by Fred McMillin
for January 1, 1998

A New Wine for the New Year


  • How January First Came to Be

    About 700 B.C. there was a lot of action around the Mediterranean. The Olympic Games had been started, (but women were not allowed to attend). Grain as the medium of exchange was about to be replaced by something new, coins, which had the advantage of not getting moldy. And, Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, added January to the ten-month Roman calendar.

  • The month was named after Janus (JAY-nus), the god of beginnings. People prayed to him when they were about to start something new, especially on January 1, the first day of the new year. North of Rome in Tuscany the Etruscans certainly had something new. They had a new gadget for stoppering their wine jars, THE CORK. The wine in those jars included the precursor of Tuscany's renowned Sangiovese grape. Thus, for our New Year's dinner, we want a new wine with close ties to those Roman- Tuscan origins. Here it is..

    The Rest of the Story: Talk about a Tuscan connection. Our wine is made from Sangiovese by a family that produced Tuscan wines as early as 1300, the House of Frescobaldi. Doesn't sound new...but wait. It's a new joint Italian venture with, of all companies, America's Robert Mondavi. Moreover, the Sangiovese is blended with America's hot-button red, Merlot. Tim Mondavi and Lamberto Frescobaldi created what may be the best red Italian wine you'll taste this year. Limited availability; phone Nancy Light at (800) 228-1395, x-4487.

    The Wine:
    The Name—Luce, or Luce Della Vite
    The Vintages—1993, 1994
    The Price—$55

    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 and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the WineDay Annex

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