Romans, Wine and Us  – Vinum vita est - Wine is life,


 Like us, Romans used wine as a drink to relieve stress and lower inhibitions. So naturally, it was popular for dinner occassions and parties.


Today, the term “bacchanal” means almost any gathering where the guests get tipsy and frisky, but it originally referred to a specific ancient Roman celebration — the frenzied rites of Bacchus, god of wine and intoxication - the liberator. Unlike formal banquets of Roman aristocrats, these were essentially outdoor rave parties — anarchic romps held after dark where  quest formania (a total festive abandon) could proceed unfettered beneath the stars. St Tropez summer parties carry on the bacchanal tradition. 

Women and Wine -  Roman Fun and Trouble

Just as today, drunkenness was a common experience for many Romans. What is interesting is ttheir attitudes towards drunken women. The men loved its effects for parties but were very prudish when it came to there own wives, fretting how it encouraged adultery - tubby old senator husband or big muscle, young gladiator - and the family shame. this brought. Unfortunately for the girls the senators made the rules. The quotes below illustrate attitudes.

 In whatever case a woman immoderately craves the use of wine, she closes the door on all virtues and opens it for all vices et sane quaecumque femina vini usum immoderate appetit, omnibus et virtutibus ianuam claudit et delictis aperit (Valerius Maximus, Memorable Words and Deeds )

And what does Venus care when she is drunk? She does not know what the big differences are between her groin and her head, quid enim Venus ebria curat? Inguinis et capitis quae sint discrimina nescit grandia quae mediis

In a frenzy, carried away equally by the wine and the horn, the maids of Priapus spin and shriek. Oh, how then a passion for sex is burning in their minds, what a cry in their lustful dance, how much of that old wine dripping through their legs!” cornu pariter vinoque feruntur attonitae rotant ululantque Priapi maenades. O quantus tunc illis mentibus ardor concubitus, quae vox saltante libidine, quantus ille meri veteris per crura madentia torrens! Juvenal

For free adult males, sex was no problem, they could have it with any woman, provided she was not married or of a higher class, so they had no need to control their drinking. As Cato said, “If you commit adultery, she would not dare lay a finger on , nor is it lawful(illa te, si adulterares … digito non auderet contingere, neque ius est ) 

Roman Wine Toasts

Start your Provence dinner under the stars with one of these zippies. Try the Latin versions as the evening goes on – it's not as easy as you think but a lot of fun.  

Always seek what you are worthy of,” (semper ut te digna sequare)

“now is the time to drink” (nunc est bibendum )

“Mix brief stupidity with deliberation: It is sweet to go crazy in the proper setting” (misce stultitiam consiliis brevem: dulce est desipere in loco) Horace our favourite for holidays.

“Alas, wine lives longer than man,” “How about we take a drink? Wine is life” (Eheu, diutius vivit vinum quam homuncio. Quare tangomenas faciamus. Vinum vita est, -Trimalchio Satyricon ).

“Where are you taking me, Bacchus, full of your power?”(Quo me, Bacche, rapis tui plenum? - Horace ).

“Be wise, strain the wine, and trim your long hope into a brief space … seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next”(Sapias, vina liques, et spatio brevi spem longam reseces … carpe diem quam minimum credula postero ).

“Whether you cause quarrels or jokes, either a brawl and insane love affairs or easy sleep, pious jar … come down”(seu tu querelas sive geris iocos seu rixam et insanos amores seu facilem, pia testa, somnum … descende ).

“you alone please me … and this love will mean more to me than my family’s blood”(tu mihi sola places … hic erit et patrio sanguine pluris amor, ) Propertius

“Through you lovers are joined, through you they are broken up” (per te iunguntur, per te solvuntur amantes, ).

“A sober night always tortures empty lovers; both hope and fear spin their souls in any direction, (( semper enim vacuos nox sobria torquet utroque modo,) .

“Now drink: You are beautiful: Wine does you no harm. iam bibe: formosa es: nil tibi vina nocent

Let the wines celebrate the day: There is no shame in dripping with wine on a feast day, and clumsily moving wobbly feet
Nunc mihi fumosos veteris proferte Falernos consulis et Chio solvite vincla cado. Vina diem celebrent: non festa luce madere est rubor, errantes et male ferre pedes,

when wine is boiling over, whatever lies hidden in the deep, it is brought up open ”sic vino exaestuante, quicquid in imo iacet abditum - Seneca

     Romans, Wine and Provence

The Romans wine culture suited Provincia Romana and still lives on. As the Roman empire spread through France so did its influence on wine development both for quality and increased planting. Since it happened first in Provence and continued here the longest we put our Roman wine information in this sectiion. In 122 BC the Romans started establishing permanent settlements in Provence beginning with Aquae Sextiae, Aix-en-Provence. Then for a long period, the next four hundred years – Roman settlements of towns and seaports dominated Provence life with result that wine production was much increased with exports going back to Roman through ports like Casear’s Forum Juli – Frejus. As you visit the vineyards in Provence and the Provence Rhone you’ll come across plenty of interesting evidence of this Roman period – enough to make good dinner conversation.                                                                                                                                                          

 From a modern perspective,it hard to comprehend the magnitude of wine's role in everyday Roman life. Its been estimated, based on an Roman inscriptions , that the average adult Roman male citizen consumed two sextarii of wine per day, roughly equivalent to 420 litres per year. Compare that to today's surveys, showing the average Frenchman consumes about 105 litres and wow theres a big difference. This wide gap between ancient and modern levels of wine consumption shows that wine was much more a part of daily life in the Roman Empire than it is now.                             Wine was used everywhere from cooking to medicine to religion. It was even used for brushing teeth – easily understandable when the alternatives were water or urined mixed with crushed bones and shells. With its intoxicating effects, wine was an excellent painkiller.

Wine was also prominent in religious settings, being, of course, a central feature in the worship of Bacchus. When Christianity overtook pagan religion in the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., wine's  prominent religious station was carried over in the Eucharist as a representation of Christ's blood, an idea adopted directly from a Bacchic ritual.

The Romans also gave us the ranking of vintages as a status symbol. Among the most celebrated were Opimian, named after the 121 B.C. consulship of Lucius Opimius, which was a particularly good year for grapes. The value of wines from that year was celebrated even a hundred years later laying the foundation of wine as a good investment. Also this where we get the derivation for optimum

On the subject of derivations, every wonder about the term shady characters. Probably not,  but this is interesting, at large banquets, superfluous guests who came along as part of an important person’s retinue were referred to as umbrae, “shades. For them the wine was diluted with water. The most common ratios were three parts water to two parts wine and three parts water to one wine. So theres a good lesson to serve your shady friends cheap wine. For a good wild party the revelers would drink undiluted wine, merum much to the pleasure of guest who would say - “Go away, water, ruin of wine, and go over to the stern”(Abite, lymphae, vini pernicies, et ad severos migrate)


Square Boules - Your chance to Become a World Champion.

Do you dream of becoming a world champion . This Game gives you your best chance. The World Championship of "Boules Carrées" (square boules) is held every year, in the last weeks of August on the steep streets of the medieval hilltop village of le Haut de Cagnes- -just a few miles north west of Nice.  Its played in other hilly villages but not as seriously as here.

Everybody can enter the competition and foreigners are very welcome. There are no qualifying requirements, no age limit and no gender restriction. All you need is two partners for a team of 3 players called a Triplette and luck/  The boules tend to go any which way. Most of the rules of Pétanque apply to thiis game. But changes are the courts measure 2 x 7 metres. Both boules, - cubes - weigh 4 ounces, and the small wooden cochonnet weighs ½ ounce and must be thrown between 4 and 7 metres, . The big difference is the boules are cubes so players to can play up or down a hill. Good luck, print up some team t-shirts and have  fun day out.


Don't be like these boys.  Learn more about wine and wine tasting to make your trip more enjoyable. click on picture to go

Wine Information  - Section