For two millennia, Europeans have been drinking similar wines, according to new research – and we have monks to thank.
A paper in the journal Nature Plants found that grapes in ancient Roman vineyards were closely related to modern pinot noir and syrah varieties.
One of the paper’s authors, Nathan Wales from the University of York, told the Times: “I had never assumed we would see genetically that the Romans had something like it. To me that’s astonishing.”
Asked how the genetic lines had survived the collapse of the Roman Empire, Wales said he had a “hunch” that monks had preserved these particular wines, just as they had preserved classical learning. “Part of Christianity is about needing wine, for its use in religious ceremony,” he said. “Monks, grapes and wine – that has to be part of the story.”
Franco Zeffirelli, the director of such films as Romeo and Juliet and La Traviata, died last week aged 96. A complex figure, his films were criticised by some for their irreverence and sexual suggestiveness, but he also made a devout mini-series on the life of Jesus. Zeffirelli, who identified as homosexual, nevertheless publicly backed Church teaching. Catholicism is, he said, the only religion that satisfies human needs.
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