Where was wine born? A journey through its history
Did you know that humans invented wine before the wheel?
Wine, that magical drink that has accompanied humankind for centuries, has its roots in ancient times. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact place of its birth, the history of wine is a fascinating journey that takes us to different cultures and regions of the world.
We invite you to take a walk through the history of viticulture and wine.
Are you coming?
The First Vestiges
Historians believe that winemaking began more than 6,000 years ago in the regions now known as Georgia and Iran. Archaeological remains of amphorae and containers that once held this precious liquid have been found in these areas. From there, knowledge of viticulture and enology spread through the different ancient civilizations.
Georgia is a country that sits between Europe and Asia where wine has been produced for about six thousand years. One of the great symbols of Georgian wine is the kvevri, a large terracotta vessel that could hold between 300 and 3,500 liters. It is the predecessor of barrel aging. The grape must was poured inside and the vessels were buried for fermentation to begin. In fact, this is a winemaking process that today many winegrowers have recovered, representing a complete return to its roots.
Georgia was also the first country to produce orange wines. These are white wines vinified as red wines (whose must remains in contact with the grape skins), giving them very particular characteristics. It is a procedure that has been recovered and adopted by winegrowers all over the world.
Armenia competes with Georgia in the race to discover who made wine first. Currently, its appearance in viticulture dates back to 4100 BC. In the Bible, Noah appears as the first winegrower in history: he planted three vines on the slopes of Mount Ararat after the flood.
Mesopotamia and Egypt
The Mesopotamian civilization, which thrived in the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (what is now Iraq and parts of Iran), also had a well-established winemaking tradition.
3,000 years ago, Egypt was a center of wine production. The Canaanites were the ones who introduced the vine. The Egyptians produced wine, whose consumption was reserved for the elite. There, beer was considered the drink of the people.
Greece and Rome: the expansion of wine
The Greeks and Romans played a fundamental role in the expansion of wine culture in Europe. The Greeks were the first to master viticulture and spread it throughout the Mediterranean.
Viticulture appeared in Greece in 2000 BC, and its vineyards reached their peak under the Roman Empire. Wine became an essential element of daily life and culture in Ancient Greece and Rome.
Thanks to Phoenician and Greek influences, viticulture appeared in Spain in 1100 BC, while in Italy and France it emerged in 800 and 600 BC, respectively.
Middle Ages and monasteries
After the fall of the Roman Empire, during the Middle Ages, monasteries played a crucial role: the Church was in charge of preserving the winemaking tradition. Monks were skilled winemakers and kept winemaking alive throughout medieval Europe.
The discovery of America
The first wine produced on the American continent was in Mexico. It was in the Caribbean that the vine first put down roots in America. When the Spaniards settled, they began making wine for religious purposes around 1521.
Little by little, and as a result of the different waves of European immigration, vine cultivation began to spread throughout South America: from the Peruvian deserts to the cold climate of Patagonia.
In 1560, viticulture appeared in the United States, which, unlike South America, was already home to wild grapevines. As a result of the migration caused by the Mexican War of Independence, the gold rush, and the development of the railroad network, European grapevines arrived in what is now the prestigious region of California.
Africa, Asia, and Oceania
South Africa is home to the only vineyard where the exact date of the first vintage (1659) is known. Jan van Riebeeck, its first governor, ordered the cultivation of Dutch vines. Its national grape, the Pinotage variety, was born from a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsault obtained by Abraham Perold, a researcher at the University of Stellenbosch.
In Australia, another great winemaker in the New World, viticulture appeared in 1791. It was the Englishman James Busby who planted 300 vines from all over Europe in the Sydney Botanical Gardens. It took three years to produce a wine that was optimal for consumption.
China is making quite a name for itself in today’s winemaking industry; however, China has been producing wine since 200 BC. After the opening of its economy in 1992, and with a large population increasingly interested in wine, it is possible that this Asian giant will soon become the world’s leading wine producer.
Today, wine has become a global industry. From the vineyards of France, Italy, and Spain to the emerging wineries of South America, North America, South Africa, and Australia, the world of wine is diverse and exciting. Each region offers its own character and flavor, which makes wine a truly unique and valued beverage.
So, the next time you uncork a bottle, keep in mind the history contained within your glass. Wine is much more than just a drink; it is a journey through time and space, a link with ancient civilizations, and a celebration of life that we must enjoy, albeit always in moderation. Cheers!