- A detailed description of the Craft on the basis of the The Dragonlover's Guide to Pern
In one of the oldest sections of the Hold lies the Benden Winecrafthall. It announces its presence even in the dark with the reek of centuries worth of yeast and spoiled grape juice. Here, as in Tillek, the craft of viniculture has been practiced for over two millennia. The wine caverns are believed to be one of the reasons this particular system of caves was chosen for the new Hold.
To the unpracticed eye, this cavern resembles the Winecrafthall in Tillek. Racks upon racks of crocks and bottles lie in shadowed corners out of the way of clumsy feet. The air is always cool and moist, circulating with the open air through ventilation shafts many dragonlengths high.
The winepresses in which the grapes are squeezed are stone tuns fifteen inches thick, cut from the very rock of the Hold with the same amazing precision as the corridors and floors. Wood has always been so scarce that traditional wooden «stomping vats» were never viable.
Apprentices hurry in and out of the storage caverns carrying withy baskets of grapes held high over their heads, and others (frequently as punitive duty) press out the juice in the traditional manner in the stone winepresses. The atmosphere is heady and rich with yeast. Many winecrafters wear cloth masks over their noses and mouths to keep from inhaling too much yeast and sneezing.
Journeymen oversee rows of apprentices at the stone tables, who sort the grapes and discard the unsuitable ones into overflowing, stinking bins that are hauled out and washed by other wrinkle-nosed apprentices (another punitive duty). Still other journeymen follow the Winecraftmaster from vat to vat, tasting when invited and listening carefully as he expounds upon secrets of the craft.
Mastervintner Gorton holds court here. He is a garrulous, fleshy man in a leather apron who bears the marks of his profession: a nose with a bulbous end and a tracery of burst capillaries, and a complexion like a sunrise. Gorton likes his wine. His consumption is formidable, and he appears always to be slightly inebriated, but never enough to reveal the secrets of his Craft.
- BENDEN BAKLAVA
Gorton has been in the Benden Winecrafthall for many Turns. He is not so much an artist as a scientist. He keeps close track of what he does to a new vintage so he can duplicate the results later on. He carries in a case slung from his belt a rock crystal cup with silver chasing made especially for tasting wine. The crystal will not pick up any flavor from the wine, nor add any to it.
Gorton, who can heave a barrel or stomp grapes with the best of them, starts the picking every harvest. Crying encouragement to his apprentices, he works furiously to set a good example, then steps back to watch everyone else work.
Benden produces the whole range of wines, from the finest white to fruit wines and ice wines, and even a small quantity of retsina.
Everywhere in the caverns are the one-and two-liter glass bottles and ceramic gallon crocks sealed with wooden stoppers covered over with lead foils or solid seals made of vegetable lipids. Pern has no beeswax or cork trees to seal bottles in the Earth fashion. Huge wooden barrels and knee-high kegs line the low end of the airless secondary cavern just off the corridor from the alcove that serves Gorton as an office. Not all of the barrels contain wine. Benden makes a fairly good beer of its own and trades with Telgar for the best of their brewing.
The barrels are made on strakes manufactured from ancient patterns of the original barrels brought to Pern by the colonists. These odd contraptions force wood into the right shape with springs and shave the lengths to bend in the right direction. Now that hardwoods are becoming more available, Gorton can replace some of the ceramic and glass barrels that his craft has been using for so long to eke out the supply.
In order to keep his palate pure, Gorton never touches sweets. He claims they spoil his ability to distinguish between vintages. His figure attests to his other weakness; he cannot resist fresh bread. But there is always a handful of sweets in his pocket for children. Gorton has a soft spot for youngsters, though he and his wife, Warra, have none of their own.
Gorton always looks forward to attending the Fort Hold festivities where the Wine-craft sells or barters wines. He has a jocular animosity for Tillek Winecraftmaster Dikson. They have carried on the traditional friendly rivalry between Benden and Tillek that has gone on as long as both Holds have been producing wine. Dikson tries to improve the range of Tillek wines, while Gordon experiments with fruit wines and cordials. There is a fair competition between Gorton and the Tillek Winecraftmaster every year to formulate the tastiest, smoothest spring wine, a delicate drink that is spiced with woodruff herb.
Gorton knows that Dikson has planted craft spies in his Hall from time to time, but there has never been a successful one. He has kept Benden's mystique intact. The secret of Benden wine is in the glass-lined, pressurized air seal tanks from the three gutted colony ships, brought to Benden by Rene Mallibeau, the man honored as the first Winecraftmaster. The perfect hermetic seal of the tanks ensures that maturing wine never loses the «angel hair» of a quality vintage, and they can be siphoned without effort.
Robinton is an old friend of Gorton, who keeps a supply of «specials» to send to the Masterharper for his personal enjoyment. The «specials» need not have been of Gortons own pressing. The wine caverns are huge, and there is plenty of storage room. Gorton knows where there are secreted wines two to four hundred Turns old. The Winecraft releases good aged wines for accessions of Lord Holders, celebrations, Hatchings, births of heirs, and other important occasions. The wines are indicated by the name of the Winecraftmaster and the number of the Turn in his career that it was pressed, such as Gorton 7, Gorton 11, Gorton 14 (reputed to be the best white wine ever), Darvik 17, Darvik 12, Anneke 5, and so on.
Naturally, there is tremendous rivalry among the Winecraftmasters as to who gets to be the Benden Master. As each Master lives a fairly long time, many a young apprentice has grown old in frustrated anticipation. The chosen candidate comes into office with the facility for tasting inbred, then trained to the highest standard.
Not all of Benden's Winecraftmasters have been men. The accolade has been passed to talented daughters, too. Anneke, the Master two before Gorton, was named to the office by her father on his deathbed.
Because the secrets of the Benden wine-craft are passed along at the last possible moment, some secrets have been lost because the Master died untimely and did not have a chance to reveal them to anyone. Many Masters, as they lay dying, have whispered to their successors, «… Never let them have the vats…»
Positions and responsibilities
- Vintner — the general name of specialists.
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Rene Mallibeau was the first to start vine starts, at Landing, for he knew that is was importation, he made arrangements, to have the clean and sterilized empty fuel tanks from the ships as vats, they are still there at Benden Hold.
- Craftsmaster: Rene Mallibeau.
- Craftsmaster: Gorton.
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