most authentic review of the discovery legends that I've ever heard. The essence of them all is that grapes were stored in a jar, an ominous-looking fluid developed that boiled without heating, and the jar was then labeled "Poison." Subsequently, the liquid was consumed, produced ecstacy instead of death, and the king declared that the country should make wine in the future. In some versions, a lady drank it, in others it was a man who made the discovery. Dr. Javadi translated what he regarded as one of the best sources, the multi-volume Iranian encyclopedia. It said that wine was discovered by---a man.

Today's Wine

The evening's dessert was Sholeh Zard, saffron rice pudding with pistachio and cinnamon. I selected this wine to be served with it, along with Shirini, "homemade cookies," to add something crunchy. I heard murmers of praise from nearby tables.
1988 Moscato d'Oro by the Robert Mondavi Winery
Napa Valley Dessert Wine
Contact—Office of Nancy Light, Phone l-888-RMONDAVI
Current Moscato—It's now released under the La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi label; the 1997 is only $12 (375 ml.)


We chose the Muscat because most historians believe that the first wine we're talking about was from Muscat grapes.

About the Writer

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. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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