Wine legends: Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio
The Italian red wine we sipped Saturday night (the notes are below) carries such a tale: Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, "The Tears of Christ of Vesuvius."
Made from vines grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Lacryma Christi takes its name from the old story told by John Milton in "Paradise Lost," when Lucifer and the fallen angels were cast out of Heaven.
According to the Italian version of this legend, as Lucifer went overboard, he grabbed a chunk of Paradise and carried it with him as he fell, dropping it on the coast of Italy at the foot of Vesuvius, where it framed the bay of Naples.
Seeing this loss, the story goes, Jesus wept; and the tears watered those heavenly slopes. Where they fell, vines miraculously sprang up, becoming the vineyards from which Lacryma Christi comes.
The legend is so old that it may pre-date Christianity. The wine writer Burton Anderson, in the sadly out-of-print "Vino," says a similar local legend attributes the vineyard-producing tears not to Christ but to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. (It's not clear exactly what Bacchus was crying about.)
This is just one of dozens of interesting, sentimental or historic stories attached to wines. If you would like to read more, you might enjoy Hoke Harden's article, "What's In A Name?" on Wine Lovers' Page at http://www.wineloverspage.com/reports/name.shtml.
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Very dark ruby in color, almost black. Plums, a whiff of white pepper and a hint of smoke in the aroma lead into a full and ripe flavor, juicy plums and prunes, with sufficient acidity for balance. An interesting wine, but the price pushes the limits on value, particularly in contrast with the $14.99 I paid for the 1996 vintage a couple of years ago at the same shop. Younger vintages are already on the market; even if the legend appeals to you, shop with care. U.S. importer: Palace Brands Co., Hartford, Conn. (May 19, 2001)
MORE DETAILS: Made in red, white and rosato (pink), Lacryma Christi is made from Southern Italian grapes rarely seen elsewhere: Piedirosso and Olivella, which are locally known as Palombina and Sciascianoso, and up to 20 percent Aglianico, for the red and pink. The whites are made from Coda di Volpe (locally Caprettona) and Verdeca plus optionally a little Flalanghina and Greco.
FOOD MATCH: Roast chicken with garlic and rosemary.
The Pompous Twits
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Essential Wine Tasting Guide
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Vol. 3, No. 18, May 21, 2001