history of wine spans thousands of years and is closely
intertwined with the history of agriculture, cuisine, civilization
and humanity itself. Archaeological evidence suggests that
the earliest wine production came from sites in Armenia, Georgia,
and Iran, dating from 8000 to 5000 BC.
The archaeological evidence becomes clearer and points to
domestication of grapevine in Early Bronze Age sites of the
Near East, Sumer and Egypt from around the third millennium
of the earliest European wine production has been uncovered
at archaeological sites in Macedonia, dated to 6,500 years ago. These same sites
also contain remnants of the world's earliest evidence of crushed
In Egypt, wine became a part of recorded history, playing an
important role in ancient ceremonial life. Traces of wild wine
dating from the second and first millennium BC have also been
found in China.
in myth to Dionysus/Bacchus, was common in ancient Greece and
and many of the major wine-producing regions of Western Europe
today were established with Phoenician and later Roman plantations.
Wine-making technology, such as the wine press, improved considerably
during the time of the Roman Empire; many grape varieties and
cultivation techniques were known and barrels were developed
for storing and shipping wine.
Europe, following the decline of Rome and its industrial-scale
wine production for export, the Christian Church became a staunch
supporter of the wine necessary for celebration of the Catholic
Mass. Whereas wine was forbidden in medieval Islamic cultures,
its use in Christian libation was widely tolerated and Geber
and other Muslim chemists pioneered its distillation for Islamic
medicinal and industrial purposes such as perfume. Wine production gradually
increased and its consumption became popularized from the 15th
century onwards, surviving the devastating Phylloxera louse
of the 1870s and eventually establishing growing regions throughout
an extensive gene-mapping project in 2006, Dr. McGovern and
his colleagues analyzed the heritage of more than 110 modern
grape cultivars, and narrowed their origin to a region in Georgia. Additionally, tartaric acid
has been identified in ancient pottery jars by Patrick McGovern's
team at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Records include
ceramic jars from Neolithic sites at Shulaveri in present-day
Georgia, (about 8000 BC),
Hajji Firuz Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of present-day Iran
(5400â€“5000 BC), and from Late
Uruk (3500â€“3100 BC) occupation at the site of Uruk, in MesopotamiaUniversity
Museum"The Origins and Ancient History of Wine". The identifications
are based on the identification of tartaric acid and tartrate
salts using a form of infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). These identifications
are regarded with caution by some biochemists because of the
risk of false positives, particularly where complex mixtures
of organic materials, and degradation products, may be present.
The identifications have not yet been replicated in other laboratories.
actually known of the early history of wine. It is plausible
that early foragers and farmers made alcoholic beverages from
wild fruits, including wild grapes of the species Vitis silvestris,
ancestor to modern wine grapes. This would have become easier
following the development of pottery vessels in the later Neolithic
of the Near East, about 9,000 years ago. However, wild grapes
are small and sour, and relatively rare at archaeological sites.
It is unlikely they could have been the basis of a wine industry.
In his book
Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), McGovern argues
that the domestication of the Eurasian wine grape and winemaking
could have originated on the territory of modern day Armenia
and Georgia, and spread south from there.
known winery is located in the "Areni-1" cave in the Vayots
Dzor Province of Armenia. Archaeologists announced the discovery
of this winery in January 2011, seven months after the world's
oldest leather shoe, the Areni-1 shoe, was discovered in the
same cave. The winery, which is over six thousand years old,
contains a wine press, fermentation vats, jars, and cups. Archaeologists
also found grape seeds and vines of the species Vitis vinifera.
Patrick McGovern commenting on the importance of the find, said,
"The fact that winemaking was already so well developed in 4000 BC
suggests that the technology probably goes back much earlier."
grapes were abundant in the Near East from the beginning of
the Early Bronze Age, starting in 3200 BC. There is also
increasingly abundant evidence for winemaking in Sumer and Egypt
in the third millennium BC. The ancient Chinese made wine from
native wild "mountain grapes" like Vitis thunbergii
for a time, until they imported domesticated grape seeds from
Central Asia in the 2nd century. Grapes were also an important
food. There is slender evidence for earlier domestication of
the grape, in the form of pips from Chalcolithic Tell Shuna
in Jordan, but this evidence remains unpublished.
where wine was first made is still unclear. It could have been
anywhere in the vast region, stretching from North Africa to
Central/South Asia, where wild grapes grow. However, the first
large-scale production of wine must have been in the region
where grapes were first domesticated, Southern Caucasus and
the Near East. Wild grapes grow in Georgia, northern Levant,
coastal and southeastern Turkey, northern Iran or Armenia. None
of these areas can, as yet, be definitively singled out.
many apocryphal tales about the origins of wine. Biblical accounts
tell of Noah and his sons producing wine at the base of Mount
Ararat. One tale involves the legendary Persian king, Jamshid
and his harem. According to the legend, the king banished one
of his harem ladies from his kingdom, causing her to become
despondent and wishing to commit suicide. Going to the king's
warehouse, the girl sought out a jar marked "poison" which contained
the remnants of grapes that had spoiled and were deemed undrinkable.
Unbeknown to her, the "spoilage" was actually the result of
fermentation caused by the breakdown of the grapes by yeast
into alcohol. After drinking the so-called poison, the harem
girl discovered its effects to be pleasant and her spirits were
lifted. She took her discovery to the King who became so enamored
with this new "wine" beverage that he not only accepted the
girl back into his harem but also decreed that all grapes grown
in Persepolis would be devoted to winemaking. While most wine
historians view this story as pure legend, there is archaeological
evidence that wine was known and extensively traded by the early
were the recipients of winemaking knowledge from eastern areas
and, in turn, through their extensive trade network were essential
in distributing wine, wine grapes and wine-making technology
throughout the Mediterranean. The Phoenician use of amphora
for transporting wine was widely adopted and Phoenician-distibuted
grape varieties were important in the development of the wine
industries of Rome and Greece.
wine culture derives from the practices of the ancient Greeks.
While the exact arrival of wine in Greek territory is unknown,
it was certainly known to both the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures.
Many of the grapes grown in modern Greece are grown there exclusively
and are similar or identical to varieties grown in ancient times.
Indeed, the most popular modern Greek variety, retsina, a strongly
aromatic white wine, is believed to be a carryover from when
wine jugs were lined with tree resin, which imparted a distinct
flavor to the wine.
from archaeological sites in Greece, in the form of 6,500 year-old
grape remnants, represents the earliest known appearance of
wine production in Europe.
The "feast of the wine" (me-tu-wo ne-wo) was a festival
in Mycenaean Greece celebrating the "month of the new wine". Several ancient
sources, such as the Roman writer Pliny the Elder, describe
the ancient Greek method of using partly dehydrated gypsum before
fermentation, and some type of lime after fermentation, to reduce
acidity. The Greek writer Theophrastus provides the oldest known
description of this aspect of Greek wine making.
the Greek god of revelry and wine and frequently referred to
in the works of Homer and Aesop, was sometimes given the epithet
Acratophorus, by which he was designated as the giver
of unmixed wine. Dionysus was
also known as Bacchus and the frenzy he induces,
bakcheia. In Homeric mythology wine is usually served
in "mixing bowls" it was not traditionally consumed in an undiluted
state and was referred to as "Juice of the Gods". Homer frequently
refers to the "wine-dark sea" under the intensely blue Greek
sky, the Aegean sea as seen from aboard a boat can appear a
reference to a named wine is by the lyrical poet Alkman (7th
century BC), who praises "DÃ©nthis", a wine from the western
foothills of Mount Taygetus in Messenia, as "anthosmÃas"
("smelling of flowers"). Aristotle mentions Lemnian wine, which
is probably the same as the modern-day LemniÃ³ varietal, a red
wine with a bouquet of oregano and thyme. If so, this makes
LemniÃ³ the oldest known varietal still in cultivation.
was widely known and exported throughout the Mediterranean basin,
as amphorae with Greek styling and art have been found throughout
the area, and the Greeks had possible involvement in the first
appearance of wine in ancient Egypt. The Greeks
introduced the Vitis vinifera vine
and made wine in their numerous colonies in modern-day Italy, Sicily,
wine played an important role in ancient ceremonial life. A
thriving royal winemaking industry was established in the Nile
Delta following the introduction of grape cultivation from the
Levant to Egypt c. 3000 BC. The industry was most likely
the result of trade between Egypt and Canaan during the Early
Bronze Age, commencing from at least the Third Dynasty (2650-2575
BC), the beginning of the Old Kingdom period (2650-2152 BC).
Winemaking scenes on tomb walls, and the offering lists that
accompanied them, included wine that was definitely produced
at the deltaic vineyards. By the end of the Old Kingdom, five
wines, all probably produced in the Delta, constitute a canonical
set of provisions, or fixed "menu," for the afterlife.
ancient Egypt was predominantly red. A recent discovery, however,
has revealed the first ever evidence of white wine in ancient
Egypt. Residue from five clay amphorae from Pharaoh Tutankhamun's
tomb yielded traces of white wine.
Finds in nearby containers led the same study to establish that
Shedeh, the most precious drink in ancient Egypt, was made from
red grapes, not pomegranates as previously thought.
Egypt's lower classes, much of the ancient Middle East preferred
beer as a daily drink rather than wine, a taste likely inherited
from the Sumerians. However, wine was well-known, especially
near the Mediterranean coast, and figures prominently in the
ritual life of the Jewish people going back to the earliest
known records of the faith; the Tanakh mentions it prominently
in many locations as both a boon and a curse, and wine drunkenness
serves as a major theme in a number of Bible stories.
surrounded wine-drinking in early Egyptian times, largely due
to its resemblance to blood. In Plutarch's Moralia he mentions
that, prior to the reign of Psammetichus, the ancient Kings
did not drink wine, "nor use it in libation as something dear
to the gods, thinking it to be the blood of those who had once
battled against the gods and from whom, when they had fallen
and had become commingled with the earth, they believed vines
to have sprung." This was considered to be the reason why drunkenness
"drives men out of their senses and crazes them, inasmuch as
they are then filled with the blood of their forbears."
Empire had an immense impact on the development of viticulture
and oenology. Wine was an integral part of the Roman diet and
wine making became a precise business. Vitruvius' De architectura
(I.4.2) noted how wine storage rooms were built facing north,
"since that quarter is never subject to change but is always
constant and unshifting."
As the Roman
Empire expanded, wine production in the provinces grew to the
point where the provinces were competing with Roman wines. Virtually
all of the major wine producing regions of Western Europe today
were established by the Romans.
technology improved considerably during the time of the Roman
Empire. Many grape varieties and cultivation techniques were
developed and barrels, invented by the Gauls, and later glass
bottles, invented by the Syrians, began to compete with terracotta
amphorae for storing and shipping wine. Following the Greek
invention of the screw, wine presses became common on Roman
villas. The Romans also created a precursor to appellation systems,
as certain regions gained reputations for their fine wines.
mixed with herbs and minerals, was assumed to serve medicinal
purposes. During Roman times the upper classes might dissolve
pearls in wine for better health. Cleopatra created her own
legend by promising Mark Antony she would "drink the value of
a province" in one cup of wine, after which she drank an expensive
pearl with a cup of wine.
When the Western Roman Empire fell around 500 AD, Europe
went into a period of invasions and social turmoil, with the
Roman Catholic Church as the only stable social structure. Through
the Church, grape growing and wine-making technology, essential
for the Mass, were preserved.
the Han Dynasty (202 BC â€“ AD 220) emissary Zhang Qian's exploration
of the Western Regions in the 2nd century BC and contact with
Hellenistic kingdoms such as Fergana, Bactria, and the Indo-Greek
Kingdom, high quality grapes (i.e. vitis vinifera) were
introduced into China and Chinese grape wine (called putao
jiu in Chinese) was first produced.
Before the travels of Zhang Qian in the 2nd century BC, wild
mountain grapes were used to make wine, notably Vitis thunbergii
and Vitis filifolia described in the Classical Pharmacopoeia
of the Heavenly Husbandman.
Rice wine remained the most common wine in China, since grape
wine was still considered exotic and reserved largely for the
emperor's table during the Tang Dynasty (618â€“907), and was
not popularly consumed by the literati gentry class until the
Song Dynasty (960â€“1279).
The fact that rice wine was more common than grape wine was
noted even by the Venetian traveler Marco Polo when he ventured
to China in the 1280s. As noted by Shen Kuo (1031â€“1095)
in his Dream Pool Essays, an old phrase in China amongst
the gentry class was having the company of "drinking guests"
(jiuke), which was a figure of speech for drinking wine,
playing the Chinese zither, playing Chinese chess, Zen Buddhist
meditation, ink (calligraphy and painting), tea drinking, alchemy,
chanting poetry, and conversation.
In the Arabian
peninsula before the advent of Islam wine was traded by Aramaic
merchants, as the environment was not well-suited to the growing
of vines. Many other types of fermented drinks were produced
in the 5th and 6th centuries, including date and honey wines.
conquests in the 7th and 8th centuries brought many territories
under Muslim control. Alcoholic drinks were prohibited in law,
but the production of alcohol, in particular wine, seems to
have thrived. Wine was a subject of poetry for many poets even
under the Islamic rule. Even many Khalifas used to drink alcoholic
beverages during their social and private meetings. Egyptian
Jews leased vineyards from the Fatimid and Mamluk governments,
produced wine for sacramental and medicinal use, and traded
wine throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. Christian monasteries
in the Levant and Iraq often cultivated grape vines; they then
distributed their vintages in taverns located on monastery grounds.
Zoroastrians in Persia and Central Asia also engaged in the
production of wine. Though not much is known about their wine
trade, they did become known for their taverns.
general found an industrial use in the medieval Middle East
as feedstock after advances in distillation by Muslim alchemists
allowed for the production of relatively pure ethanol, which
was used the perfume industry. Wine was also for the first time
distilled into brandy in this time and period.
In the Middle
Ages, wine was the common drink of all social classes in the
south, where grapes were cultivated. In the north and east,
where few if any grapes were grown, beer and ale were the common
drink of both commoners and nobility. Wine was imported to the
northern regions, but was expensive, and thus seldom consumed
by the lower classes. Wine was necessary for the celebration
of the Catholic Mass, and so assuring a supply was crucial.
The Benedictine monks became one of the largest producers of
wine in France and Germany, followed closely by the Cistercians.
Other orders, such as the Carthusians, the Templars, and the
Carmelites, are also notable both historically and in modern
times as wine producers. The Benedictines owned vineyards in
Champagne (Dom Perignon was a Benedictine monk), Burgundy, and
Bordeaux in France and in the Rheingau and Franconia in Germany.
In 1435 Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen, a very rich member
of the Holy Roman high nobility near Frankfurt, was the first
to plant Riesling, the most important grape of Germany. Nearby
the winemaking monks made it into an industry, producing enough
wine to ship it all over Europe for secular use. In Portugal,
a country with one of the oldest wine traditions, the first
appellation system in the world was created.
of the merchant class or a servant in a noble household would
have served wine at every meal, and had a selection of reds
and whites alike. Home recipes for meads from this period are
still in existence, along with recipes for spicing and masking
flavors in wines, including the simple act of adding a small
amount of honey to the wine. As wines were kept in barrels,
they were not extensively aged, and therefore were drunk quite
young. To offset the effects of heavy consumption of alcohol,
wine was frequently watered down at a ratio of four or five
parts water to one of wine.
application of wine was the use of snake-stones (banded agate
resembling the figural rings on a snake) dissolved in wine against
snake bites, which shows an early understanding of the effects
of alcohol on the central nervous system in such situations.
Waterford, a 13th-century Dominican, wrote a catalogue of all
the known wines and ales of Europe, describing them with great
relish, and recommending them to academics and counsellors.
In the late
19th century the Phylloxera louse brought devastation to vines
and wine production in Europe. It brought catastrophe for all
those whose lives depended on wine. The repercussions were widespread,
including the loss of many indigenous varieties. On the positive
side, it led to the transformation of Europe's vineyards. Only
the fittest survived. Bad vineyards were uprooted and better
uses were found for the land. Some of France's best butter and
cheese, for example, is now made from cows that graze on Charentais
soil which was previously covered with vines. "Cuvees" were
also standardised. This was particularly important in creating
certain wines as we now know them today Champagne and Bordeaux
finally achieved the grape mix which defines them today. In
the Balkans, where phylloxera did not hit, the local varieties
survived but, along with Ottoman occupation, the transformation
of vineyards has been slow. It is only now that local varieties
are getting to be known beyond the "mass" wines like Retsina.
wheat were first brought to what is now Latin America by the
first Spanish conquistadores to provide the necessities of the
Catholic Holy Eucharist. Planted at Spanish missions, one variety
came to be known as the Mission grapes and is still planted
today in small amounts. Succeeding waves of immigrants imported
French, Italian and German grapes, although wine from grapes
native to the Americas is also produced (though the flavors
can be very different).
phylloxera blight in the late 1800s, it was found that native
American grapes were immune to the pest. French-American hybrid
grapes were developed and saw some use in Europe. More important
was the practice of using American grape rootstocks grafted
to European grape vines to protect from the insect. This practice
continues to this day wherever phylloxera is present.
the Americas is often associated with Argentina, California
and Chile, all of which produce a wide variety of wines from
inexpensive jug wines to high-quality varieties and proprietary
blends. While most of the wine production in the Americas is
based on Old World varieties, the wine growing regions of the
Americas often have "adopted" grapes that are particularly closely
identified with them, such as California's Zinfandel (from Croatia),
Argentina's Malbec, and Chile's CarmenÃ¨re (both from France).
latter half of the 20th century, American wine was generally
looked upon as inferior to European product; it was not until
the surprising American showing at the Paris Wine tasting of
1976 that New World wine began to gain respect in the lands
of wine's origins.
New Zealand and South Africa
purposes, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other countries
without a wine tradition are also considered New World. Wine
production began in the Cape Province of southern Africa in
the 1680s as a business for supplying ships. Australia's First
Fleet (1788) brought cuttings of vines from South Africa, although
initial plantings failed and the first vineyards were established
in the early 1800s. Until quite late in the 20th century, the
product of these countries was not well known outside their
small export markets (Australia exported largely to the United
Kingdom, New Zealand kept most of its wine internally, South
Africa was closed off to much of the world market because of
apartheid). However, with the increase in mechanization and
scientific winemaking, these countries became known for high
quality wine. A notable exception to the above statement is
the fact that in the 18th Century the largest exporter of wine
to Europe was the Cape Province of what is today South Africa.
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