We often speak about the deep history of the Italian red wine industry in the pages of the Xtrawine blog. Some of Italy’s oldest producers have been at it for hundreds of years. And even before they, and the industry at large, existed, there were many who created wines on a much smaller scale.
The simple fact is that every bottle of Italian red wine that you drink has the lessons of millennia built within it. Over time, humans have evolved our understanding of the vine and its gorgeous nectar to the point where wine is now one of the most popular drinks in the world.
We believe that a deep respect for the history of wine is very important. After all, how can we figure out how we got to where we are today without understanding the past first?
In this article, we’re going to chart the history of wine on the widest scale that we can think of. Join us as we discuss the key milestones in wine around the world.
It All Starts in Armenia
At least, that’s what our findings thus far show us. As much as Italy would like to claim credit for the invention of wine, it simply isn’t the case. The earliest example of a winery in existence was found in Armenia.
Researchers dated it back to 4100 BC, which means that wine has existed for more than 6100 years.
Notice that we say “more than” here.
It’s entirely possible that wineries existed before the one found in Armenia that haven’t been discovered yet. It’s also possible that people made wine in their own homes, rather than in dedicated wineries, for many years before 4100 BC.
Still, it seems that Armenia is the starting point for what would become a global industry. It’s perhaps fitting, then, that the Armenian wine industry has started to make waves again in modern times.
The Shift to Egyptian Ceremonies
It would be perhaps disingenuous to claim that the ancient Egyptians had a red wine industry. However, we do know that they made something that at least resembles wine using grapes.
The appeal here appears to be in the colouring of the drink. Red wine resembles blood, which made it an ideal drink for the sacrificial ceremonies that often took place in Egyptian culture during that time. This is also the first example of red wine getting tied to some form of religious ceremony. Of course, we know how deeply that symbolism runs, even today. In the Catholic Church, red wine is used to denote the blood of Christ. In that respect, it shares more than a few similarities between the early Egyptian examples of wine.
The Phoenicians Spread the Word
While Egypt itself didn’t turn wine into an industry, it was their exposure to the Phoenicians that contributed to the next step forward.
The Phoenician culture took the concept of red wine and ran with it. While it’s likely that wine was commercialised to a small scale at this point, the Phoenicians began to take it to corners of the world that had never heard of it.
It was during this time that wine began to make its way across the Mediterranean and towards the countries that we most closely associate with wine in the modern day.
Wine’s use in religious ceremonies also grew during this time. The Phoenicians eventually came into contact with Jewish people, who began to use wine in their own ceremonies.
Greece Comes Into the Picture
When we think of the genesis of the world’s reverence for wine, we often think of the Ancient Greeks. They were perhaps the first culture to truly romanticise the product of the vine, even going so far as to have a god of wine.
As mentioned, it was the Phoenicians who brought wine to Ancient Greece. However, it was the Greeks who truly began to perfect the drink and turn it into something that more closely resembles what we know today.
In Greece, wine remained symbolic while also moving into being a consumer product. The earliest large-scale wine industry took form during this time. And it was the Greeks who created many of the techniques that would become staples of the wine industry for centuries to come.
It was also the Greeks who brought the vine to Italy.
The Romans Build on The Greeks Beginning
It’s inaccurate to say that wine did not exist in Italy before the Ancient Greeks. However, it was perhaps they, and the culture they created, the most directly influenced the Ancient Romans. In fact, there are many parallels between the Greek Empire and the Roman one that followed it, including the anointing of a god of wine.
It was during this time that wine truly spread throughout Europe. But there was one more frontier to conquer…
Wine and the New World
The discovery of the Americas was one of the most important in history. It also provided Europeans a chance to spread their culture to a land that had no even heard of them.
While the moral ramifications of this will be a subject for debate forever, part of this culture spread included introducing wine to the Americas. It was during this period that the groundwork was laid for the industries that we have in places like the USA, Argentina, and Chile.
Fast-forward a few hundred years and we come to today.
Now, the wine industry continues to grow and expand its horizons. In more recent times, we’ve seen wine increasingly become part of the culture of Asian countries. And in a few hundred years, we may well see the likes of China and India create industries that rival the largest in the world.
Through it all, Italy stands as one of the most important countries in the history of wine. From the Roman era onwards, it’s stood as one of the key influencers in the industry.
And we believe that this position will never change, no matter how far and wide wine spreads!
I’m a passionate about good wine and good cooking.
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