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Medieval Drinks

Among the Medieval Drinks, beer was much in vogue. Charlemagne ordered that skilled brewers to be attached to his farms. Everywhere, the monastic houses had their own breweries, a tradition which is continuing even in our times (the Belgian Abbey Biers, like Leffe or Affligem are good examples). However, during the reign of St. Louis, there were only few breweries in Paris itself, and despite their privileges, the brewers had to leave the capital, as there was no demand for their product. They reappeared in 1428, and, either as a caprice of fashion or because wine was more expensive, the consumption of beer became again general across France. The flavored beers became much in fashion. The beer was sweetened with honey or scented with raspberries.

The Brewer
The Brewer

In the 13th Century, hydromel, composed of one part of honey and twelve parts of water, was especially appreciated by the monks, who feasted on it on the great anniversaries of the Church. Cider was also popular, and in the 13th Century, the inhabitants of the Auge and Normandy made cider their daily drink.

Our forefathers, who loved dainty dishes, were also connoisseurs in wine. The cultivation of the vine became general, and kings themselves planted them, even in the gardens of their palaces. The wine became the most appreciated of all Medieval Drinks, and the wine trade had acquired an enormous importance, especially in France.

The trade of a wine-merchant is one of the oldest established in Paris, but this does not mean that the sale of wine was exclusively carried on by special tradesmen. For a long time, the owner of the vineyard retailed the wine which he had not been able to sell in the cask. A broom, a laurel wreath, or some other sign hung over a door, denoted that any one passing by could purchase or drink wine within. Sometimes, the wine-growers placed a man before the door of their cellar, who enticed the public to enter and taste the new wines. Others established a tavern in a room of their house, where they retail the drink. The monks also opened this kind of taverns in the monasteries, as they only consumed part of their wine themselves. The custom was adopted even by the nobles, who had the advantage that, whilst they were retailing their wines, no one in the district was allowed to enter into the competition with them.

The wines of France in most request from the 9th to the 13th Century were those of Cahors, Rheims, Choisy, Marne, Meulan, Orleanais. In the 13th Century, wines like the Beaune, in Burgundy, the Saint-Emilion in Guyenne, Chablis, Epernay, in Champagne, were much appreciated. In the 14th Century, a man of fashion would drink nothing but Saint-Pourçain.

Despite the excellent quality of wines made in their country, the French also imported wines. In the 13th Century, from Spain, and Cyprus. A century later, we find mentions of the Rhine wines, and those of Greece.

Treading The Wine
Treading The Wine
Of wines, that of Guyenne was the most common in the 14th Century England. Those of Gascony and Bordeaux were in use among the nobility. Most of the Medieval Drinks were flavored, and wine made no exception. It was usually sweetened, with strong spices and stimulating aromatics.

Ipocrase was also a wine much in use. It was sweetened and highly spiced with "ginger, synamon, sugour, and turesoll".  Algrade, Bastarde and Granarde were Spanish wines, sweetened with honey and also highly spiced.  It was the custom when the wine was passed around also to distribute spice to the company upon a plate called the spice-plate used for the purpose, and repeatedly mentioned in old inventories. 

The liqueurs became known much latter than the other Medieval Drinks. It was about the 13th Century that brandy first became known in France. Sometimes called "eau de vie" it was considered a remedy, as it "prolonge health, dissipates superfluous matters, revives the spirit, and preserve youth". At a time when so many doctors and alchemists were looking for panaceas, it was under the name of "Eau d’or" (water of gold) that brandy first became known to the world. At a later period, brandy lost its repute as a medicine, and not being a remedy anymore, it became a favorite beverage. It was also largely used in distilleries as the basis of various strengthening liqueurs.

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