14th C Faux French Wine

See what I did there? Anyway, my second entry to the Panels at EKBC was a wine that was a bit of a time traveler. In Oct I was given a list of recipes from the Folger’s Manual (which strangely enough turned out not to be a treatise on making bad coffee). This Manual was actually a collection of Recipes from the Folger’s Shakespeare Library over in England and taught me a valuable lesson in doing “complete” research before engaging in a project.

Original Recipe

Redaction

Something was incredibly suspicious about this recipe. They specifically state the recipe is from 1560 but it names Ale Yeast in the recipe. The fact that they were mentioning yeast in this time period was suspicious. Further, the fact that they were using Ale yeast in a wine was a 2nd strike but it didn’t dawn on me right from the beginning.

Tools:

  1. Steel Pot 3. Knife
  2. Wooden Spoon 4. Strainer

Process:

I started by chopping the raisins and combining them together with water and bringing the temperature up to boiling. At that point we added the sugar and gave it some mighty stirs using my grape pounding stick. The mixture was boiled for an hour and we put it in the container to sit and cool overnight. I then went to the local herb shop and picked up the next ingredient, the elder flower petals (dried was all they had available)

This was when we discovered the flaw in our plan. You see, I would have to stuff all those flowers into the carboy with the raisins and sugar which was already at capacity (5 gallons). It was quickly decided that the mixture would go back into the pot and the elder flower was stirred into the mixture until thoroughly immersed. It created a sort of “raft” on the top of the wine so I mixed in the lemon syrup (half lemon juice/half sugar) and the ale yeast. The whole batch was let sit 2 months.

And now we get to the troubling part of the recipe. I had not read through the entire article that I obtained. Instead of a simple recipe with source listed but to my shock, discovered it was merely the collection of recipes from multiple sources. I soon started to hunt down the recipe and the results were going the wrong direction.

The additional research started this way:

1) Chamber’s Cyclopædia of English Literature: A History, Critical

2) Excerpt from The Familiar Letters of James Howell (10th Edition from 1737) Published by James Nutt in the Strand, Edited by Joseph Jacobs; Balantine,Hanson and Co., Life 1594-1666 Copyright wrote of Frontiniac Wine in his account of the wine countries: pg 456

3) Excerpt from The works of Mary Russell Mitford: prose and verse, viz Our village, Belford 1850:

He made wine this year of his white muscadine and white frontiniac, better I thought than any French white wine. He keeps a shop of seeds, and plants in pots- next the street. Jan. 26, 1691. J. Gibson

Ok, so we now have a reference for the original wine which is made with GRAPES. Not sugar and Raisins, let’s see what else we can find.

4) Recipe shown in Warner’s Antiquitates Culinarie 1791 which drew the recipe from Eliza Smith’s “Compleat Housewife” Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion of 1736 or 1739.

5) Definition: FRONTINIAC, Subst. (a luscious kind of rich wine made at Frontiniac, near Montpelier, in France )- The Royal Dictionary, French and English, and English and French By Abel Boyer, 1699, / just a bit outside period.

6) The Works of John Locke, Volume 10/ 1780. Describes a sweet wine- Musquat blanc, or white muscat ; this is usually planted and pressed alone, and makes the wine we usually call Frontiniac, from Frontignan, a town on the Mediterranean, near two or three leagues from Montpelier,

7) Excerpt from Sir Joseph Banks: (1743-1820) / wrong way in time

2 walnuts; 2 Spanish chestnuts; 2 oaks; 4 pomegranites; 2 plaintains; some mint; and of the grapes, Tokay, White Frontiniac, Black Frontiniac, Constantia for wine making, and only the White Muscadine and Muscat of Alexandria for eating.

8) On Alcohol: A Course of Six Cantor Lectures Delivered Before the Society of Arts 1878 mentions Wines of Spain and Portugal “Frontiniac” is among the listings. / still not headed the way we want to go

It isn’t until we finally get to this point the truth comes clear. This is a recovery wine. Somewhere along the way. Grape harvests of this Frontenac Grape become either scarce or there’s a plague that kills the grapes off slowly. So slow that they are trying to get what few grapes they can and they are using them the best way they know how. Preserve them by drying and re-hydrating them with additional sugar and flavoring:

9) The final link of the false Fronteniac Wine with the real wine is the recipe for when the wine grapes yield a poor harvest: The Whole Duty of a Woman: Or, an Infallible Guide to the Fair Sex

10) To Make Stepony: A Sip Through Time. Cindy Renfrow, Originally from Martha Washington’s Boke of Cookery, 1550-1625) / the corresponding similair recipe which shows the technique itself was period. Although obtained from a Tertiary source. If you’re ever forced to go with a choice between Martha Washington’s Recipe Book and Digby’s Closet Opened, go with Digby.

The final correlation ends up being through a Tertiary source which is where my points cost me. The recipe is period (sort of) but is not the direct Fronteniac Grape Wine recipe we hoped for.

Coincidentally, the end of the 2 months happened about 2 weeks before the EKBC which was just enough time needed to drain the mixture out, let it settle and then bottle it for display. The scent was probably it’s greatest aspect. One sniff and you’re hit with a bouquet of flowers right in the snoot. The taste is both sweet and floral (as expected) and the alcohol is pleasant. I suspect it probably could ferment further but the recipe said 2 months so that’s where we stop. If you do bottle this, I’d recommend champagne bottles so any additional fermentation doesn’t create a hand grenade. The final grade ended up being a 74 (Master level).

Incidently, the reason I was so hot to trot on making this recipe was because of the name which correlates with the location that the East Kingdom Brewers’ Collegium happens. It’s called Frontenac Lodge

I presented a large bottle to the owners in appreciation of all the years they’ve had us. I do hope they enjoyed it.

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