Last week, a Roman sommelier was among the oenophiles gathered in Paris for the auction of wines from the Élysée Palace. In sort of a French version of the early 90s comedy “Dave,” in which Kevin Kline impersonates the president and finds inventive ways to cut the budget, Francois Hollande decided to sell off some of the more expensive wines in the 12,000 bottle presidential cellar. …
According to research published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the French started making that wine 24 centuries ago.
Patrick McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, analyzed a limestone pressing platform from the town of Lattes, just south of Montpellier, hugging the Mediterranean.
“The question was whether it was an oil press or a wine press, and we proved that it is the oldest wine press in France through chemical analysis,” McGovern told Wine Spectator.
A sommelier at Hollande’s austerity sale — Marco Reitano, from the three-star Michelin La Pergola — was an active bidder who splurged $52,000 on French wine.
But McGovern concluded that circa 425 BC the reverse was true: It was the central Italians who were selling wine to the Gauls.
The Gauls “imported some very fancy wine sets, made of gold or bronze, that showed off how wealthy you were,” McGovern told the Spectator. “And if you’re going to import the wine vessels, you might get interested in making the wine yourself.”
– M.S. Scully