For thousands of years, humans have loved the rich, fruity flavour of wine. Whether it’s red, white or sparkling, there’s a lot to love about one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages… including its long, fascinating history! Some of the earliest remnants of wine are dated back to 5000 BC, securing wine’s place as one of the world’s oldest and most beloved beverages.
Here, we share a brief and delicious history of wine so you can appreciate a smooth drop more than ever before — read on!
The History of Wine Around the World
While no one can be absolutely sure when the first wine was created, there is some credible evidence out there. It is theorised that our ancient ancestors climbed trees to pick berries and liked their sweet flavour, and after a few days of fermentation setting in, the juice at the bottom of any container would produce low-alcohol wine.
Things changed around 10,000 — 8,000 BC with the transition from a nomadic lifestyle to a sedentism lifestyle which led to agriculture and wine domestication.
The earliest remnants of wine were discovered in the site of Hajji Firuz Tepe in the northern Zagros Mountains of Iran. The wine dated back to the Neolithic period (8500 — 4000 BC) and carbon dating confirmed that the wine was from some time between 5400 and 5000 BC.
From here, it can be determined that the art of winemaking started around 6000 BC — at this time, the people in the Zagros Mountains created permanent settlements in the area around this time, giving them more time to experiment with new drinks and cuisines.
Wine in Ancient Egypt
As it turns out, binge drinking isn’t such a modern problem. In the Predynastic era, Egyptian Pharaohs didn’t care so much about the quality of the wine but more about the quantity, and the hieroglyphics from this era don’t leave much to the imagination. Even Pharaohs had their bad days!
Egyptian wine was very different to the wine we drink today. The Egyptians used white, pink, green, red and dark blue grapes as well as figs, dates and pomegranates. The fruit was grown on trellises which were protected from the sunlight and then picked and processed in a large pressing vat. The Egyptians pressed the grapes by treading on them, adding a bitter taste to the wine.
The wine was filtered through linen to remove the seeds, stalks and stems. After fermentation, it would then be bottled and sealed with mud and reeds.
The Pharaohs loved their wine so much that it became their preference to take it with them into the afterlife. For the most part, wine was served to royalty or on special occasions, although it was sometimes used to sedate women during childbirth.
Wine in Ancient Greece
The Ancient Greeks were the next society to develop an appreciation of wine. The first signs of wine in Greece were found in Cretian tombs dating back between 3000 BC and 2000 BC. It’s believed that the Phoenician traders introduced Greeks to wine and it wasn’t long before wine industries were established in most of Western Europe — Alexander the Great even introduced wine to Asia.
The Greeks understood the nutritional benefits of drinking wine and eventually, it developed a religious status — the Greeks referred to it as “the juice of the Gods” (referring to the God of Wine, Dionysus, one of Greece’s most worshipped Gods). The Greeks used wine to clear their minds when at symposia (a fathering where philosophical concepts were discussed). We don’t blame them!
The Greeks valued sweet wines and would never drink wine to a point of drunkenness — in fact, intoxication was frowned upon. Instead, wine was enjoyed for its flavour and its nutritional value —they added honey, spices, tree resin and even seawater to their wine for a more distinct flavour.
Wine in Ancient Rome
In around 1000 BC, winemaking became popular in a Greek colony that had gotten so strong that they became independent of the Greeks altogether: the Romans.
The Romans took a more scientific approach to winemaking and classified various different kinds of grapes. Plus, the Romans invented the first wooden wine barrel — a huge development for adding distinct flavours to the wine and allowing the wine to evaporate slightly during the ageing process. The Romans were also responsible for the oldest glass bottle of wine ever to be found, dated to 325 AD.
Corking had also been invented around 300 AD but the Romans preferred to preserve the wine by floating a layer of olive oil on the top.
The Romans (like the Greeks) loved drinking parties. Philosophical debates and poetry readings took place, where the Romans would get very drunk and girls would dance. The master of ceremonies would choose the type or blend of wine and call out the toasts — needless to say, the rich were the only ones to attend these kinds of parties!
The poor had created their own kind of wine. At the theatres and games, there was a drink called “muslum” that consisted of cheap wine mixed with honey. It was often provided by politicians who wanted to win their favour for the next election.
However, wine wasn’t just for partying. Wine also had an important role in religion — it was consumed at the graveside funeral feasts and was poured down specially designed orifices in the tomb so that the dead could share the wine with the living.
The History of Champagne
Wondering who invented champagne? The French might tell you Dom Pierre Perignon discovered the “methode champenoise” at the Abbey of Hautvillers in 1697 but this is a common misconception! The history of champagne actually goes back much further — the oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux which was invented by Benedictine monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire near Carcassonne in 1531.
The monks achieved the bubbly effect by bottling the wine before the initial fermentation had ended. More than a century later, the English scientist Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation — six years before Perignon arrived at the Abbey of Hautvillers!
In France, the first sparkling champagne was actually created accidentally. The pressure inside the champagne bottles caused them to explode or the corks to pop, and champagne adopted the name “the devil’s wine” (le vin du diable). At the time, bubbles were considered a fault so, in 1844, Adolphe Jaquesson invented the muselet to prevent corks from popping.
Perignon does deserve some credit here. He made significant contributions to the production and quality of champagne at a time when the region’s wines were predominantly still red. Perignon knew that the exploding bottles were a danger to winemakers and advocated against refermentation, and encouraged winemakers to blend multiple grapes from various different vineyards.
The History of Wine in Australia
The history of wine in Australia is actually relatively short! While wine was first invented in 8000 BC, wine only came to Australia in 1788 when vine cuttings were brought ashore at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillips. However, it wasn’t long before the humidity and poor vineyard management proved that Sydney Cove was no place for a vineyard.
The plantings were removed and replanted further down towards the Parramatta River and close to the Hunter Valley region where there was good quality soil, strong sun and a more favourable climate for grapes to grow. Before long, plantings were popping up in the Barossa Valley in South Australia and in most of the viticulture areas we have today!
In the 1800s and well into the 1900s, Australia mainly produced and distributed sweet fortified wines (i.e. wines that have a distilled spirit in the mix to boost the alcohol content). In 1833, James Busby — who is considered the father of the Australian wine industry — brought cuttings from Spain and France to Australia, introducing Shiraz and Grenache to the region.
In the 1960s, Australia experienced major economic growth. Aussies had more disposable income and a desire for higher quality wine, and this led to a significant change in the wines we produced. Vineyards started popping up all over the country and we shifted towards fruit driven table wines like Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Now, Australia has over 2,000 wineries in more than 60 different wine regions and we’re considered one of the largest wine producers and exporters in the world… in fact, we ship more than half of our wine overseas (400 million litres)!
Pop a Bottle and Appreciate the History of Wine with Barrel & Bar Gift Factory
With deeper knowledge about the history of wine and an even better appreciation of the flavour, it’s time to pop a bottle of wine! Whether you’re sharing a bottle with a friend on a special occasion or on a cosy Friday night, you can take your wine tasting experience to the next level with a personalised set of wine glasses.
At Barrel & Bar Gift Factory, we engrave our wine glasses in-house to ensure you receive quality, highly detailed wine glasses to sip from. Order a set of two glasses online now and “cheers” to a long, rich history of wine. Salut!