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nepente and literature

The Nepente, Cannonau of Oliena, isn't just one of our products, but is also a mysterious and magical name able to inspire special suggestions since ancient time.

The word Nepente comes from greek Ne=no, and Penthos=sadness; it could be traslated in NO SADNESS

It was Omero's "fault", the poet in the 4th book of Odyssey, used this name to indicate the invigorating beverage Helen of Troy administered to her husband Menelaus to reduce his sadness; and also gave order to serve the same brew to Telemachus, in desperate need of news about his father, Ulysses, still lost at sea.

Il Nepente già  infuso, e a’ servi imposto
Versar dall’urne nelle tazze il vino
                                                     (Trad. di Ippolito Pindemonte)

In other books he wrote about Nepente as a medicated anodyne drink used by soldiers to cure their wounds, almost a narcotic or anesthetic.

Herodotus in the 2nd book of stories, wrote about the Nepente from the Nilo Valley, and many scolars decided with no doubt it was a gateway drug, probably opioid.

After some time Pliny the Elder, while Studing the "Excursus" of the 24th about the Nepente Homerus talked about, questioned himself what was the matching plant. reaching the conclusion that must have been some mysterious Egyptian plant whose infusion gave serenity and something more:

Hoc nomine vocatur herba quae vino injecta hilaritatem inducit
(With this name [Nepente] is called a herb that mixed with wine increase happiness)

By reading Homerus and Pliny, many botanic scolars up to 9th century weren't able to decide if the plant was Centaurium erythraea, Anchusa, Mandragora or Chinese green tea. And started new conjectures.


In 17th century Pietro Della Valle, in his book of letters "Travel to Turchia, Persia and India" (1650), supposed that Nepente was nothing more than the caphue, coffee, which added to wine would give the effects Homerus described.

That theory was greeted by Francesco Redi at first and the next century by the Encyclopaedie by Diderot and D’Alembert maybe because a leak by Herodotus suggested that Helena learned in Egypt how to use the Nepente, that news was embraced by the French scolars.

Samuel Hahnemann, in 1825, stated instead with absolute certainty that it was opium, and was supported 5 years later by Johann Joachim Winckelmann even if with less conviction.

Nepente is actually a plant, a genre of carnivorous plant: Nepenthes.
Linnaues described it enthusiastically:

Si elle n’est pas la Nèpente d’Hélène, elle le sera certainement de tous les botanistes
(If isn't Helena's Nepente [of Troy], it will be certainly [the nepente] of all botanist)

He asked himself what botanist wouldn't have it as "narcotic", finding the plant in some of his researches, getting overwhelmed by strong feelings and forgetting the difficulties faced to find it.

About what else Gabriele D’Annunzio was able to "sing" about Oliena wine, is worth to say that in 1909 trying melodrama, he gave origint to "Fedra", a three act Tragedy for the music of Ildebrando da Parma, whose protagonist meeting a Phoenician pirate asked him:

Rechi il farmaco d’Egitto, il Nepente che dà l’oblio dei mali?

(Have you the drug from Egypt, the Nepente that let you forget the ills?)


So, it was still diffused at the beginning of 1900 that magical meaning of the word.

That's the reason why the Vate, Gabriele d'Annunzio, after his stop in Oliena (1882) baptized with the name Nepente the Cannonau produced here. And since then, Oliena wine was known as Nepente.

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