The Origins of Wine: Unraveling its Ancient History

Wine culture is several thousand years old. Already in ancient times (from 8000 or 6000 BC), people knew about the fermentation of grapes into an intoxicating drink; the discovery may well have been a coincidence.

Even then, wine developed into an important agricultural product that had economic as well as medical, social and ritual significance. In antiquity, every advanced civilisation had a deity who represented wine and the enjoyment of wine, for example Osiris in Egypt, Dionysus in Greece and Bacchus in Rome. According to the Bible (Book of Genesis), Noah is considered the first person to cultivate wine.

According to the latest scientific findings, viticulture probably has its geographical origin in the Near East, in the area of today's Georgia (where viticulture history goes back more than 7,000 years), Armenia and south-east Anatolia, i.e. in Transcaucasia and historical Mesopotamia. From ancient Persia, wine culture spread over the centuries across the Mediterranean to Central Europe and finally to the New World.

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The roots of European viticulture lie largely in the wine culture of ancient Greece. Professional viticulture already existed in the Mycenaean culture in the 16th century BC, and in the 8th century BC the Greek poet Homer described wine as the drink of heroes in his "Iliad". Both the Greeks and the Romans then brought the knowledge of viticulture and winemaking to the territories they conquered in Europe and North Africa. In Greek and Roman drinking culture, wine had an important social and religious role.

In the Middle Ages, wine culture flourished in Central Europe, also due to the influence of the Church. From the 11th and 12th centuries AD, the wine trade and production in France began to flourish in the south-western regions(Gascony, Bordelais, Cahors) and in Burgundy. In the 16th century, wines from Portugal(Douro), Spain(Andalusia) and Hungary(Tokaj) achieved greater international fame, and the 18th century saw the beginning of the triumphant advance of fine sparkling wines from the French Champagne region. A milestone in European wine history was the classification of vineyards in the Bordeaux region in 1855. In Italy, from the second half of the 19th century, the growths from Piedmont(Barolo) came to growing fame.

The German name "Wein" comes from the Latin word "vinum", which was also the inspiration for the names in numerous other European languages: "wine" (English), "vin" (French), "vino" (Italian and Spanish), "vinho" (Portuguese); the Greek word "oinos" is also related to it.

Ancient History of Wine

Historical Fun Facts:

Egypt - Wine Region | Wine-Searcher


    Read more in the articles below:

    Terry Gross's Fresh Air interview with Paul Lukacs about the History of Ancient Wine

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