Wine was a good way to poison your enemies
During witch hunts, some of the evil deeds that were denounced were linked to wine. In 1429, for example, Jeannette Boson from Lens was accused of witchcraft by the village inhabitants. A certain Pierre refused to sell his field and she made him drink a wine that made him very ill. In Vex, a woman who cast spells offers wine poisoned with toad’s venom to a woman giving birth, who never gets up again. Marriage crimes
Poison appears in marriage crimes as well. Léonard Borter tried to kill his wife Guillemette in Sion in 1501. He went to an apothecary to buy rat poison, arsenic mixed with ground walnuts and pitch. During the noon meal the husband asked his wife to go get some water in order to take advantage of her absence to add poison to the spinach. The victim took several bites but she suddenly noticed the bitterness in the dish and she began to have pains in her heart, stomach and chest. Suspecting her husband, she tried to vomit by drinking eau-de-vie, then using a feather soaked in oil. During the evening, still feeling quite ill and very thirsty, she grabbed a glass with a handle and filled it with a liquid she thought to be wine, and she drank the contents. Unfortunately, it, too, was poisoned. The young woman again had pains in her chest, stronger than before. Still in pain, she took to her bed, but had to spit up frequently. It was only the next day that she received the first remedy from a friend who guessed she had been poisoned. The young woman pulled through, but rumours circulated in Sion that Léonard had given her a nasty drink – to the point where he had to leave Valais to escape the judicial authorities.
Premeditation and treachery
Léonard Borter’s action is a crime of lèse majesté – treason. Responsibility for his punishment fell to the prince-bishop. This is why Borter is condemned in absentia and his goods seized by the bishop of Sion. Nevertheless, in 1503 Léonard receives a pardon and is able to return to Valais. His family and friends speak of his “simplicity” as well as his youth and the fact that his attempt failed.
Source: Histoire de la Vigne et du Vin en Valais, «Lorsque la sorcellerie s’empare du vin», Chantal Ammann-Doubliez, historian.