PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR THE UPDATED GLOSSARY (April 2018).
Above: outside a mid-twentieth-century palmento in Alliste, Lecce province (image via Wiki Commons).
“The closer you look at a word,” wrote the twentieth-century Austrian essayist Karl Kraus, “the more distantly it looks back” (see this note on a word’s “aura”).
That’s what happened when I started to examine the word palmento this morning. It was suggested to me by Italian artist and photographer Giacomo Brunelli for inclusion in my Italian Winery Designations Explained glossary.
palmento, literally a place where grapes are pressed or where wheat is milled, an ancient term that appears as early as the thirteenth century in Italian, possibly from paumentum, spoken Latin for floor (akin to the Italian pavimento), possibly from the late Latin (?) palamentum meaning [mill] paddle, akin to the Italian pala meaning paddle or blade (N.B. neither etymology is certain).
In antiquity, the palmento was a de facto cooperative, the so-called torcular (Latin, press) where grapes were pressed before being transferred to other vessels for fermentation. Today, there are still working palmenti in Campania and Sicily, while in other parts of Italy, you can find palmenti that have been transformed for other uses.
Above: a palmento in Buscemi, Siracusa province (image via Wiki Commons).
The Italian expression mangiare a quattro palmenti (literally, to eat like four millstones, akin to the expression macinare a quattro palmenti, i.e., to grind like four millstones) means to eat voraciously or to eat like a horse. See this note on the expression by leading English- and Italian-language food blogger Briciole.
Thanks again to Giacomo for suggesting this fascinating term!
In other news…
A tweet this morning from the nice folks at Hearth and Terroir in New York reminded me that I had neglected to update the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project with the most recent entries (Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, and Verduzzo).
It’s now up-to-date and you can view it here.
In other other news…
Yesterday, I posted on a superb meal that I shared with my friends and clients Silvia Loschi and Alessandro Fenino in the Marches in April. It was one of the highlights of my trip and I’ll never forget the excellent vincisgrassi that I ate that magical night.
Thanks for reading and for speaking Italian wines!
Great post, as usual, and great choice of images to go with it, Jeremy. I was not familiar with Kraus’s quote. It is always fascinating to trace the history of a word and get a sense of how its traveling across the ages brought changes, adjustments, enrichments.
Thank you for the compliment :)