Thursday, 13 March 2014

A Brief History of Wine, Part One

Having studied Philosophy and much of the Ancient World whilst at University, history has always been a huge fascination for me and more recently, the history of wine in particular. Not just the origins of where it came from but also the assumption that it was most likely rubbish. In fact, the technological advances made over the past millenia that have made wine better are comparatively small to those that have simply made it easier to make.
Bacchus riding a turkey.
Taken from Justy.C under the CC Act

When we think of the origin of wine and it's potential 'Glory Days', most people would turn their eyes towards the Ancient Greeks and the Romans. Images of naked boys carrying round Amphora's during Symposium, or Dionysus draped in grapes long-arming vino. Although this may be the launch of wine in popular recorded culture the origins of wine are believed to span far further into the past.

Historians and archaeologists believe the cultivation of the vine to begin in modern day Georgia around 6000BC and then again in Persia circa 5000BC before spreading to Macedonia and Armenia. The first discovery of an actual Winery was found at the latter dating back to approximately 4000BC, although the quality of the winery which included wine presses, fermentation vats and jars lead many to believe that wineries were commonplace by this time.

Coming into Antiquity, wine played a hugely important role in Egyptian life where it was used regularly for ceremonies as well as in leisure. This was especially so during the Third Dynasty (27th Century BC) starting with the rule of Djoser. Wine features heavily throughout not only Egyptian life, but also in death, and is a focus point in burial art, most notably in the tomb of Senefer; an Ancient Nobleman during the reign of
The ceiling in the Tomb of Senefer. Taken from
Agathe Photos under the CC Act. 
Amenhotep II.

In Ancient Greece we start to become familiar with wine styles that we know today, such as the strongly aromatic, Retsina, with its distinctive flavours thought to derive from the use of pine resin used to cover the jars to help preservation. Aristotle himself even gives reference to Lemnian wine thought to be the same as the modern day limnio variety describing its oregano and thyme flavours. Could Big A have been not only one of if not THE greatest Philosopher of all time but also the first published wine critic? I'm very aroused.

So then it was on to the Romans. Who, thanks to their almost sadistic love of wine and their impressive empire, helped to found most of the wine-producing regions of western Europe that we still know today. The Roman empire is also where we encounter the first ever wine laws on record!! Leading Domitian to ban any further vine planting in Italy due to the sheer quantity of the stuff! His people were probably so clattered they could barely stand let alone plant stuff!

And it was from here that the journey of wine entered the Medieval periods and the growth, consumption and trade of wine began to spread throughout Europe and indeed the rest of the world, helping wine to become what we know today.

So, join me again next week and we can continue our lessons in the History of Wine.

Disclaimer: If you found this post boring please read back through it in a Stephen Hawking voice. It helps.

No comments:

Post a Comment