The Grape in Antiquity

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
The Greeks and Romans grew grapes not only for making wine and for eating fresh, but also for grape products.

Sugar syrups, made by boiling down must (fresh unfermented grape juice), were an important ingredient in Roman food. The difference between the various syrups is not fully known but, according to Pliny, sapa was more concentrated than defrutum, being boiled down to one-third of the original volume. Defrutum, used in savoury sauces, was reduced to only half the original volume. Another kind, passum, made from raisins and must or wine, was used as a sweetener. Grape syrup is still made in the Levant (where it is called dibs), and in Turkey and the Balkans, where it is pekmez as well as in France (raisiné) and Italy (vincotto).