One of the first things Europeans noticed when they first arrived in Peru in the 16th century was the psychostimulant effect of chewing coca leaves on the body.
However, the news spread to Europe centuries later, mainly due to the adventurous travels of explorers. One such, his ruthless British university professor and personal friend Charles Darwin, Charles Kingsley, spoke in a book in 1855 about “a miraculous herb that makes food unnecessary.”
Four years later, the Italian neurologist and anthropologist Paolo Mantegazza experimented with coca leaves and came up with a scientific study, where he wrote: “I would rather live 10 years with coca than 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 centuries without coca.”
His words were to have a major impact on a chemist from Corsica, an Angelo Mariani, who wanted to develop a commercially viable version of the miracle herb.
He did not even imagine the reception that his product would have from the world…
What was the wine with coca extract
Mariani knew that the Europeans were not going to chew coca leaves, let alone that in order for the plant to yield its intoxicating fruits, it was obligatory to throw limes at it. And so he had to think subversively.
The Frenchman Ange-Francois Mariani was born in 1838 in Corsica, where he spent his entire life. He was a chemist by profession and an amateur winemaker. And so he said to combine two things he knew well. So he developed a formula of coca leaves and Bordeaux wine, adding sweeteners and brandy to the mixture.
After experimenting with recipes, in 1863 he was ready to present his product to the world. For this to happen, of course, he had imported tons of coca leaves into Corsica, as he needed large quantities of extract for his experiments, which had been counting for 5 years.
He did not just make wine with me cocaine, although wine was what would make him rich and famous. Even the Pope would see him rewarded for his miraculous product.
Vin Tonique Mariani said so, with the footnote on the label “à la Coca du Pérou”.
Mariani found that the ethanol in wine acted as a diluent, extracting cocaine from the leaves of the plant as a distillate and thus facilitating the body to absorb it. You no longer had to chew coca leaves with lime to have the effect of the psychoactive alkaloid, all the cocaine was in a glass of sweet wine.
Vin Mariani contained 6 milligrams of cocaine per ounce (30 grams), it was quite “dynamite”. Especially since the bottles exported to the US were even stronger, containing 7.2 milligrams of cocaine / ounce.
Mariani promoted his wine not only as a stimulant, but also as a panacea for everything, as he said it could improve the health and fill the body with energy and strength. And its effects were immediately visible, whoever drank it felt the excitement overwhelm him.
Vin Mariani became extremely popular from the first moment.
The personalities who proposed it and the Pope award
Mariani saw many famous people speak in the best words about his wine. Among them the 18th President of the USA, Odysseus Grant, Emil Zola, the Jules Verne, Alexandros Doumas, the ser Arthur Conan Doyle, the multi-inventor Thomas Edison, the great composer Charles Gounod, his equally great American colleague John Philip Souza and many others.
Among them are two Pontiffs, both Pope Leo XIII and his successor Pius I. In fact, the former was such a loyal admirer of wine that he not only awarded a Vatican medal to his inspirer, but even allowed (or at least did not ban) the use of his face in Vin Mariani advertisements.
The tonic formulation of the French chemist, a real energy drink in modern terms, was now advertised as an elixir for various ailments, as in zero time they increased appetite, mood and energy.
Pope Leo XIII did not take it out of his mouth, constantly carrying a bottle of special wine on it. It would not take long for him to award Angelo Mariani his “Gold Medal Vatican“, And in fact in” recognition of the benefits I received “.
What this medal was is not clear, as it is not included in the official medals of the Holy See, however it was a title of honor that immediately entered the wine advertising campaigns.
Mariani rubbed his hands when he heard important personalities talking about his wine. THE Thomas Edison, for example, claimed that he drank it because it “helps me stay awake longer”.
Odysseus Grant, the victorious general of the North in the American Civil War and later president of the United States, drank heavily throughout his life. In Vin Mariani, however, he found himself saying that he had not actually drank wine before tasting it. He even wrote his memoirs with a glass of Vin Mariani in his hand.
Prominent in the testimonies of the power of wine is perhaps the statement of French Prime Minister Jules Méline, a man known for his abstinence from alcohol. For Vin Mariani, however, he was always ready to make an exception.
The parade of names swearing by Mariani wine is large and strong on both sides of the Atlantic.
Wine with cocaine has really caught on in France, Italy and America and armies of artists, intellectuals, policies and prominent names advertised it word of mouth.
The American competitor and oca Coca-Cola
Vin Tonique Mariani à la Coca du Pérou contained 6 milligrams of cocaine per ounce, which proved to be a problem on the other side of the Atlantic. The USA they already had their own cocaine infusions and most were even much louder, containing as much as 10 milligrams per ounce.
To keep his wine competitive, Mariani increased the amount of cocaine. In fact, when he saw that cocaine products were now used for all kinds of diseases, he released his own elixir (Mariani’s Elixir) with three times the cocaine content of his wine.
And then he said he was going crazy, launching a cocaine tea with eight times the content. From the 1860s onwards, cocaine was hailed as a panacea for everything, and countless drinks contained it, especially in America. These include tonics, soft drinks and even baby milk.
But Vin Mariani had the Confederate veteran in mind as well pharmacist John Pemberton, who in 1885 introduced his own version of wine with cocaine. Pemberton’s French Wine Coca was a hit in the US and would later give way to the most famous product ever made by the pharmacist, Coca-Cola.
His wine recipe was similar to that of Mariani, containing only caffeine. Colonel Pemberton was seriously wounded in 1865, during the American Civil War, and was addicted to the chronic morphine he was taking for pain.
Pemberton’s French Wine Coca was released in Georgia, but the following year many local state authorities began banning the sale of alcoholic beverages in their counties.
Pemberton was thus forced to make a non-alcoholic version of his tonic, the first Coca-Cola recipe that is, which he bottled for the first time in 1894.
In fact, the first batches of tonic contained very large doses of cocaine. The pharmacist was forced to reduce it by 90% in 1904 when he saw many eyebrows rise in surprise and anger at times.
What happened to Vin Mariani
Vin Mariani, however, continued to hold the scepter in the United States despite the imitations circulating and the relentless efforts of the pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia.
And it was only the new anti-cocaine laws that passed that endorsed the end of wine.
Angelo Mariani died in 1914 and with him died his wine, but also the secret formula. Production stopped immediately after his death. The same year a new amendment was passed in America that now banned even the slightest amount of cocaine (but not coca leaves).
The second synthetic cocaine wine was banned a few years later, with the Prohibition of 1920.
Mariani did not leave the secret recipe to his descendants, he took his wine with him to the other world. The product was revived in 2014 by a Christophe Mariani, for whom we do not know if and how it is related to the Corsican chemical.
The young Mariani stated that his own version is based on the original recipe, analyzing some samples he found. It came on the market in 2017 and was Bordeaux wine with sweeteners. But also coca leaves, without however the active substance.
Something that, as far as you can tell, makes it completely different from the wine that the Pontiffs were not satisfied with…