An historical dish that ancient Romans commonly served as an “appetizer” was Mulsum, a blend of five-parts wine to one-part honey. This combination was left to sit for a month in an amphora or in a sealed jar, and when it was ready it would be filtered and left to refine. Mulsum was often used as a medicinal drink for those who suffered from stomach aches, gastric acid or acid reflux. It was considered a panacea of sorts in ancient times. Something similar to modern times could be considered the use of honey in the popular winter drink of Vin Brulè.
Just a cup of red wine, a sprig of rosemary and a spoonful of honey, gives us the perfect modern rendition of Mulsum. This heated wine drink is known to clear nasal congestion and is somewhat proof that old habits die hard, especially when it comes to health remedies from ancient times. If we want to look further for modern examples of ancient traditions, look no further than the typical combo of wine, cheese & honey pairings. There are whole gastronomic schools of thought (and taste) regarding which wine to pair, with which cheese, with which honey!
For example, a sheep cheese it is best to pair a pungent, spicy honey such as rosemary honey. A cheese that is sweeter in tendency such as the Italian caciocavallo is perfectly combined with a contrasting pairing such as a citrus honey. An Italian caciotta is paired with a honey of solid consistency with a hint of sweetness to it such as a chestnut honey, so as to contrast the sapidity of the cheese. But what wine is right for these pairings? It is always best to pair similar qualities with similar qualities in this case. A honey with a bit more substance to it should be paired with a smoother wine.
A honey that tends to be more on the sweet side is best paired with a wine that has a sweet tendency to it. In general, the rule of thumb is – young, fresh cheeses are paired with soft and light honeys and these are best paired with young fresh wines such as a Soave Classico, Vermentino Toscano or a Sicilian Inzolia. A medium-aged cheese is best paired with a medium-bodied red wine such as a Sangiovese di Romagna or a Chianti Classico.
More important aged cheeses, accompanied with a chestnut honey can even be paired with a bit of bubbly such as a Champagne, Farnito Brut or a Franciacorta. The effervescence and balance flavors will amaze you!