An allusion to Boccaccio in my post today for the Houston Press (on water and wine) was irresistible: citing the third novella, eighth day of the Decameron, I used a mention of wine in his description of Bengodi (the land of plenty) as an illustration of how water was commonly blended into wine in the middle ages. In the text, he describes a Vernaccia so good that no water was added to it.
Here’s the text in English (and here it is in Italian):
- Calandrino heard what passed between them, and witting that ’twas no secret, after a while got up, and joined them, to Maso’s no small delight. He therefore continued his discourse, and being asked by Calandrino, where these stones of such rare virtues were to be found, made answer: “Chiefly in Berlinzone, in the land of the Basques. The district is called Bengodi, and there they bind the vines with sausages, and a denier will buy a goose and a gosling into the bargain; and on a mountain, all of grated Parmesan cheese, dwell folk that do nought else but make macaroni and raviuoli, and boil them in capon’s broth, and then throw them down to be scrambled for; and hard by flows a rivulet of Vernaccia, the best that ever was drunk, and never a drop of water therein…”
The fact that he points out that never a drop of water was found in the wine is an indication that wine to which water wasn’t added was considered superior in quality.
There are so many wonderful mentions of wine in the Decamaron: ahimè, if I didn’t have to make a living, I could collate them into a neat little book with a critical apparatus (a little philological speak there for you).
In the meantime, any excuse to revisit Boccaccio is a good one!
The tale is one of my favorites and is a great (and funny) read: English and Italian.
Buona lettura e buon weekend yall!