Wine history spans thousands of years. It is closely linked with the history of cuisine, architecture, and civilization. Archaeological evidence shows that the earliest forms of wine came from between 6,000 and 5,000 BC and from sites in Iran and Georgia. The Neolithic period, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, Ancient China and Ancient Rome are all important to the history of wine.
In the Neolithic period, or the New Stone Age, was a period of human technology development that began in 9500 BCE. Traditionally, it is considered the last part of the Stone Age. Early records of wine were discovered in ceramic jars containing wine residue. One of the first major steps to finding out about Neolithic wine making came from the discovery of a 2.5 gallon jar containing a yellowish residue. The jar was found with five other jars in the kitchen of a mud-brick building dated to be from around 5400 to 5000 B.C. The ceramic jars in this period were in the shape of pears and had two handles on the sides that were circular in shape.
In ancient Egypt, wine played a major ceremonial role. By the end of the Old Kingdom period, which was between 2650 and 2152 BC, there were five types of wines that were produced. These five wines became known as the fixed menu for the afterlife. Most of the wine in Egypt was red. Recent studies show that Pharaoh Tutankhamun had traces of wine in his tomb. It was previously thought that the wine in Ancient Egypt was made from pomegranates, but this is no longer the case. It has been found that the wine in Ancient Egypt was also made from grapes.
In Mesopotamia, gold cups were used for drinking wine. The metal was imported from Iran or modern Turkey because there are no deposits of gold in Mesopotamia. Traces of wine were first found in the lower region of Mesopotamia in Sumeria. These wines were made from dates and grapes. Wine in ancient Mesopotamia was most likely enjoyed by members of the higher classes. Much of the wine in Greater Mesopotamia was probably imported from parts of teh Near East around 400 miles away.
Wine in Ancient Greece formed the way much of modern wine culture is today. Retsina is a popular Modern wine in Greece that is thought to be carried over from the times when tree resin lined the wine jugs. The fact that the resin lined these wine jugs inflicted a particular flavor to the wine. The earliest known appearance of wine in Europe is found in grape residue and remnants that were found in archeological sites that date back to 6,500 years old. Not only did Greeks produce their own wine, they also made wine for surrounding colonies that include Italy, Spain and southern France.
Ancient Rome played a large part in the history of wine. The rise of the Roman Empire provided the entire industry with improved technology for the wine making process. When wine was in the hands of the Romans, it became available to everyone and was known as democratic. The wine was available for everyone from the slaves and peasants to aristocrats. They believed that is was a part of daily life and should be experienced by everyone.
Chinese grape wine was first produced after the discovery of high quality grapes and the exploration of the western region. Grape wine was considered exotic and was reserved mostly for the emperor and his table. Therefore, rice wine was a more common wine than grape wine. Grape wine was not popularly consumed until the Song Dynasty between 960 and 1279.
In the Middle Ages, all social classes in the south used wine as a common drink, which is where the grapes were cultivated. Beer and ale were drunk in the areas where grapes were not grown such as in the North and East. When the wine was imported to the northern regions, it was expensive and the lower class people could not afford to consume it. One application of wine in medieval times in Europe was using snake stones that were dissolved in wine as a treatment for snake bites. This shows how early it was understood that alcohol has an affect on the nervous system.
Additional Facts and Resources
Grapes were first brought over to Latin America to provide necessities of the Catholic Holy Eucharist. One variety of grapes is still planted today and became known as Mission grapes. Most of the wine that is produced in America is based on Old World varieties.
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