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CEMERS conference to examine history of wine

For Karen-edis Barzman, the pervasiveness of wine has been forgotten over the past 200 years.

“In an era before the introduction of coffee and tea, when the purity of water could not be guaranteed, people drank wine,” said Barzman, director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CEMERS). “It was a staple part of the diet, along with bread. It wasn’t only a luxury beverage; it was a beverage of the working class and a beverage of the poor. It was standard fare and tracking the development of local markets enables us to trace the development of global markets as well.”

The role of wine through the ages will be examined April 24-25 when CEMERS presents “In Vino Veritas: A Symposium on Wine and the Influence of Bacchus from Classical Antiquity Through the Eighteenth Century.”

The group’s annual conference will feature 22 speakers from across the globe on topics ranging from production and marketing of wine to its uses in Jewish, Christian and Islamic contexts.

Keynote speakers are Allen Grieco from the Harvard Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies; Francesca Canade Sautman of CUNY; and Philip Withington of Cambridge University.

The conference is open to the public and free to Binghamton faculty, staff and students. Registration for the public is $75 for full attendance, $30 for half-day.

Presentations will be in FA-258. A Friday night banquet at the Kilmer Brasserie in Binghamton ($45) will feature specialty wines from France and will be preceded by a champagne flight. Saturday night’s closing banquet in the Anderson Center Reception Room ($45) will include live music and a tribute to wine by Martin Bidney, professor emeritus of English.

The original call for papers drew submissions from as far away as Australia and Romania, Barzman said. The conference has generated attention from non-scholars such as vintners, distributors and wine enthusiasts, she said.

“Last year’s conference (“Venus and the Venereal”) attracted a smaller, more specialized group of scholars,” said Barzman, an associate professor in art history. “We are floored by the kind of excitement this conference has generated. … We pride ourselves at CEMERS in coming up with innovative ideas for programming. I will admit, though, that this one took me by surprise. We never expected this kind of response from non-scholars.

“It’s scholarship that’s accessible to a general audience and it’s the kind of thing that people who are into wine are really hungry for.”

Conference attendees also will be able to take part in a complimentary tasting of premier Finger Lakes wines. Standing Stone, Lamoreaux Landing and Konstantin Frank all are donating their wines for the 7:15 p.m. Saturday tasting in the grand corridor of the Fine Arts Building.

“We thought this was a great opportunity with people coming from around the world to show them the best of the local wineries,” Barzman said.

For more information about the conference, including a program of speakers, topics and other events, visit

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Last Updated: 10/14/08