Wine and the Vine: An Historical Geography of Viticulture and the Wine Trade

By Tim Unwin | Go to book overview

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APPENDIX

Historic wine measures

Wine has been stored, transported and sold in a wide variety of vessels, and providing even approximate modern equivalents for some of these is extremely difficult. This is primarily because the same term could be used in different parts of the world to refer to vessels of different sizes. Thus Redding (1833) notes that, at the time he was writing, a barrique had a capacity of 120.00 litres in Limoux, 229.94 litres in Bordeaux and 240.00 litres in Nantes. As governments in the medieval period came to regulate the wine trade more closely, some of the more usual measures came to be standardised. Even then, though, the sizes of barrels usually varied from country to country, and as the above example illustrates, from region to region, depending on local custom. The following conversion table should therefore be used with considerable caution, but it is nevertheless presented as an approximate guide to some of the more common wine measures mentioned in the text.


AMPHORA

The sizes of classical amphorae varied greatly in capacity, with Dressel IB (Peacock and Williams Class 4) amphorae being approximately 22.00 litres (4.84 gallons), and Dressel 2-4 (Peacock and Williams Class 10) averaging 25.2 litres (5.54 gallons). The medieval Venetian anfora was much larger, containing 518.5 litres (114.07 gallons).


BARREL

A general term used to describe wooden containers. When used as a specific measure, the medieval barile of Florence held 45.5 litres (10.01 gallons), and the fifteenth century English wine barrel held 31.5 gallons, (143.20 litres).

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