The History of Wine is Ancient and Fascinating
A few nights ago we were sharing wine with friends and began discussing the history of wine. All of us brought up interesting factoids so the following day I read Wikipedia’s article on the history of wine for a bit of fact-checking. I know what you are thinking, anyone can edit Wikipedia, but it’s a good starting point :p
Have you ever thought about how long people have been enjoying the taste of wine? Jesus, of course, turned water into wine so that guests could continue to celebrate at the wedding feast; and then, at the Last Supper, Jesus established wine as “the blood of the New Covenant.” Thousands of years earlier, though, Noah and his sons produced wine at the base of Mount Ararat and took it on the Ark on their 40-day journey.
Even this voyage was well after the beginning of wines. Archaeological evidence suggests the earliest wine production took place in Georgia in Southern Caucasus 8000 years ago. Complete wine production, including a wine press and fermentation vats, jars and cups, have been found in a cave in Armenia dated 6000 years ago. Domestication of grapes thrived in the Near East in the early Bronze Age, around 3000 B.C.
One legend from Persia tells about a king banishing a woman from his harem. Despondent, she contemplated suicide, and went to the king’s warehouse and found a jar marked “poison.” Unbeknown to her, it was actually “spoilage” of fermented grapes, which she discovered to be quite pleasant to her taste and amazingly uplifting to her spirits. She took her discovery of this new beverage back to the king, who loved it, and then reinstated her into his harem. The king also pronounced that all grapes in his kingdom would henceforth be devoted to winemaking.
The Phoenicians were instrumental in distributing wine , grapes and wine-making technology throughout the Mediterranean. The Ancient Greeks held a festival where they celebrated the “month of the new wine”….sounds like a wine of the month club. Wine production thrived in the Nile Delta in 3000 B.C., and became intertwined with ceremonial canons for the afterlife. While “reds” were the wines of choice, King Tut’s tomb yielded traces of white wine as well. Wines played an important role in the religious life and rituals of the Jewish people.
The Romans introduced storage rooms, facing north for consistency, and spread production across the entire Roman world, so that many grape varieties developed in the Provinces. When the Roman Empire fell in 500 A.D., the Roman Catholic Church remained the strongest social force, and preserved wine-making to fulfill its ceremonial needs for Masses.
Rice wine was the common wine of China, as noted by Marco Polo in 1280 A.D., Grape was considered exotic, and was largely reserved for the emperor’s table.
In 700-800 A.D., Muslim conquests brought many territories under Muslim control, but while alcoholic drinks were prohibited by law, the production of alcohol, particularly wine, thrived. Muslim alchemists also found ways to produce ethanol for use in perfume, and to distill wine into brandy..
In Medieval Europe, wine was the common drink of all social classes in the south where grapes were cultivated, and the Benedictine monks became one of the largest producers of wine in France and Germany. A housewife of the merchant class or a servant in a wealthy household would have served wine at every meal.
Wine was brought to the Americas first by the Spanish conquistadors to Mexico, then by the waves of German, French and Italian immigrants, but it wasn’t until the surprising American showing at the Paris Wine Tasting in 1976 that New World wine began to gain respect in the lands of wine’s origins.
And then, another amazing development propelled wine enjoyment in the States to new heights – the establishment of Joseph & Curtis, designers of the finest wine cellars in the country, which provide consistent preservation of elegant wines and magnificent settings for enjoying them.
It’s fun to be a part, albeit a small one, of that rich history. And now, go enjoy a glass of wine!