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2. A Brief History of Wine

Wine from prehistoric times

Let us learn a little more about wine. Wine has been known from prehistoric times. Scientists say there is evidence of wine at least as far back as 3000 BC. It was stored in goatskins. There is evidence of wine trade from the Celts of France to the original inhabitants of Britain, the Brits, before 1000 BC. They talk about it in Homer. They even talk about it in the Bible.

“Drink wine for thy stomach’s sake

                  And thine often infirmities.”

Wine used medicinally and in religious ceremonies

As evidenced from this quote, the ancient Jews were already aware of the health benefits of wine. While the ancients used wine medicinally, it was also prominent in early rituals. Wine is still used medicinally, especially in the wine drinking countries of southern Europe. And it is still prominent in religious rituals both in the Christian Churches based on Catholicism and in the Jewish faith.

Dionysian Rituals & bacchanals

While the Christians and Jews just drank a little wine with their religious ceremonies, this was not true of the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks had their rites of Dionysus partly based around intoxication from wine. The Romans had similar rites based around Bacchus, their god of wine. The names of both of these gods are still sometimes used today. It was a Dionysian event or a bacchanal, which would mean it was a wild party mixed with intoxication and sexuality.

The Rise and Fall of Rome, the Rise and Fall of Wine

As might be expected, the height of the Roman Empire coincided with the height of wine consumption in the ancient world. In Roman times they introduced wine bottles for the first time. Pliny, the Roman historian, classified the types of wine and grapes. With the fall of Rome to the invading beer drinking Germanic races from the north the appreciation and growing of wine declined drastically. The Dark Ages (roughly 400 -> 1300 AD) for the arts of writing and reading, was also the Dark Ages for wine. Wine and literate culture seems to go hand in hand.

Renaissance of Wine also

As monks continued the literary traditions they also continued the traditions of wine making. The Renaissance of Greek and Roman culture also saw a wine renaissance. The 15th to 17th century saw a great growth in the appreciation of wine. With the increased sophistication came regional differentiation and classification.

Phylloxera, and Louis Pasteur

From 1879- 1900 an epidemic of phylloxera killed nearly all of the wine stock in France. They had to import California grape vines to replenish their vineyards. Louis Pasteur, as well as discovering the cure for rabies in connection with disease prevention, also made some discoveries that greatly advanced the art of grape fermentation. While there have been many refinements in the art of wine making over the millennium, the process is basically the same as it has always been, yeast converts grape juice into wine in the natural process of fermentation. This is contrasted with spirits, which are produced by humans in the artificial process of distillation based on contained high heats.


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