A Brief History of Wine


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When most people think of wine, they think of the Italians and the French. However, wine actually has its origins in the ancient fertile grounds of Mesopotamia. The oldest confirmed wine vessel was found in present day Iran at the Hajji Firuz Tepe. Chemical tests confirmed that the earthenware jar dated to 5400 BC and contained wine.

Wine also appeared in the deserts of ancient Egypt thanks to trade with the Phoenicians in the Middle East. The Egyptians made many technological advancements in wine making and storage including a new type of porous, clay jar that was used for over 5,500 years until the invention of wooden barrels and glass bottles by the Europeans.

The Greeks continued to cultivate wine and passed on their passion once they were overtaken by the Romans. The expansion of the Roman Empire allowed for wine to flourish as well. Roman soldiers would plant vineyards to make wine for themselves while conquering other areas and as a result many were exposed to the wine making process. They also made several technological advancements including the wine press, which crushed grapes with a stone and collected their juice underneath.

Wine was exceedingly popular because of its reputation as an antiseptic.  Water was often unsafe to drink so wine was consumed by everyone, including children. However, not everyone was drunk all the time. Water was often mixed with wine, which would kill the bacteria and make it safe to drink.

After the Roman Empire and its trade networks collapsed, the future of wine was uncertain. However, wine is necessary for Christian religious ceremonies and monks were put in charge of cultivating grapes and making wine. The dogmatic Cistercian monks and royal Dukes of Burgandy in Europe began to focus on the quality of wine and developed new methods and standards for production.

European explorers and immigrants brought wine to the New World as well. At first, Europeans just traded with the new colonies, but wine up until the 19th century had a limited shelf life and was basically undrinkable after a year. Vines from Europe were brought over, but they were contaminated by bacteria and fungi. After crossbreeding European and native grape plants, a fungi-resistant species was born. The Napa Valley region of California was almost immediately successful after the Gold Rush brought thousands of immigrants to the region. By the end of the 1800s, there were 400 vineyards in a previously desolate area.

Wine making has continued to evolve as our knowledge of genetics has expanded. Improved technology and advancements in science will continue to increase our knowledge of wine and could lead to a very interesting future that all wine-lovers should look forward to.