History of Wine
We all drink it. We all love it. But where did wine come from? How did it become a household beverage that gets you through dinner with the in-laws, or helps tired parents get through dinner, or is your favorite way to enjoy a lazy evening.
Wine plays a significant role in the lives of people throughout the world. But there is a rich and complex history of wine, and few know it. Read on to learn a little more about this favorite fermented drink.
History of Wine
The earliest evidence we have of grapes to make wine by any culture is from what is today Georgia in 6000 BC. Other countries, including Iran, Greece, Sicily, China, and Armenia, have evidence of wine around similar periods. Wine was first produced in 4100 BC in Armenia.
Archaeologists found a cave in Armenia with a wine press, fermentation vats, jars, cups, and grape seeds and wines. It is widely believed that the technology is much older than 4100 BC because of how well-developed the process already seemed to be.
Wine predates our modern, written history. There is mention of wine in numerous historical texts, including the Bible. Genesis mentions wine production after the Great Flood. Noah got a little drunk and exposed himself.
In Greek mythology, Dionysus, regarded as the god of wine, discovered viticulture in his childhood and taught the practice of winemaking to others. Persian legend has a woman disgraced by King Jamshid attempting to commit suicide by drinking “poison.” This poison turned out to be fermented grapes which lifted her spirits and turn the kings. Winemaking was then the thing to do in Persia.
Wine, in particular red wine, played a considerable role in rituals and daily life in Ancient Egypt. The Phoenicians developed methods to store and transport wine throughout the Mediterranean.
History credits the Greeks with establishing the wine culture we still enjoy today. Greece even grows grapes today that are the same varietals as ancient times. Greeks still produce a wine today called retsina. Historically, retsina was an aromatic wine that got its unique flavor from lining the wine jugs with tree resin.
There is evidence of alcoholic beverages in China as early as 7000 BC. Archaeologists believe there were many alcoholic beverages, including rice wine and grape wine, beer, and liquors.
The Romans were instrumental in the development of winemaking. Wine played an essential role in daily life and business in Roman times. Most of the areas of Western Europe that produce wine today were established under Roman rule. There is evidence of widespread drunkenness and alcoholism during the first century BC. An Emperor in the first century AD had to pass a law limiting the number of vines in Italy so farmers could plant other things, such as grains.
Wine continued to grow in popularity and availability throughout the Middle Ages. All classes enjoyed this drink. Because Catholics used wine in masses, monks even began making wine. Fun fact: Dom Perignon was a Benedictine monk!
There is evidence of medieval use of wine was as a treatment for snake bites. Snake-stones, or banded agates, were dissolved in wine as a remedy. This fact shows that early civilizations understood the effect of wine on the nervous system.
Wine production was established throughout Europe and spread to the New World with Spanish explorers. Wine production in Mexico went so well that the Spanish king ordered production stopped, to not hurt Spanish production.
There was an outbreak of phylloxera in the late 1800s that affected the wine industry throughout the world. Vintners realized that vines native to America were immune. In response, French-American hybrid grapes were developed. This practice of grafting European grapevines to American rootstocks to protect vineyards from this pest continues to this day.
Today, you will find grapes growing and winemaking throughout the world. Regions from Europe to Russia, China to Australia and New Zealand, Africa to South America, and throughout North America excel at the production of wine.
I don’t know about you, but I'm thankful for the invention of, and continued widespread production of, wine. Excuse me while I pour a relaxing glass of my favorite varietal! What is your favorite kind to drink?