January 6, 1478: On this day in 1478 Uzun Hasan, the Turkic ruler of Aq Qoyunlu, a Muslim state that in late medieval times ruled most of Iraq, Transcaucasia, Syria, western Iran, and eastern Turkey, died. His death and the civil war which followed led the Venetian ambassador to Aq Qoyunlu, Giosafat Barbaro, to flee from the region back to Venice. Barbaro’s time in Persia and Mesopotamia was significant in more ways than one. Back in 1474 he had visited Shiraz in Persia, where he had discovered evidence of a long-lost writing system that used pictograms. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was looking at cuneiform, the ancient writing system of Mesopotamia and adjoining regions. It was used widely in the wine trade of the third millennium BC Mesopotamia. It was simply an ironic coincidence that he discovered this at Shiraz. The town’s name bears no relation to the modern Syrah grape (which has become known as Shiraz on account of an Australian pronunciation thereof). For more information, see Hugh Murray’s Historical Account of Discoveries and Travels in Asia, from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time, Volume III (Edinburgh, 1820), pp. 10–16. See also Reza Rezazadeh Langaroodi and Farzin Negahban, ‘Āq-qūyūnlū’, in Wilferd Madelung and Farhad Daftary (eds.), Encyclopaedia Islamica (Leiden, 2015), and Alexis Lichine’s Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits (London, 1967), p. 495.

January 6, 1862: On this day, Dr. August Oetker was born. He was the founder of the Dr. Oetker company, now one of the leading food industry employers in Europe. He was also a multitalented scientist and inventor who patented the first widely successful recipe for baking powder. The Dr. Oetker company now owns Schloss Johannisburg, a winery that has been operating for approximately 1,200 years, and in the modern era (since 1720) solely produces Riesling.

January 6, 1887: On this day, Manuel María González, founder of the Tío Pepe winery, passed away. González founded the winery in 1835 and named it after his nickname for his uncle and wine making mentor María Ángel y Vargas. Tío Pepe focuses on sherry wine and distinguished itself by marketing the wine to be consumed alongside food. Currently, Tío Pepe is part of the company González Byass.

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