Regarded as one of the most regal drinks, wine has been an all-time favorite with people all over the world. Available in a plethora of varieties and flavors, the wine is a drink that goes well with almost any cuisine. Though you might be a wine lover or may even be a wine connoisseur, how much can you say you know about the origin and history of wine? To your surprise, wine has existed ever since man learnt how to settle down and form a civilization. The history of wine is closely associated with the origins of agriculture, cuisines and man himself. It has existed since ancient times and is still present in the contemporary times, in a better form. Check out interesting information on the background of wine.
Though there are no written records about the pre-history of wine, it is said that early farmers made alcoholic beverages from wild fruits and berries that included wild grapes. This became easier to store with the invention of clay pots around 9000 years back. Since the grapes were small and sour, there isn’t really much evidence to indicate that they really made wine. However, it did pave the way for domestication of grapes later. These domesticated grapes were abundant in the Near East from the beginning of the Early Bronze Age, which started in 3200 BC. The maximum evidence for wine making was in Sumer and Egypt during the 3rd Millennium BC. Also, the exact place where wine was made first is a mystery, though the most fitting option would be the area stretching from North Africa to Central/South Asia.
Wine in Ancient Greece
The process of making wine in ancient Greece is believed to have set the foundation for wine making in the modern world. In fact, many of the grapes grown exclusively in the modern day Greece are similar to the varieties grown in ancient times. It is said the popular contemporary Greek wine named Retsina is a carryover from the time when wine jugs had a lining of tree resin that lent a distinct flavor to the wine. The archaeological sites in Greece had the remnants of 6500 year old grape, which represents the first appearance of wine production in Europe. In ancient Greece, they used partly dehydrated gypsum before fermentation and added some type of lime after fermentation in order to bring down acidity. The Greek wine was exported throughout the Mediterranean basin and thus made its first appearance in ancient Egypt as well.
Wine in Ancient Egypt
Wine was considered auspicious in any ceremony in ancient Egypt. The wine making industry flourished in the Nile valley after the introduction of grape cultivation around 3000 BC. This happened due to the trade between Egypt and Canaan during the Early Bronze Age. Wine was also an important element that was kept with other articles in tombs for helping in the afterlife. In ancient Egypt, wine was red in color due to the fact that it was made from red grapes and not pomegranates, as it is believed. Recently, it was discovered for the first time that white wine was also prevalent in ancient Egypt. In the tomb of Tutankhamen, the five clay amphorae had traces of white wine.
Wine in Ancient Rome
The Romans contributed immensely to the development of viticulture and oenology. For the Romans, wine formed an important part of the diet and in fact wine-making gained the relevance of a defined business. In fact, all the major wine producing regions located in Western Europe today, were established by the Romans. The technology for making wine improved drastically and many different varieties of grapes and cultivation techniques were developed. The Romans were known for their fine wines and when mixed with herbs and minerals, they were supposed to have medicinal properties. Dissolving pearls in wine and drinking it was a common practice. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe went into the Dark Ages, however, wine production continued through the only stable structure in the society, the Church.
Wine in the Middle Ages
Wine was the common drink of all classes in the south in the Middle Ages. It was imported to the northern regions where there was absolutely no grape cultivation. The most popular drinks in the north were mead, beer and ale. The East was dominated by vodka and other such spirits. Since wine was important for all Catholic celebrations, a continuous supply was necessary. In France and Germany, the Benedictine monks became one of the largest producers of wine along with other notable producers such as Cistercians, Carthusians, Templars and Carmelites. The first appellation system in the world was created in Portugal, a country with one of the oldest wine traditions.
Wine in the Modern World
In the late 19th century, vines and wine production in Europe was badly affected due to the Phylloxera louse. Many ingenious varieties of wine were lost. However, in a way, it served beneficial as the quality of Europe’s vineyards improved. This was due to the fact that the weak varieties were perished the strongest survived. The land that once had the weak vineyards were now put to better use like growing good quality grass for cows to graze on in order to produce some of the finest quality of cheese and butter.
Latin America had its first taste of wine when grapes and wheat were brought by the first Spanish conquistadores to provide the necessities of Catholic Holy Eucharist. In America, wine is grown widely in Argentina, California and Chile. The wines produced in America were not considered to be of a great quality. It was only after the latter half of the 20th century that American wines were considered as good as the European counterparts.