The seas carry all things and have been a method of transportation for generations, all things from civilizations to wine. As such, it carried from the east to the west of the Mediterranean (since the fall of Constantinople to the hands of the Turks in 1451), a variety of wines and provisions that converted the seas into a lake of wine producers.
The ocean crossings resulted in a structural change in both food and navigation, whereas up until that time, it was only coastal shipping. To cross the Atlantic, or the Indian Ocean, let alone the Pacific, took months. The lack of fresh food and water was a great problem and led to vitamin C deficiency resulting in scurvy and death. The wine helped to combat these deficiencies and threats.
All the legends of the sea, on the phantom merchant ships, ships with black sails, ‘The fire of Saint Elmo’ and wandering ships without life, are all ships that sailed without direction as their crews had died of hunger, with the crews draped in topsails like shrouds.
It is no wonder that ‘Magallanes’ was in charge of the best wines of the time; 200 barrels from Alicante for the expedition of the circumnavigation of the world, only to reach the area of the 40 roaring winds (so called as they were the winds that blew below 40º south latitude), and to have lost a great part of the crew.
But this voyage was part of the great legend of the ‘Fondillon’; the historical inheritance of the Valencian wine producer. It was not until 1800, 21 years after Cook’s death that the Royal navy adapted the use of lime juice (from when their sailors became known by their American colleagues as ‘limey’) in the diet in order to combat illnesses such as scurvy. Although lime juice was used by sailors of the Mediterranean, the English and the eastern Indians already knew of the use of lime juice in the prevention of disease.
Until this time, the alcohol content of wine, its natural acids and its substance was, as ‘Pasteur’ said, “the most healthy and hygienic of beverages and a safeguard for the health of seafarers”. For centuries, in ancient times, the transportation of the wine depended on the use of naval ships and ports, and was carried in the holds of the ships. However, oak barrels discovered by Julius Caesar in the conquest of Gaul changed this, and until its use for ageing in the late 19th century, the barrel was the container for the transportation of wine for the great ocean crossings. From Valencia, Grau sailed with wine to Sete, Amberes and London.
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