THE HISTORY OF WINE RUNS PARALLEL TO HUMAN HISTORY AND BEGAN ITS UNSTOPPABLE TRIUMPHAL MARCH AROUND THE WORLD MANY THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO
The main location was undoubtedly the Mediterranean region. Here its development was of particular importance in every respect, as a status symbol, a coveted commodity, as a cultural asset and a drink of the gods. All high cultures of the past millennia, from the Phoenicians and Egyptians to the Greeks to the Romans, all cultivated and refined their methods and techniques.
Thanks to the brisk trade that was built up in the Mediterranean, contributing to the constant improvement and dissemination of the quality, that today we can enjoy a huge variety of wines. It is likely that Euro-Asian nomadic people fermented wine from the wild Vitis vinifera subsp. sylvestris grape, the ancestor of the modern grape, and began to plant the first vines in a targeted manner.
The discovery may well have been a coincidence. The sweet, refreshing, and ubiquitous grape berries grew wildly and widely, they were easily collected and enriched the menu. Things changed when people began to settle down and devote more time to wine-making. Historians now agree that the cradle of wine must be in the Caucasus, more precisely in Georgia, where traces of wine production have been found that date back to 6,000 BC.
Remnants of clay jugs decorated with grape reliefs were found there, and old amphore embedded in the ground also prove that wine was made in the early days of human civilization. Some grapes are still fermented in such clay vessels today. From there, viticulture began its triumphal march across the Near East to the entire Middle East.
There were signs of the first cultivation of wine in the region of the Euphrates and Tigris, on the Nile, and later also in Palestine, a few centuries before the 5th millennium BC. Around the same time, the wine culture reached Canaan, today’s Lebanon and the Jordan Valley. In the centuries to come, it was the Canaanites first and then the Phoenicians that would spread viticulture in the Mediterranean area. The Egyptians learned about the cultivation of vines from the Canaanites and planted them in the sandy alluvial land of the Nile.
In ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia with the capital Babylon, wine continued to develop and from then on played an important role in ancient Egyptian ceremonial life. It was probably flavored with pistachio resin, figs, sage, mint and coriander. Mainly red wine was produced from the royal vineyards and different grape varieties were already known. Sealed amphorae were used for storage and transport and provided information about wine quality, vintage, location and the winery.
These distinctive two-handled clay jugs were usually sealed with clay, lime, or plaster and lined with pitch, making the wine long-lasting as the clay’s porosity allowed it to oxidize gently over time. At that time, wine developed into an important agricultural product that had economic as well as medical, social and ritual significance. It was also used to make water more drinkable thanks to its disinfecting effect.