Fava beans and a nice chianti

This is not about the well-known Hannibal Lecter line from Silence of the Lambs or the revelation that its a medical in-joke.

The discovery of a new very well-preserved thermopolium at Pompeii has received considerable media attention. These were street-side food bars, and if you visit Pompeii now you’ll see quite a few, although this new one preserves both painted decoration and food remains spectacularly.

The Guardian article includes the line:

Crushed fava beans, used to modify the taste of wine, were found at the bottom of one jar.

Googling only gives me Lecter recipes, so my question is what specifically does fava bean do to the wine flavour? Was it overt flavouring like in spiced wines, intended to smooth out rot-gut taste or just made your wine crunchier?

I just read an italian article about recent discoveries in Pompeii and it gives one more detail: fava beans were used to change wine color, to whiten it.
The article says that this process is well explained by Apicio in his “De Re Coquinaria” (I, 5) (about the art of cooking)

This is the quote the article mentions, from DE RE COQUINARIA I just found :

V. COME RENDERE CHIARO IL VINO NERO. Versa in un orciuolo di vino nero delle fave ridotte in farina o l’albume di tre uova. Agita a lungo. Il giorno dopo il vino sarà scolorito. Lo stesso effetto produrranno le ceneri della vitalba
(if you need the translation, i can do it for you)

Thanks @Astrid1. Yes, please.

Pour some crumbled fava beans or the white of three eggs in a jar of black wine. Shake for a long time. The next day the wine will be discolored. The same effect will produce the ashes of the vitalba
Vitalba (Clematide Vitalba) is a plant

NB: I ask myself if the white of three eggs changes in some way the taste of red wine :roll_eyes::nauseated_face:

Thanks @Astrid1 - that explains it.

Apicio says fava beans can be used in lieu of egg whites, which are used as a fining agent to reduce the phenolic content of wine, and makes for a smoother and probably more light coloured wine.

This would be done at the barrel stage in a modern winery, but at Pompeii was at the point of sale on the rough red to make it more palatable.

Good to know. Thanks!

Thank you for this last information :+1:

In regards to the thread title, it’s only the cinematic Hannibal Lecter that pairs human liver with Chianti. The Lecter line from Thomas Harris’ book is:

“A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone."

Which would be my choice with favas and or ful medames. Favas are pretty rich. So is Amarone.

Neat, about the favas being used as a fining addition. I’d heard of things like isinglass, blood, egg whites, but not favas beans.

Not really. Did you know that wine is mostly considered not to be vegan because the white of eggs is used to clear the suspension of cloudy stuff that makes wine look unappealing? Same goes for champagne: not vegan! That is also the reason why in many places where wine is made there are lots of traditional sweets based on egg yolk, because that is what is left from the clearing process. Yemas de Ávila (also called Yemas de Santa Teresa, yemas meaning yolks) for instance, from Spain. Yummy, but extremely sweet.
Of course there are also vegan wines, they use clay or other non animal stuff to clear the it, but that is (in my understanding) a rather recent development and still not very widely used.
So again: no, egg white does not alter the taste of wine because it is already there and you don’t notice it.

In may be misunderstanding your point about the egg white being there and one not noticing it. The egg white is allowed to sit in the wine the settle out with all the gunk it has attached to, then the wine taken off the top leaving the egg white sediment behind, so there should really be no egg white in the wine at all.

I am astonished! I had ZERO idea about the white of eggs into the wine!
I just quickly read a few articles about wine clarification, and found out that treating the wine with egg albumin, is a common and very old practice.
From June 30 2012, the rules that require the indication on the label of all allergenic foods came into force and on the back of the bottles, the words “contains eggs and derivatives” or “contains milk and derivatives” are mandatory. In fact, EFSA gave its favorable opinion on the indication and so, after the sulphites, albumin and casein also come among the ingredients of wine.

No, there should not, but vegans are rather strict in what they eat: when there has been contact, the food is considered to be not a pure plant product anymore and should be rejected. Thus wine is not vegan, though practically all the egg white is separated. Just as most vegans, at least the vegans I know, would not want to eat vegetables fried in a pan in which meat was also prepared, even if it was washed properly.
But even if it was completely separated, the taste is not there: Egg whites leave no taste in wine. That was the question I was answering to.
Personally I do not agree with this strict interpretation of veganism, but I am no vegan, so my attitude may seem disrespectful with regards to their principles. When vegans come to eat at my place, I try to accomodate their wishes. It is not easy, there are so many things I would never have thought of if they did not help me by mentioning them. Vegans, of course, are much more aware of the things that are relevant to them. I have learned a lot by talking to them, even if I do not subscribe every idea.