by Fred McMillin
for October 1, 1998


Happy Faustinus First


The Roman Senate tried to change the name of the month to "Faustinus," the wife of an emperor. However, it was the eighth month in the Roman calendar, and the Latin word for eight is "octo." Hence, the Romans continued to call it October, as we do today, even though it is the 10th month in our modern calendar.

The Rest of the Story

Since October was named by the Romans, I toast its first day with a varietal that existed when they did. Here's what Pliny the Elder wrote about the grape I've selected. "Uva apiana," the bee-vine, is so called because bees are specially fond of it...the wines made from it are sweet at first, but acquire roughness in the course of years. (Gaius Plinius Secundus, Book XIV, Naturalis Historia, c.70 A.D.)

He was talking about the Muscat family. Muscats still grow in Italy, and I've picked a good one. It is gently sweet, and I opened it long before it "acquired roughness," as should you.

The Wine

1997 Moscato d'Asti
Ceretto Estate, Piedmont, Italy
Palace Brands Service—It's crucial to not smother the delicate flavors with too sweet a dessert. Cool the wine for only one hour in the frig, and serve with semi-sweet cookies and thin slices of slightly-sharp white cheese...or use a low-sugar, lemon pound cake with the cheese slices and wine.
Importer—Palace Brands, Ph. (212) 605-0370
Rating—HIGHLY RECOMMENDED in its price range. Only $16.50 for a full 750 ml.


This Ceretto gem provides a real sip of history that goes back much further than the Romans. Many wine historians think a Muscat was used to produce man's first wine at least 8,000 years ago.

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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