Wines of the Fourth Century

While researching historical mead recipes I found the excerpt below in an old book1. It shows the historical names and spellings of some ancient alcoholic drinks.

The following lines, of a poet of the fourth century, show what wines the Britons of those days had a knowledge of.

“Ye hall have rumney and malespine
Both yprocrasse and vernage wyne,
Mountrese and wyne of Greek,
Both algrade and despice eke;
Antioche and Bastarde,
Wyne of Greke, and Muscadell,
Both clare, pyment, and Rochell.

“Some of these liquors, as ypocrasse, pyment, and clare, were compounded of wine, honey, and spices.”

The full poem was a romance of the Squire of Low Degree, who loved the King of Hungary’s daughter. It is alluded to in the Rime of Sir Topas by Chaucer. An expanded excerpt, where the King is atempting to comfort his ill daughter, was documented in an 18th century book.2 A portion of that excerpt is listed below.

‘Tomorow ye ſhall yn huntyng far;
And yede, my doughter, yn a chare,
Yt ſhal be covered wyth velvette reede
And clothes of fyne golde al about your heede,
With damaſke whyte and aſure blewe
Well dyaperd with lyllyes newe:
Your pmelles ſhallbe ended with golde,
Your chaynes enameled many a folde.
Your mantell of ryche degre
Purple palle and armyne fre.
Jennets of Spayne that ben ſo wyght
Trapped to the ground with velvet bryght.
Ye ſhall have harpe, ſautry, and ſonge,
And other myrthes you amonge,
Ye ſhal have rumney, and maleſpine,
Both ypocraſſe and vernage wyne;
Mountreſe and wyne of Greke,
Both algrade and deſpice eke;
Antioche and baſtarde,
Pyment z alſo, and garnarde;
Wine of Greke, and muſcadell,
Both clare, pyment, and rochell,
The reed your ſtomake to defye
And pottes of oſey ſett you by.
You ſhall have venyſon ybak,
The beſt wylde fowle that may be take:
A leſe of harehound with you to ſtreke,
And hart, and hynde, and other lyke,
Ye ſhalbe ſet at at ſuch a tryſt
That hart and hynde ſhall come to you fyſt;
Your deſeaſe to dryve ye fro,
To here the bugles there yblowe.
Homward thus ſhall ye ryde,
On haukyng by the ryvers fyde,
With goſhauke and with gentil fawcon
With buglehorn and merlyon.
When you come home your menie amonge,
Ye ſhall have revell, daunces, and ſonge:
Lytle chyldren, great and ſmale,
Shall ſyng as doth the nyghtyngale,
Than ſhal ye go to your evenſong,
With tenours and trebles among.

z Sometimes written pimeate. In the romance of Sir Bevys, a knight juſt going to repoſe, takes the > uſual draught of pimeate: which mixed with ſpices is what the French romances call vin du coucher, and for which > an officer, called ESPICIER, was appointed in the old royal houſhold of France. Signat. m. iii.

The knight and ſhe to chamber went: —
With pimeate and with ſpifery,
When they had dronken the wyne.

1“The Literary Gazette: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts”, Volume 4, William Jerdan, William Ring Workman, John Morley, Frederick Arnold, Charles Wycliffe Goodwin, 1820.

2“The History of English Poetry from the Close of the Eleventh to the Commencement of the Eigteenth Century, to which are Prefixed Two Dissertations I. on the Origin of Romantic Fiction in Europe II. on the Introduction of Learning Into England”, Volume I, Thomas Warton, 1774.

Published: 2016-09-25