Russia is the cradle of vodka. Mexico invented tequila. Cuba gave us rum. Scotland is the birthplace of whiskey. But … where does wine originate from? Which country claims the honour of having created wine for the first time? It is doubtful who can be granted the honour of this attribution, and it is not an apolitical issue. Being recognised as the country that discovered such a divine drink would be considered a very beautiful award indeed. However, the origin of wine is not a fact that can be isolated from history. On the contrary, it is inseparable from the historical evolution of agriculture and gastronomy.
The history of wine was born in the Neolithic
All evidence suggests that the wine was born during the Neolithic (stone age). Early remains of what could be wine were found in the Zagros Mountains (in the region now occupied by Armenia, Georgia and Iran), specifically in the Neolithic town of Hajji Firuz Tepe.
It was in this settlement that a vessel dating from 5400 BC was first found. It contained tartaric acid, present in the skin of the grapes, which seems to indicate that it contained wine. In addition, it could be determined that this wine originated from the variety Vitis Vinifera Sylvestris.
The development of trade routes
As cultures around the world evolved many nomadic societies shifted to become sedentary societies. This paved the way for improving the mastery of agricultural techniques. In addition, new professions would appear, and with them the exchange of merchandise and trade. Because of this expanding trade wine from Eastern Europe now found its way to India and China.
Wine in Ancient Egypt
Pictorial representations showing Egyptians harvesting were made during the reign of Udimo, fifth Pharaoh of the 1st dynasty of Egypt (between 2914 BC and 2867 BC). In the beginning, the wine, which could also come from pomegranate juice, was used in religious ceremonies and was called shedeh. During the holiday periods, even the Egyptians of the lower classes had access to wine. Usually wine was reserved for the noble classes and the priesthood.
The wine was kept in sealed amphorae to conserve it. Some of these even became part of the funeral trousseau of the pharaohs. Archaeologists also found thirty large jars of wine when they uncovered Tutankhamun.
In Ancient Egypt, the wine was also used to clean the bodies before and after emptying them during the mummification process.
From Egypt to Greece
It is believed that wine came to the cradle of modern civilization through the mythical islands of Greece in the eastern Mediterranean given the geographical proximity of Crete with Egypt and Phoenicia.
Wine had become a habitual drink around 700 BC. It had become so popular that it was even assigned a god of its own: Dionysus. People would usually drink the wine mixed with water due to the high alcoholic strength of the wines. It was only consumed in its pure form during rituals and religious celebrations.
The cultivation of the wine by the Mediterranean countries expanded in the hands of the Greek culture. And the first documentation about wine also comes from ancient Greece: under the title Works and Days, the Greek poet Hesiod (8th century BC) described the harvesting and pressing of grapes, how wine was consumed – with water – and its conservation – in goat skins.
Wine in the Roman Empire
Towards 200 BC the wine arrived in the peninsula of Italy and even the southern lands were beginning to be known as Oenotria (“grape land”), given the ease of cultivation of the vine. The Roman Empire had a fundamental role in the dissemination of wine and the spread of grape cultivation in Europe. Vines were planted in latitudes as far as Normandy, Flanders or the Baltic countries. It was a glorious time for wine, and we owe our thanks to the technique of grafting on wines, among others.
The Romans also began using wooden barrels to store and transport the wine. It was a method that came from northern Europe where it was being used for the storage of other beverages.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Christian monasteries would continue with the cultivation of the vine during the Middle Ages to obtain wines for the consecration of the mass.
Wine in the New World
The introduction of the vine and wine in what we call the New World was at the hands of the Jesuits and the conquerors. It was necessary to guarantee the supply of wine in the religious services. Little by little they were importing and planting vines, a process that was accelerated with the rootstocks. In just under 100 years, during the sixteenth century, wine arrived in Mexico and Baja California to further reach Peru, Chile and Argentina.
More history and curiosities about wine
On the Uvinum Blog, we love writing, learning, and spreading information about wine. If you want to continue reading articles about the history and curiosities of wine, we are sharing some links below that will surely interest you. Cheers!