Factual or Mythical

The Battle of Wines: Factual or Mythical?

If you’ve ever attended a wine competition, you know that there may be a lot of banter and disagreements. It’s unlikely, however, that every red wine would be automatically dismissed as inferior, praised for its ability to rip your eye out. Furthermore, it would be unexpected for a judge to threaten the winemaker with murder or that anyone in attendance — much less a tasting panel member — would drink enough to pass out for three days.

But this isn’t the 13th century, and you aren’t caught in the middle of the “Bataille des Vins,” meaning “Wine Battle.” The poem of the same name, written in 1224 by clergyman and poet Henri d’Andeli, portrays what could be characterized as a wine competition; however, by today’s behavior standards, “war” is a better phrase. The conflict sets about 70 wines against each other, mainly from grape-growing enclaves surrounding France and the Mosel, Spain, and Cyprus, coordinated by the French king Philip Augustus.

Fun Fact: Henri D’Andeli would regularly start his morning with a draught of Ale or Wine! Who knows what state he was in when he wrote his famous poem.

But in the poem, amidst a battle of wines, all hell broke loose. “Clear as a tear from an eye,” proclaims the wine of Argenteuil, a once-prestigious region that suburban Paris eventually overtook. “Oh, shut up…” he is told. “You’re playing for the sake of losing!”

The wines swiftly chose sides based on their geographical location. The wines of the Bordeaux/Saintes/Atlantic region (at the time, British territory) boasted about their vigor and strength — a strange trait to boast about in a glass of wine. They also bragged about how they “bring all the cash.” The elegance and agreeability of the wines from more eastern France appealed to the king.

At this point in the story, it was time to choose a winner. The priest is off reciting Mass to himself before putting down his candle and sleeping soundly. The French king observes his kingdom’s magnificent wines and bestows the most significant distinction on the Cypriot wine, “Pope.” We will never know if the poem “Battle of the Wines” is factual or mythical, but it is a massive success for Cypriot wine, even if it is a myth.

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