Wino na wiosnę"Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever"

Aristophanes, ca. 450-385 BC


The history of wine spans to the oldest times, it is as old as the history of humanity, and wine is present in the most ancient myths and legends. However, it is difficult to precisely identify the time and location of the first produced wine. There is archaeological evidence of wine production from wild growing grapes between the 9th and 5th century BC on the territory of the present day Iran and Armenia. The oldest evidence of wine presence is the residue inside a vessel originating from the middle of the 6th century BC. This is confirmed by the fact that Christianity assigns wine production to Noah, who after being saved from the flood planted a grapevine on the hills of Ararat.

However, today we know that the first wines were produced in the Middle East and in China around the year 3000 BC from the Kankomet variety. This wine constituted a part of the Christian ritual.

Over time, wine production spread outside the supposed location of its source, through the present day Syria, Lebanon, Israel, all the way to Egypt. The walls of Egyptian palaces are ornamented with paintings of grape collection, hence we know that it was poured into large amphorae with small openings, through which carbon dioxide was released; the amphorae were then sealed with great care. It is possible to find information on amphorae from ca. 400 BC related to grape collection, name of producer and the vineyard.

In the area of the Mediterranean Sea, first in Crete and then in continental Greece, grapevines appeared around 3000 BC. This was the area where wines from Chios, the ancient Bordeaux, were highly popular. Wines from Thasos, Lesbos and Rhodos also enjoyed a good reputation. Wines from Lesbos ripened under a thin layer of yeast, as presently wines from Jerez.

The Greeks recognised wine as a civilised beverage and considered it as a measure of sophistication. The type of wine consumed revealed the social status - noble ones were more highly valued than popular wines, older wines more than young wines. Another measure of civilisation was the art of mixing wine with water. Drinking of undiluted wine was considered a barbarian custom that caused madness. "Both Scythians and Thracians, both men and women, drink unmixed wine, which they pour on their garments, and this they think a happy and glorious institution" (Plato on Scythians). Drinking of undiluted wine was only the privilege of the god of wild and fertile nature and grapes, Dionysus. After collecting grapes, Greeks drank young wine, almost as the modern Beaujolais, but very sweet. Fermentation in vats, as done in Egypt, was not practised. Wine was not stabilised, and easily soured. In order to allow long storage of wine, it was seasoned with herbs, honey or mixed with other wines, sometimes sea water was added. It was a luxury to sweeten the wine with sugar cane, in those times considered to be a medicine. Young wine was also boiled a large number of times, to prevent spoiling. In Greece, as opposed to Rome, different types of wines were mixed.

At the beginning of the 2nd century BC, the most popular wines in the area of the Mediterranean Sea were Greek wines, imported to the Apennine Peninsula. However, soon (final date of 146 BC – the fall of Carthage) these areas came under the Roman rule, and Romans seized control over wine production in this region. The Romans brought to Italy seeds of the noblest bushes and learned to imitate the taste of the most splendid Greek wines. Over time, the best producers moved to this region, the demand for wine increased, small holdings evolved into large latifundia and Rome became the centre of wine trading.

In Rome, wine was one of the markers of social hierarchy and a synonym of luxury and wealth.

Over time, the dynamic growth of wine production brought about the surplus of wine and in order to protect domestic wine growing, in the year 92 AD, Domitian issued a special edict where he banned the plantings of any new vineyards and ordered the uprooting of half of the vineyards in Roman provinces. In 212, Caesar Caracalla granted citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire, cancelled the privilege of grape growing assigned only to citizens of Rome (Constitutio Antoniniana). Since then, wine making could evolve without impediments throughout the entire empire.

Along with Roman conquests, the tipple reached new regions and won itself new adherents, the conquered nations gladly took over Roman customs, wine drinking being one of the more favoured ones.

In the 1st century BC, the Apennine Peninsula could no longer satisfy the demand, and wine started to be produced in Gallia and Spain.

However, wines from Italy were valued most highly. The Italian wine to gain the largest fame, Falerno, ripened for at least 10 years; it originated from Champagne, produced from grapes growing on the hills of the Falern mountain, near present day Naples, a seedling of Faustian Falerian - treated as a synonym of luxury, wine for the chosen people. As the social ladder descended, the quality of wine became poorer.

What is interesting is the fact that wine was stored not in cellars but on the highest floors of houses near chimney flues to allow the wine to soak up the scent of smoke. It was only medieval monks who began to store wine in cellars in order to protect it from barbarians.

The year 419 BC saw the end of the Roman Empire. For centuries Greeks and Romans were afraid that together with the invasion of barbarians from the North (who drank beer) the wine culture shall come to an end. It turned out that the barbarians were not as tied to their customs as it seemed, the reason why they did not drink beer was that no grapes grew where they came from, and wine won itself many adherents among barbarians.

Christianity had a large impact on promoting wine and its increasing popularity which began in 1st century AD. One of the first miracles assigned to Christ was turning water into wine in Cana in Galilee; during the Last Supper Christ offered wine to his pupils and it took the central place in the Eucharist. Wine was produced in vineyards belonging to the church for church needs, but monks also produced wine for sale. In Christian Europe, as opposed to its Islamic part, wine gained a privileged position.

However, there were areas in Europe where wine, though drank willingly, was difficult to obtain. Due to adverse climate conditions, grapes were not grown in northern Europe, and wine had to be imported to eg. Great Britain. Partially, the division of Europe into lands of wine (North, heritors of Hellada and Roma) and lands of beer (North) remains until present.

Until today, wine is known as the symbol of good taste and sophistication, Roman and Greek traditions of serving wine during meetings and discussions over a glass of wine (as during Greek symposia and Roman convinia) have remained celebrated.


3000 BC – production of wine in China and the Middle East and continental Greece

9th - 5th century BC - production of wine throughout the entire land of the present day Iran and Armenia

400 BC - Egypt, year of production, name of vineyard and producer placed on amphorae

2nd century BC - control and production of wine within the Mediterranean Sea region taken over by Romans

In ancient Rome wine is the synonym of luxury and social hierarchy

1st century AD – development of wine production in Gallia and Spain - development of Christianity, which supported wine promotion

410 AD – the fall of the Roman Empire, taking over of wine culture by the Barbarians – expansion of wine onto northern territories of Europe

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