There is no record of when our ancestors enjoyed their first drink of any spirited libation, but one thing is for sure, we have enjoyed and evolved from what was the wine and beer from ancient times. Some believe that as far back as the Stone Age, our resourceful ancestors witnessed birds in a silly frenzy over fermented fruit and decided to indulge themselves. Scientists have found evidence of old vines in a geographical area between the Black Sea and Iran dating back to 7000 BC. The oldest winery was discovered by archaeologists in the “Areni-1” cave in Vayots Dzor, Armenia. Dated to 4100 BC, the site contained a wine press, fermentation vats, jars and cups. They even found vinifera seeds and vines!
The fact is, wine has been a part of history for the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Chinese and Romans. In 3100 BC, the Egyptian pharaohs used red wine in ceremonial practices due to its resemblance to blood, but did not consume it. (Although some traces of white wine was found in clay vessels in the tomb of Tutankhamun.) In 1200 BC the Phoenicians had an extensive trade network. They brought wine, grapes and winemaking technique to Greece and Rome. In ancient Greece, wine was depicted in many forms of art, including poetry. The Greek God of wine, Dionysus (aka Bacchus), was the deity of agriculture (fertility), pleasure and festivity. Wine in Greece was for the privileged and upper classes. The Greek’s wine varieties of today are not much different than their ancient grapes. Retsina, their most popular wine is from their ancient practice of storing wine in tree resin-lined wine jugs, giving it a distinctive flavor.
As the Roman Empire expanded into other regions of the Mediterranean, so did the art of winemaking. Wines were stored in wooden barrels for shipping, and for the first time, bottles were used. So it was the Romans who brought us to how we age and enjoy wine!
Chinese winemaking dates back as far as 4000 BC, and they primarily used grains. Depending on the ruling dynasties, winemaking was restricted or relaxed, in order to make sure that there was enough food to feed the populations.
Over the centuries, winemaking spread to France, Germany, Spain and Britain. Wine has survived the Dark Ages, due to the water being undrinkable. The Benedictine Monks became the largest producers of wine in France and Germany. The Journey that wine has taken is amazing! Every bottle has a history and is a living thing. So find yourself a bottle of history and savor the adventure!
Bonnie Yapello, Wine & Spirits Specialist – Spirits Cape Coral
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinebonnie