For Columbus Day

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Oh, Columbus. We know that you didn’t really discover America. We also know that you tortured and killed the native peoples you encountered. On the plus side, you did bring tomatoes, potatoes, chili peppers, turkeys, chocolate and vanilla back to Europe. Not that this would matter much to the natives that you tortured, killed or transmitted smallpox and other diseases. Though it seems possible that that while you were giving the natives smallpox, they were giving you syphilis, so that might be a more even exchange.

Columbus' departure from Palos, in 1492, by Evaristo DomínguezThe question, that I have for you is this? What did you drink on the voyage? Because, it appears that we have to guess. And why? Apparently you kept really crappy records. Why couldn’t you have been like John Winthrop and keep track down to the last firkin of butter or pipe of Canary.

Instead, we kind of have to guess. Wheat, olives, rice, lentils, garbanzos, pickled and salted meat and fish, cheese and wine. How much? Hard to tell, but given the fact that the people of the region were forced to pay two of the ships for Columbus’ expedition and provision all three to pay off the fine for piracy, I would guess that the amounts were niggardly at best.

We can guess that the wine would have been local. And the Condado de Huelva DO was established to honor these wines. In fact, it is known that the wines from this area were the first exported from Spain to the new world. The wine was shipped to La Española (Hispaniola) in January 1502 and was worth 1,422 maravedíes. Grapes grown in the area include Zalema, Palomino Fino, Listán de Huelva, Garrido Fino, Moscatel de Alejandría and Pedro Ximénez and the wines that they produce are referred to as Wines of the Discovery of America.

So, Columbus? You might have been a jerk, who never even stepped foot in North America, but you brought wine to America. Thank you.