In 1894 President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday to recognize workers’ contribution to the strength and wellbeing of the nation. These days, most Americans will celebrate the unofficial last days of summer eating and drinking in their backyards, at the beach, poolside or at picnic tables. But before you pop the top off that beer can or uncork the that last bottle of Rose, you may find it surprising to learn of one historical relationship between workers and wine that shows how times have changed.
Below is a short excerpt from Robert C. Davis’ Venetian Shipbuilders and the Fountain of Wine, describing a wine fountain that dispensed a daily ration of 2.5 liters of (diluted) wine to the 2,500 workers at the Arsenal of the Republic of Venice. An engineer by the name of Marin de Antonio designed the fountain to solve the problem of workers dipping their hands into the wine vat for a draught.
“With its ‘three spigots and inch in diameter … running continuously’, the fountain was both elegant and able to serve the practical needs of Marin’s fellow shipbuilders, for even flowing at a fairly modest rate it would have put out at least 10 litres of liquid a minute, or about 6,000 litres in ten hours; just about the amount that was consumed during the course of a typical workday in the Arsenal, and pouring out at a pace sufficient to have kept the twelve labourers in the caneva continuously busy, filling and distributing their buckets (of wine)”
It’s difficult to comprehend the way Mr. Davis can make such an enormous quantity of wine seem matter-of-fact. A fountain that produced 6,000 liters a day to meet the “practical” needs of workers who would consume two and a half liters a day (while at work) delivered by twelve full-time bucket carriers is rather incomprehensible. It’s even more so when you consider that these guys were building ships AND guns. That’s a lot of wine, even if it was a little diluted.
It’s probably a good idea that these days have passed, and that today’s workers reach for a cold glass of water or Gatorade when they need refreshment. This weekend, however, pop open a few bottles of wine and toast the workers of the past with their historical beverage of choice, undiluted of course. To help you replenish your supply, we’re not planning to build a fountain, but we will offer you 15% off any three bottles of 90+ Cellars of your choice. Just enter code LABORDAY2014 at checkout, now until Monday 9/1 at 11:59PM EST.