Wine’s history dates back 60 million years. Its fascinating story can make you wonder who invented wine. According to historians and scientists, there isn’t a sole inventor.
Instead, ancient people discovered how overripe grapes ferment and become glorious liquid. This article will walk you through the earliest days of wine and its impact on civilization.
Wine Fables and Myths
Wine has its share of fables and myths passed on from generation to generation. Several versions are coming from many parts of the world.
It makes its origin story an exciting topic, especially for wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts. Knowing these stories before learning about its history can better understand the wine’s historic journey.
A Persian Fable
A fable reveals that a Persian woman discovered wine. According to this ancient tale, there was a princess from Persopolis who the king rejected.
She was so ashamed of the rejection that she decided to take her own life. She found some sour and liquefied table grapes that were starting to ferment. She drank the liquid, thinking it would kill her.
Her plan wasn’t successful. Instead of dying, she got drunk and dizzy. Then she fell into unconsciousness. Upon waking, she discovered that her worries seemed to disappear. The princess immediately brought this newfound information to the king.
The king was impressed by the powers of this fermented grape beverage. He welcomed the princess back to his favor. This story has become a significant legend in Shiraz. This city where everything began is where wine production thrived in the Middle East.
The Mythology of Dionysus
In Greek mythology, Dionysus is known to be the god of wine. His mother, Semele, was Zeus’ mistress. Due to this unfaithfulness, Hera, Zeus’ wife, became so enraged that he threatened to kill the baby.
Zeus saved his son’s life by sewing him inside his thighs. His father sent him to live with the rain nymphs at Mount Nisa, where he grew grapes. He turned these grapes into delicious wine.
There are still remnants of this myth today. Many Greek artifacts, such as Hellenistic statues and ceramic containers, contain the greek god’s image. Usually, artists convey him as a bearded god holding a bunch of grapes, an ivy crown, and a wine goblet. His original statues are in Great Britain, Greece, and Italy museums.
First Wine Discoveries in Asia
Thanks to fossils, scientists have revealed the first attempts at winemaking. It’s interesting to learn how prehistoric people enjoyed the flavorful liquid that still exists now.
The birth of winemaking started in a place called Fertile Crescent. It is where the first civilization cultivated crops and consumed them for leisure and nutrition. This rich land is surrounded by the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.
Meanwhile, the mountains of Caucasus, Zagros, and Taurus protected it from the elements. It’s an ideal place to grow grapevines. The people gathered and fermented the grapes in massive earthenware vessels.
The First Wine in Iran
Archeologists have unearthed fossils that trace to 60 million years ago. It reveals that prehumans find older grapes gratifying. You can witness this behavior in most animals who love to eat ripe fruits.
Meanwhile, researchers found signs of prehistoric winemaking in northern Iran. In the Zagros mountains lie an archeological site named Hajji Firuz Tepe. An archeologist named Mary M. Voight unearthed a 9-liter jar and five other similar-looking vessels buried underground.
After carbon dating, they discovered that the fossils date back to 5400-5000 B.C. Inside these jars were yellow wine-like residues that researchers believed to be wine remnants.
The archeologists found these jars inside a Neolithic structure made of mud. They unearthed them in an area that appeared to be a kitchen. The presence of various earthenware confirmed this observation. It could be the place where the prehumans prepared and cooked food.
Ancient Wine from China
During the 7000 B.C in China, wild grapes, honey, and rice were fermented in earthen jars. The resulting beverages became a part of religious ceremonies. A specific type of Asian wine species grew in Shandong Province. Archeological fossils showed that this varietal existed 26 million years ago.
An ancient Chinese poem revealed the earliest documented testimony of winemaking in China. According to the poem, people living in the Shang Dynasty already harvested and consumed different types of grapes.
They fermented and stored the juice in clay jars similar to the ones used in the Middle East.
The Oldest Wine from Georgia
The Republic of Georgia is a country that lies on the border of Europe and Asia.
A major archeological project named GRAPE (Gadachrili Gora Regional Archeological Expedition) unearthed Neolithic community locations. The sites held ancient earthenware jar fossils. We can conclude that the earliest Georgians are the inventors of wine in Europe.
The researchers sent the jar fragments to the University of Pennsylvania. The laboratory analysis showed traces of citric, malic, succinic, and tartaric acids in the jars. Scientists consider these wine compounds as proof that these vessels were used to ferment, age, and serve wine.
The laboratory findings and the excavated fossils helped the researchers conclude the presence of grapevine cultivation and production. The discovery is the oldest record of grape cultivation, specifically for wine production.
The grapevine called Vitis vinifera thrived in excavation locations. The environment is similar to the wine-growing regions of France and Italy.
The abundant supply of grapes became a catalyst for their robust wine culture. They consider the beverage a vital commodity since they used for mind alteration, medicine, and as a means of social bonding.
The Neolithic Way of Life
Research showed that viticulture or wine grape cultivation in Georgia was one of the reasons why the Neolithic way of living spread to Caucasia. It’s a region sandwiched between the Black and Caspian Seas. The region’s wine culture stems from grape cultivation and harvest.
The Neolithic period was a pivotal time in human civilization. It sparked grape cultivation, wine production, agriculture, and crafts, especially in Georgia. Technology, art, and culture also started to impact human activities.
Presently, the Republic of Georgia proudly grows 500 varieties of wine grapes. It is one of the biggest producers of wine in Europe. We can enjoy their efforts through delicious wines, thanks to the earliest humans.
Wines from Ancient Egypt and Greece
After thousands of years from the Neolithic period, wine spread to other parts of the world. Sea travel made wine grape cultivation knowledge spread through Egypt and the Mediterranean.
Drinking Wine Like an Egyptian
When pharaohs ruled Egypt during the Predynastic period, the ancient world started to embrace wine drinking. Based on hieroglyphics, pharaohs loved to drink a lot and did not mind the wine’s quality.
Their wine is very different from the present-day beverage. They used dark blue, pink, green, white, and red grapes and combined them with palm, figs, pomegranates, and dates. Perhaps the taste is also a far cry from what we enjoy in this generation.
The Egyptians also contributed to the invention of wine. They grew grapes on trellises and protected their crops from the solid Egyptian sun. They also recognized that grapes are at their ideal state for harvest on their 100th day.
Meanwhile, the early Egyptians treaded on grapes instead of pressing them, making the wine bitter. These early technologies became the foundation for today’s grape cultivation and wine production.
The Ancient Greek Wine Culture
Phoenician seafarers and traders brought the art of wine grape cultivation and fermentation to Greece. The Greek people embraced the love for wine and worshipped Dionysius, the god of wine.
The wine presses discovered in Greek tombs are traced back to 3000 – 2000 B.C. These were proof that wine production was thriving during that time.
The Greeks recognized wine’s significant impact on health and wellness. They understand its nutritional value. They even use it to clear their mind during intellectual discourses or philosophical gatherings. It was so vital to their daily lives that they referred to it as the “juice of the gods.”
Wine has been ingrained into the traditional Greek culture. Since they highly revere wine, they never get drunk on it. Getting intoxicated was taboo during that time.
Drinking wine was mainly for mental and physical wellbeing. The Greek’s love for the glorious drink is its presence in Homer’s Iliad.
The wine industry that started in Greece spread to other parts of Europe. The Greek settlers brought cuttings and crossbred them with other vines growing on the fertile continent. Many of the European varietals people enjoy nowadays came from Greek vines. It means that the Greeks invented wine in Europe.
So, who invented wine? There isn’t a straightforward answer. Winemaking was a collaborative effort within civilizations. Some believed it was an accidental discovery but brilliant nonetheless.
People kept improving viticulture and winemaking until it became the beverage we all enjoy today. The wine was more than a drink. It was also a glue that held communities and friendships together.