Wine has a long past, and specific bottles of wine can have their own story too. These two aspects add significantly to wine's fascination, but wine's place in our cultural history is the larger and grander theme. Wine was one of the first things that Man created, and it has held a special place in many cultures.
Wine-making and drinking bears a long and varied past, steeped in both fact and supposition. From the Bible to ancient legends, tales of intoxication by ingesting fermented grapes abound.
Some scientific evidence also traces the remnants of wine's sediments to dated artifacts. In addition, fossilized vines add proof to the fact that the earliest humans recognized the pleasures of this tantalizing liquid.
Wine has a long history, and individual bottles of wine can have their story too. These two aspects add greatly to wine's fascination, but wine's place in our cultural history is the larger and grander theme.
Wine was one of the first things that Man created, and it has held a special place in many cultures.
The history of wine is also an intriguing story of technical innovation, as Man applied his intelligence to the problems posed by the first chemical reactions that he encountered: fermentation and oxidation. No one can know who made the first wine.
Many experts agree that wine probably dates to 6000 B.C. Mesopotamia (an area including Southern Iraq) apparently was a proper host for wild vines. The popularity of home growing eventually spread to Egypt, along the Nile Delta. Greece and Rome soon followed.
Spain also played an important role in wine production, later introducing a skill for wine growing to Mexico and the United States.
The great classical civilizations of Greece and Rome traced it back into their prehistory, and built legends around its discovery. Ancient Egypt has left us wine lists and wall paintings. Indeed, the Egyptians recorded the vintage, vineyard and winemaker on individual jars of wine: the first wine labels.
The Babylonians laid down laws to regulate the running of a wineshop, and wrote vivid descriptions of a magical, jewel bearing vineyard in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the earliest imaginative writing there is: it appears to have been written in the 18th centurv BC. Wine can be, and is, made from wild grapes.
The grape is the one fruit that, with its concentrated sugars and ample juice, has an inherent tendency to ferment. Fermentation makes alcohol, and this will take place when the grapes are ripe and the juice released comes into contact with yeast there in plenty, in wild form, on the skins of the grapes.
So if the grape juice is held in a container, wine will make itself. Pure conjecture leads us to a Stone Age man who placed ripe grapes in a vessel clay pot, wooden bowl or skin bag and, perhaps forgetting them, left them to ferment. In warm conditions this will happen in hours rather than days, and in days there will be wine of a sort.
Who was the first to drink this intoxicating and delightful juice We can never know, but perhaps he or she also had the first wine induced headache.
At feasts, in religious ceremonies, as antiseptic, as medicine: wine has played many roles. But only comparatively recently in its history came the biggest breakthrough: when the ability to age wine was mastered, allowing us to keep it perhaps for years, improving in cask or bottle, fine wine was born.
History of French Wine
French wine history, like many other regions, began with an influx of trade ships and the migration of wine growers. Records reflect early imports into Gaul (France) by 600 B.C. However, interest was slow to develop, partially because of Italy's resentment of competition. Monastery-run vineyards persevered and a revival began around 1200 A.D. Interim years experienced development of many familiar areas, including the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux and Burgundy. The first sparkling beverage also found its place here in Champagne.
Wine's heyday continued for France until the American and French Revolutions. Vineyards transferred from churches and wealthy landowners to commoners. A lack of knowledge contributed to decline. Worse yet, American imports were arriving, bringing Phylloxera with them. Americanized vines were immune to this plant louse, but native European crops became widespread victims.
Grafting original vines into American root cuttings eventually resulted in new growth. While not accepted as an improved alternative, growers soon rebuilt their crops, gaining an edge over the competition.
Indeed, when other countries tried to "copy" their wines, France brought "Institut National des Appellations d'Origine" into law. This protected, to some extent, the integrity of regional names, including champagne.
Wine History in America
Early attempts to establish European grape varieties in America were met with no success. No one knew why areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts were so inhospitable. On the other hand, Pacific regions appeared to be more habitable. Under Church auspices, monks provided their expertise in wine growing. California's Mission San Diego became the first established U.S. vineyard in 1769. Led by Father Junipero Serra, this was the starting point for a rise in wine's popularity.
As others sought to expand their own vineyards, new European varieties continued to arrive. The wine market was small, however,; The popular masses had other taste preferences, particularly beer and whiskey. Advancement continued with ups and downs, including devastation from black rot and other disease. A century later, while Europe was losing its crops to the American-introduced louse, Phylloxera, another type of destruction was looming locally.
Prohibition began its rise in the early part of the Nineteenth century. Early laws prohibited sales of alcohol on Sunday in Indiana. Over the next few decades, a frenzy to go "dry" escalated, culminating with a full-scale ban in 1917 on production and sales.
Hobbyists and bootleggers found ways around Prohibition, while some vineyards carried on with production for sacramental purposes. The majority of production, however, died. By the 1933 National Repeal, the blooming wine industry was almost nonexistent.
A revival in table wines returned in the 1960s. Over the next two decades, a fondness for so-called "jug" wines declined in favor of tastes considered more pleasing to the palate. Today, Americans are still searching for "healthful" benefits as well as a perfect match for their meals.
California continues to reign as king of wine production, but every state can now boast of at least one vineyard.
Other Wine History Notes of Interest
The leading regions remain:
* United States.
Other countries of note, including Australia and Canada, have interesting backgrounds in wine development. For instance, the wine history of Canada begins with a critical eye to notable poor-tasting beverages. Today, this area is gaining an edge with investors and the public alike in growing niche markets. China may be another surprise for some, with its wine making history dating back to the 16th century B.C.
Wine in Modern Times
Since ancient times, wine has remained a significant part of human social culture. In recent times, wine is becoming more popular than ever, with retail sales increasing in the range of 30 percent to 50 percent over the past few years.
More people are ordering wine in restaurants, and wine bars have become a hot new trend.
Wine still plays as important a role in religious ritual as it did in ancient times. You can find wine in churches and synagogues during many services, including weddings and other major events.
Popular Modern Uses of Wines
Aperitifs are often referred to as appetizer wines and are enjoyed before a meal. Some popular aperitifs include:
Champagnes are often used to enhance special occasions. You will often find champagne flowing at:
* formal dinners
* New Year's Eve celebrations
Red dinner wines are often found on the table with hearty main course meals. They are served at room temperature so that their aromas can be fully enjoyed. These wines go well with:
* highly seasoned foods of all kinds
* red meat
* spaghetti with red sauce.
White dinner wines are popular served chilled and range from sweet to dry. They are usually enjoyed with lighter main course meals such as:
* white meats.