by Fred McMillin
for March 4, 1998

A Sip of the 1600s


1638 A.D.—In the U.S.A., the first printing press in North America was being assembled at Cambridge, Mass. Domestic honey bees are being introduced, only to escape and establish wild colonies; American Indians call them "white man's flies." Over in Tuscany, Italians are shipping to England a rich wine made from the Aleatico Nero grape.

...William Younger, et. al.

The venerable Aleatico red grape is sometimes thought to be a red mutation of Moscato Bianco, so widely planted in Italy. It is capable of making really fine wine.

...J.R., "Vines, Grapes and Wines"

The Rest of the Story

My last set of California grape acreage statistics include Aleatico; it is ZERO. However, I did find some for the 17th century phase of my wine history course. Charles Mitchell of the Sierra Foothills decribes it as "a rare varietal from Italy, related to the Muscat family. Being a light red, it is Italy's answer to the White Zinfandel." So, for only $6 you can get a sip of the 1600s.

The Wine

Aleatico, Appellation—California Arogonaut Winery (Charles Mitchell) Somerset, El Dorado County, CA
Phone—(209) 245-5567


The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER correctly described Charles Mitchell's wines as "fashioned according to his palate, which obviously appreciates intense fruit flavors."


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.


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