Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Opimian, wine is the wine of the consular year of Lucius Opimius, 121 bc. It owes its fame to the conjunction of an exceptionally hot summer and a momentous historical event, the assassination of C Gracchus, which temporarily ended the movement for social reform.

Writing in 46 bc, Cicero states that the Opimian vintage is already too old to drink (Brutus 287), and pliny the Elder describes it as ‘reduced to a kind of bitter honey’ but still recognizably wine and exorbitantly expensive (Natural History 14. 55–7). Petronius (Satyricon 36) and martial (Epigrams 1. 26, 3. 82, 10. 49, etc.) treat Opimian as a literary commonplace rather than a real wine: drinking Opimian in large quantities is what the nouveaux riches do to flaunt their wealth, but this is satire, not fact.