Wine in the Middle Ages, what a nice program...
This is about an exhibition which ended november 11 and was centered on wine in an era that seems light years away from today : the Middle Ages, a grey historic era which we consider as having taken place between 500 and 1500 A.D.
A century ago is already so far in the past that we have a hard time figuring how people exactly related to wine, like did people really focus on the aromas, or did they analyze the mouthfeel or just apreciated the well-being feel experienced after a couple of glasses and so on. But the Middle Ages is almost another planet for us, and this humble exhibition did a lot for me to put the record straight on the subject, first because the images speak volume and we can intuitively guess things and certain ways of the feelings back then, and secondly because the text and printed documentation and comments really clarify our understanding of this time.
This exhibition, where the entry fee was 5 € only, took place from april to november 2012 in the Tour Jean sans Peur (pictured on right), a little-known museum centered on the Middle Ages which is located 20 rue Etienne Marcel in Paris. This exhibition is mobile and for rent by the way, and I think that it is very informative and at the same time very light to put in place, so it should in my opinion find many potential buyers either private or among the cultural institutions & local museums in the wine regions including abroad. I don't know if there's an English version ready but it shouldn't be difficult to set up. The images and displayed Art here being mere reproductions, the insurance costs are minimal I guess. The showcase consists in multiple panels (a few dozens) describing, through well-chosen reproductions and an explanatory text, the various aspects of the wine culture of that time.
Danièle Alexandre-Bidon, the historian who put in place this informative and visually-pleasant research explains on this video interview that the water was polluted then and that every one was drinking wine instead, like around 3 liters a day (making probably 7 or 8° of alcohol), the children receiving smaller amounts diluted with water. If not wine, people would drink cider, beer or poiré. Even breakfast would have some wine included, possibly in the soup. Wine would be used as disinfectant for injuries and surgery. You'll learn many things by reading and watching the images at this exhibition.
Right now, the current exhibition in that museum is about the cuisine in the Middle ages, see the press release (Pdf) about it.
The distorded contemporary vision about the Middle Ages is almost universal for unknown reasons, it's the dark hole of history and we seem to delight in darkening even more the picture with our fantasies, although there is documented evidence of a not-so-gloomy epoch. We're like a now-sophisticated person who would feel ashamed of her/his grandparents' modest background. But what happened in the Renaissance found its source in this era after all, and if the Middle Ages had been that backward and "Talibanesque", no gem like the Renaissance would have ever been brought to light.
History has often been a battleground in France leading to rewriting for political purpose. The distortion about this era fits the scheme and it has by the way often modern political roots, with