Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Wine Gums, Hock and Rhenish.


Important fact at the outset: wine gums don't actually contain wine. But this British brand does have the names of wine (and spirit) varieties impressed into them, as well as having an assortment of shapes. Kiwi wine gums are just one shape, a squat cylinder, in a variety of colours/flavours. Now I have some inkling of how wine gums came by their misleading name.

Seeing the name on one of the wines got the wheels of my brain turning clunkily. I knew Hock was a generic name for white wine, probably from some past literary exposure. That or exposure to poor generic white wine in New Zealand of the 1970's. But why? Turns out Hock comes from Hochheim, from Hochheim am Main. Hochheim was the centre of the wine export to Britain for German wines from the 17 century. So Hock became a common term for German white wine. If it is used nowadays, it usually implies low quality white wine.

A similar and even more antiquated name for white wine from Germany is Rhenish. We see it cropping up in Shakespeare in Hamlet:
"as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The Kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge"

and in The Merchant of Venice:

"There is more difference between thy flesh and hers than
between jet and ivory; more between your bloods than there is
between red wine and Rhenish."

I had never made the connection that Rhenish wine refers to wine from the Rhine area: specifically Rheinhessen, the area between Worms and Bingen. Must go back and sample more wine: I wonder if it used to drunk from Westerwald stoneware?

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