November 9, 959: On this day in 959, Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus died at Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), the capital of the Byzantine Empire which he ruled for 46 years from his accession in 913. Constantine is most famous for his contributions to the Macedonian Renaissance, the political and cultural rejuvenation of the Byzantine Empire in the ninth and tenth centuries. Constantine was a scholar king and compiled and wrote several major works, including a historical biography of his forbear, the founder of the Macedonian Dynasty, Basil I. One of his works was the Geoponika, a compilation of excerpts from a wide range of ancient authors on agricultural matters. The Geoponika has a special significance for the history of viticulture as it ensured that some writings from antiquity on wine, wine production, and the use of wine as medicine were preserved, notably those of Florentinus, a Roman writer of the late empire. Without Constantine, these writings would otherwise have been lost as many of them do not survive in the original. For more, see ‘Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos’, in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium edited by Alexander Kazhdan (3 volumes, Oxford, 1991), vol. 1, pp. 502–503. See also Geoponika – Farm Work: A Modern Translation of the Roman and Byzantine Farming Handbook, edited by Andrew Dalby (London, 2011) and Arnold Toynbee’s Constantine Porphyrogenitus (Oxford, 1973).

November 9, 1989: This day saw the end of communism. By the time the communist governments in Europe fell, Hungarian wine’s reputation abroad was in ruins. Due to the collapse of the Russian economy, many state farms and cooperatives were left without a buyer; as a result, they were forced into bankruptcy and many of the small plots were placed up for sale. At the same time, several producers seized the chance to acquire land in prime locations, produce wine, and market it under their brands.

November 9, 2002: On this day, the poorest Italian grape crop in half a century was brought on by a dry winter and rainy summer. Some areas, like Tuscany, where Chianti is made, and southern Italy, were spared from the tragedies.

November 9, 2011: On this day, International Tempranillo Day is celebrated every year on the second Thursday in November. This Spanish black vine is used to generate full-bodied red wines. The word Tempranillo is derived from the Spanish word Temprano, which means “early.”

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