March 4, 1193: On this day in 1193, Al-Nasr Salah-al Din, better known simply as Saladin Ayubi, meaning the “Righteousness of the Faith,” died in 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 1087. Nonetheless, while he is revered today as a paragon of Islamic fervor, Saladin was surprisingly a noted partaker of alcohol. Before his elevation to the office of vizier, he was famous for drinking 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 mainly tokenistic. In this regard, Saladin’s life reflects the ambiguous intolerance of alcohol that pertained throughout the Muslim world during 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.

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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