by Fred McMillin
for September 28, 1999


A Five-Star Jar


"Whilst the Annals of almost every Nation of political importance have been illustrated by eminent British Writers, Persia seems hitherto to have been generally neglected. It must, therefore, be allowed to be highly desireable that this blank in our Literature should be filled up...a sense of my own want of qualifications as an Author long deterred me from undertaking it...I had left my native country and entered the army of India the thirty-first year of the Hejirah. My principal object in undertaking this Work was to supply information that could not be obtained from historians of Greece and Rome, [so] I have in general followed Eastern authors."

...Sir John Malcolm, The History of Persia, 1815

Why do we wine enthusiasts care about Sir John's landmark work written long ago? Well, those Eastern sources included a manuscript by a Moullah Ackber that provided in English one of the first accounts of The Discovery of Wine. It is a footnote on page 16. It tells of the legendary King Jamsheed who "was the first to discover wine. He was immoderately fond of grapes, and desired to preserve some, which were placed in a large vessel and lodged in a vault for future use. When the vessel was opened, the grapes had fermented; their juice, in this state, was so acid, that the king believed it must be poisonous: he had some vessels filled with it, and poison written upon each."

My wife in an ancient Persian kitchen that existed when winemaking was discovered in the 4th century B.C.

The story goes on about a member of the king's harem who suffered such severe headaches she attempted suicide by drinking from one of the jars. But she felt so much better that in time she consumed all the "poison," and ultimately confessed to the King. Sir John's translation concludes, "A quantity of wine was made: and Jamsheed, and all his court, drank of the new beverage, which, from the circumstance that led to its discovery, is to this day known in Persia by the name of ZEHER-E-KHOOSH, or the DELIGHTFUL POISON."

Our Zeher-E-Khoosh of the Day

The best wine grape in ancient Persia was the Syrah, and here's a good California wine from that grape.
1996 Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, Ambassador's Vnyd.
Curtis Winery, Solvang, CA.
Rating—My very picky panel gave it a VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Contact—Shelley Machet, phone (805) 688-3940, FAX (805) 686-1256
Food—Pesto pasta friendly; pork chops; cheeseburgers at lunch.
Price—Worth all $18.


If you don't know the Curtis Winery, it's the former Carey Cellars. Firestone remains the owner, and has big plans. Stay tuned.

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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