Ancient Wine History


Ancient History of Wine

Au revoir, misconception that France was the birthplace of vineyards. Bonjour, realization that wine is way cooler than anyone let on. The history of this beverage goes back a long way – longer than I’d ever imagined – to about 6000 BCE in modern day Georgia, where the first traces of wine were discovered by archaeologists. To put 6000 BCE in some perspective, that’s 2 thousand years before the wheel was in Mesopotamia and 5 thousand years before Helen of Troy.

But the site in Georgia isn’t the only one of its kind. Traces of other ancients getting their kicks with wine have popped up in other areas too – the earliest in Iran and Armenia. In Armenia, a cave was discovered that contained a wine press, fermentation jars, and the earliest known shoes which date back to 4100 BCE (these Stone Age peoples had it going on). A few thousand years later in around 3200 BCE, grapes began being domesticated. You know, it doesn’t seem like a big to-do, but that’s just around the first dynasty in Egypt – before any of the earliest hieroglyphics – so it’s pretty amazing that people had this whole process figured out. I’m lucky if I can remove a cork with an electric opener.

The major cultures of this area all began adopting deep, tasty wine. In ancient Egypt, grapes began being cultivated in 3000 BCE due to trade with Canaan during the Early Bronze Age. Around the Nile Delta, vineyards were thriving, and eventually wine became an integral part of Egyptian life. Not only was it in tons of Egyptian art on tomb walls and sarcophaguses, but wine was the drink of the afterlife (which these ancients prized more than anything). By the end of the Old Kingdom (2152 BCE), Egyptians had created 5 different red wines, though they were mainly for the upper crust. The lower classes mostly drank beer – with the exception of the Jewish people. Wine, it seems, goes back to the earliest known records of the faith, which makes since, as they were nomadic in the areas from which wine was originally cultivated.

It’s unknown when wine was introduced to Greece, but it clearly played a major role in their lives – they did, after all, have a god dedicated to it. Everyone’s favorite ancient lush, Dionysus, was frequently referred to in works of Homer and Aesop, promoting his reputation for basically being a screw up and causing mayhem wherever he went. (He probably made a lot of people feel better about last night.) However, unlike the wine of Egypt, the wine in Greece was made from grapes similar to those of thousands of years prior, and was mostly of the white variety, flavored by tree resin which lined the jugs that it was stored in.

As the world grew up, wine became increasingly more popular. By the Middle Ages, it was the most consumed drink, as it was served at every single meal – both red and white. But they watered it down quite a bit to avoid being completely inebriated all day (how would anything get done?). Also unlike today, they didn’t age their wine. There was no time for it, as they were consuming it too quickly to store any. Eventually, the Benedictine Monks sort of took over the process of wine making, technologies became more advanced, the world expanded, and the wine of today was created, but the roots of wine run deep, right along with those of humanity.