March 4, 1193: Al-Nasr Salah-al Din, better known simply as Saladin, meaning the ‘Righteousness of the Faith’, died at Damascus in Syria. This Kurdish general had risen to become Vizier of the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt and the Levant in 1169 and captured the city of Jerusalem from the Christian Crusaders who had held it for nearly a century in 1187. In doing so he inspired King Richard the Lionheart of England and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire to lead the Third Crusade to the Holy Land. However, while Saladin is revered today as a paragon of Islamic fervour, he was surprisingly a noted partaker of alcohol. Prior to his elevation to the office of vizier he had been known to drink wine and even after he came to govern extensive territories throughout the Levant his proscriptions on the sale and consumption of alcohol were sporadic and largely tokenistic. In this regard Saladin’s life reflects the ambiguous intolerance of alcohol which pertained throughout the Muslim world throughout the Middle Ages. For more information, see Paulina Lewicka’s, Food and Foodways of Medieval Cairenes: Aspects of Life in an Islamic Metropolis of the Eastern Mediterranean (Boston, 2011), pp. 519–521.
March 4, 1925: On this day, Pinotage was made for the first time by Abraham Izak Perold, a South African scientist who was also the first professor of viticulture at Stellenbosch University and is credited as the inventor of the Pinotage grape variety. Perold crossed the Pinot Noir grape with the Cinsault grape, which at the time was commonly called the “hermitage” grape, leading to this new varietal.
March 4, 1984: On this day, a group from California led by Ann Noble developed a standard set of terminology for characterizing the scents of wine. They published those phrases in a list. Through the 1980s, the incorporation of rigorous sensory descriptive analysis into research studies allowed for a significant improvement in the knowledge of the factors that determine how flavor is experienced.
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