Sunday Wine Down: Ancient Wine

Sunday Wine Down: Ancient Wines

Welcome, to the very first Sunday Wine Down for IPoA. Ashley and I sat down and decided that we should add a bit more education to our blog. As a blog that focuses on all aspects of culture we have decided that every Sunday I will write a post to educate our readers on everything from wine to beer, to spirits. I’ll be diving into all aspects of these vices and hopefully we can all learn something as well. I am also a believer that if you are going to drink around the world you should know a little about it. As many of our readers know I work with wine everyday and it has become passion of mine and is just as important to me as travel.  By doing this I hope to educate our readers on wine, beer, spirits from around the world as well as help me study for my future aspirations. So grab a glass and welcome, to Sunday Wine Down; I hope you enjoy!

Wine in Pienza

Ancient Wine

Let us start with the history of wine.  It has been an important beverage around the world for thousands of years and I believe that it deserves to be the first topic for our Sunday Wine Down. We all know wine is older than written history and is pretty well established throughout written history. We cannot really tell you when vines were first cultivated and used for wine, but archaeologist have discovered that one of the earliest known civilizations to have wine might have dated back to China around 7,000 BC. They have found traces of tartaric acid and other organic compounds normally found in wine. They cannot yet prove that it was specifically grapes or something else that had tartaric acid.

 

We have found that wine’s history leads us to the Caucasus and to the northern region of the Middle East. Wine stained pottery has been found in Georgia dating back to 6,000 BC as well in Iran dating back to 5,000 BC. Through genetic mapping we were able to learn that the heritage of over 110 modern grape varieties originated in Georgia. Also the first evidence of preservation of wine was found in the pottery of the Iranian site; they treated the wine with the preservative turpentine pine resin. We also know that wine made its way to the Grecian Macedonia around 4500 BC. They also found the site of the first crushed grape and an entire winery that dates back to 4100 BC in modern day Armenia. We do know though that is was a different vine species then Vitis Vinifera which is the common species used in winemaking today. The fact of where wine started is still debateable as the search for the origin of wine continues.

“WAIT, WAIT, WAIT… Alex, what about the Romans and the Greeks?” you say.  “Were they not the wine drinkers of Ancient times?”

Dionysus, or Bacchus to the Romans, was the Greek God of wine.  Can't you tell?  He is often depicted with Maenads, his female followers, and Satyrs, creatures with the body of a man but with a horse's ears and tail.  They are often shown drinking and partying and enjoying the occasionally orgy.  Why not?
Dionysus, or Bacchus to the Romans, was the Greek God of wine. Can’t you tell? He is often depicted with Maenads, his female followers, and Satyrs, creatures with the body of a man but with a horse’s ears and tail. They are often shown drinking and partying and enjoying the occasionally orgy. Why not?

Well, of course they were and they have had a huge influence on the world of wine. We need to talk about a few other civilizations before them though. The story of grapes and the fermentation of their juice was an important part of ancient civilizations, like Mesopotamia, Israel, Ancient Egypt, the Phoenicians, Greeks, and  Roman civilizations. The altered consciousness effect that wine has on people has been considered religious and has been a part in many religions. The Greeks and the Romans had Dionysus/Bacchus, The Jewish community consumed it for ritual practice since the biblical times and for the Christians wine is an important part of religious sacrament and goes back to the last supper. Islam, even though they forbid the consumption and production of wine, had used it for medical purposes during the golden age when alchemists would distill it for medicine. As I said earlier though, I should talk about a few of the civilizations that help wine become the king of beverages and this week we are going to start with Egypt.

 

Ancient Egypt, a civilization that still seems to have the ability to keep us in awe with every discovery we unearth, they are the society that had the fertile soils of the Nile.  Wine was very influential in the ceremonial life of the Egyptians. The industry of wine was established on the Nile delta with the introduction of grape cultivation from the Levant (eastern Mediterranean) to Egypt around 3000 BC. The industry of wine though was most likely the result of trade between Egypt and Canaan during the early Bronze Age, starting around the 27th century BC at the beginning of the Old Kingdom. By the end of the Old Kingdom there were at least five distinct wines, most likely grown and produced in the delta. Wine became so important to the Egyptians that archaeologist have found scenes of winemaking on tomb walls. This delicious beverage constituted part of the Canonical set of provisions for the afterlife.

If only the Egyptians had learned about cheese pairings with wine.  Would totally go back in time.
If only the Egyptians had learned about cheese pairings with wine. Would totally go back in time.

For you solely red wine drinkers out there you would have been in paradise. Wine in Ancient Egypt was predominantly red. Yet there is evidence that in some tombs they found residue that archaeologists believe could have been white wine.  So it was available but not a common sight in the market. The most precious of the of the red wines in Egypt was called Shedeh. Originally it was believed to be an alcoholic beverage made from pomegranates but evidence proves that it is actually made from red grapes. Egyptian originally were superstitious of wine because the dark red color reminded them of blood. Superstitions and tall tales stated that red wine was the blood of those who had fought the Gods. The Gods beat those who rebelled against them and sent them tumbling down to earth and their blood combined with the earth. Where the victims had fallen vines sprung from the earth. The Pharaohs thought this to be the reason for drunkenness because people who consumed wine filled themselves with the blood of their forbears. That is why prior to the Psamtik or Psammetichus (three Pharaohs who ruled during the Saite dynasty) Pharaohs did not consume wine or even offer wine up to the gods. I would have to say we are lucky the Egyptians wisened up to the possibilities of the grape and wine.

 

Part two will come next week where we dive into the Phoenicians, Ancient Greek, and, most important to modern wine, the Roman Empire. If you have any questions please leave a comment below. I would be more than happier to discuss more with you. So have another glass on me and enjoy.

 

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