Roman wine

The hiccuping legionnaire of Asterix books, swinging his amphora in time to some drinking song or other, would probably not be drinking the finest of wines.  It’s quite likely, in fact, that having fallen victim to those indomitable Gauls once more, the poor chap’s downing his sorrows in vinegar, or sour wine as acetum is often translated.

Judging from its mentions in Roman literature, one wine that he certainly wasn’t drinking was Falernian; it has been claimed that it qould cost a legionnaire a full 3 weeks’ pay for one glass of the stuff.  Catullus and Martial both wax lyrical about the drink, and it’s Falernian which the ostentatious Trimalchio boasts he is serving in Petronius’ Satyricon.  A famous graffito from Pompeii reads

habeas propiteos

deos tvos tresit

e et qvi leges

calos edone

valeat qvi legerit

Edone dicit

assibvs hic

bibitvr dipvndivm

si dederis meliora

bibes qvartvs

si dederis vina f

falerna bib

or: ‘You can get a drink here for only one coin. You can drink better wine for two coins. You can drink Falernian for four coins.’

Well now, lucky readers, you can (kinda) see what they’ve all been banging on about.  Falenghina is a wine from Campania (the region of Pompeii) which is supposed to use the same grape.  You won’t be getting quite the same experience (see for the factors which make Roman wine so different to our own), but you will be getting a really decent white wine flavoured with extra history.


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